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1.1 Background to the Study

The significance of a good education in the development of a child, particularly within the context of the fast transforming society of Nigeria and the globe as a whole, has continued to be a primary focus of attention for parents as well as teachers and other school personnel. Because the world is changing at such a rapid pace, everyone who wants to keep up with the times must necessarily develop the capacity to change with the times and also keep up with the times in addition to moving forward with them. Within the realm of education itself, there is not a single subject or field of study that is exempted, with the exception of the very least desirable options. Literature is one field in particular that has taken a significant hit because of these changes. Literature is a subject that is granted the status of a core subject as a subject of study in the secondary school (Fed. Govt. of Nig., 2004). Literature is also considered to be a fundamental component of the arts. Unfortunately, the education policy that designates literature as a core subject is still being improperly implemented, and this includes the very section that classified literature as a core topic that all students should study. Instead, any student who is interested in pursuing a professional career in a field such as law, mass communication, or a similar field is required to pass literature with a minimum grade of credit. This is the case despite the fact that it is common knowledge that the teaching and studying of literature significantly boosts one’s level of linguistic competence. Therefore, the benefits that come from studying and being exposed to different forms of literature are, to say the least, extensive. Techniques for literary appreciation and the analysis of representative texts make up the bulk of what is covered in literature as a subject in secondary education. This content can be broadly split into two categories. The purpose of the literary appreciation segment of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the fundamentals of literary criticism as well as background information on various works of literature. They get an understanding of the literary methods necessary for appreciating literature and works of literature. Figures of speech, literary words, style, as well as its parts and kinds, are all examples of these types of linguistic devices. The text, on the other hand, is a combination of poetry, prose, and drama, which are the three main subgenres that fall under the category of literature. This is done in order to provide the pupils a comprehensive understanding of what it means to appreciate literature on a deeper level. The writings are divided further into two regional categories: African texts and works from other parts of the world.

          However, the teaching and learning of this significant subject, along with that of the other subjects in the country, is currently confronted with a large number of problems and challenges. These range from the availability of texts and other teaching resources to the quality of the teachers who are teaching the subject. There is also the problem of lack of interest on the part of the students, with the vast majority of them choosing not to present literature as their first option. This is not unconnected to the abhorrent culture in the country of a strong apathy, if not a fear, for reading (Wikipedia, 2018). Simply put, the culture of reading in Nigeria is all but extinct at this point. Students would rather steer clear of letters in print rather than participate in the reading exercise and decode the information that way. And because students believe that studying literature is a tedious endeavour, if not an entirely pointless one, that requires a significant amount of reading on their part, only a minute, if not an insignificant percentage of students volunteer to study literature. More than that, the scant interest that a handful of the students have in the topic is not uniformly distributed throughout the many genres, with poetry nearly always being the least favoured of the pupils. They have the misguided assumption that poetry is needlessly difficult and extremely dull to read. They just are not capable of mustering enough mental and emotional capacity to appreciate poetry in the manner in which it was meant to be appreciated. This means that they are unable to expose themselves and their thoughts to the rhythm, imagery, and symbolism of poetry, as well as the overall beauty and wonder of poetry.

In the context of this investigation, the term “gender comparison” refers to the ways in which boys and girls perform differently when it comes to poetry. Okoro (2008) notes, in light of this information, that boys and girls have significant variations in the interests they pursue and the careers they choose. It is possible that the psychological differences and the cultural factors are to blame for these variances. The number of women who register in occupations is very different from the number of men who do so. Even parents typically encourage their daughters to choose careers that are not traditionally considered to be masculine. According to UNESCO (2000), local customs and values have been growing in females. These customs and values are said to be so firmly embedded in girls that some of them find it difficult to deal in areas that are thought to be male dominated professions. Lie and Syoberg (2004) made the observation that the society’s implicit norms have predetermined what is considered feminine and what is considered masculine. This may also be seen in the interaction that takes place in poetry classrooms, where female students outnumber male students in almost every type of poetry genre.

In the most recent decades, a significant amount of research has been focused on the subject of whether or not males and girls differ in terms of their cognitive capacities. Gender differences are widely reported for more specific cognitive abilities such as visual–spatial ability (Miller & Halpern, 2014). While there is a widespread consensus that males and girls do not differ in terms of overall intelligence (Halpern, 2000), this is not the case for more specialised cognitive talents. On the other hand, Hyde was the one who came up with the gender similarities hypothesis (GSH), which asserts that males and females “are similar on most, but not all of the psychological variables.” That is, males and females, as well as boys and girls, share more characteristics in common than they do distinctions” (p. 581). According to this theory, the majority of differences between the sexes are either negligible or almost insignificant (very near to zero). The gender gap in examination achievement, which is found cross-culturally (Lynn &Mikk, 2009; Reilly, 2012) and above the threshold established by Hyde and Grabe (2008, p. 170) for nontrivial gender difference effect sizes, may represent an exception to this theory. Reilly (2012) found that the gender gap in examination achievement was significantly larger than the threshold.

There is an increasing body of research suggesting that males and females have different levels of aptitude in examinations. According to Reynolds et al. (2015), the topic of gender inequalities in examination has been disregarded since it is examined in educational assessments less frequently than other factors. In situations where one’s skill is being evaluated, researchers should investigate gender disparities in order to establish whether or not there are any significant differences that arise.

The findings of an achievement test that was carried out by Onekutu (2002) revealed that young boys and girls perform equally well in all subjects, including poetry. However, as the students advance to higher classes, the girls begin to develop a greater interest in the language arts, while the boys gravitate more towards the sciences and the social sciences. As a consequence of this, there are now much more male students than female students who receive failing grades in poetry. However, the subject of whether or not male or female students perform better in poetry has continued to be a contentious one. Although there are those who believe that males have a natural advantage in terms of performance, there are also those who believe that the opposite is true. According to Veinon (2002), numerous comparisons demonstrate that the average scores attained by boys and girls in poetry are equivalent.

In light of the conversation that has just taken place, the purpose of this research is to examine the differences and similarities between male and female students’ levels of poetry proficiency in senior secondary schools located in the Quan-Pan Local Government Area of the state of Plateau.

1.2 Statement of the problem

      As teachers of literature, it is not sufficient to just guess the possible problem(s). Rather, there is a need to study and show in quantitative terms, the immediate and remote causes of the problem of poor performance and widespread dread of poetry as a genre of literature. This problem is a result of the general fear of poetry as a form of literature. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify unequivocally whether the issue lies with the language of poetry, the methodology of literary criticism, or even the calibre of instructors in relation to the applicability of the approaches they take in the classroom. As a result, the purpose of this study is to conduct a comparative evaluation of the performance of boys and girls in poetry in four different secondary schools located within the Quan-Pan Local Government Area of the state of Plateau. 

There has been a steady stream of debate and investigation about the impact that a person’s gender has on their academic achievement throughout their time in school over the course of many years. However, to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, there has not been a study conducted to compare the genders of students’ achievements in poetry in the Quan-Pan Area of Plateau State. In addition, a large number of students’ poor performance in poetry termly assessments and external examinations has inspired a large number of researchers to conduct investigations into the factors that contribute to these students’ poor performance. In light of this, the researcher is also interested in finding out whether gender is a factor which influences students’ academic achievement. This can be seen as an extension of the previous point. The researcher will next produce a comparison of the pupils’ achievements in standardised poetry in the Quan-Pan Local Government Area as a result of doing so.

1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study

The main aim of this research is to make a gender comparison of students’ achievement in poetry in Quan-Pan Area of Plateau State.

            Other specific objectives of the study include to:

  1. examine the difference in the performance of boys and girls in analyzing subject matters and themes of poems.
  2. find out the differential performance of boys and girls in determining poetic tone and mood.
  3. determine the difference in the performance of boys and girls in analyzing figures of speech in poems.

1.4. Research Questions

In order for the researcher to have a guide in the course of the investigation, the following ‘questions have been postulated which will be answered at the end of the research:

  1. What is the difference in the performance of boys and girls in analyzing subject matter and theme of poems?
  2. What is the differential performance of boys and girls in determining the poetic tone and mood?
  • What is the difference in the performance of boys and girls in analyzing figures of speech in poems?

1.5. Significance of the Study

It is hoped that, once this research has been completed, suggestions will be made towards improving the art of teaching poetry with the goal of finding solutions to the challenges that are experienced by teaching poetry, and also that students will display a greater appreciation and comprehension of poetry. The instructor will also have a greater understanding of the students, which will allow him or her to attract the students’ attention and alter their perceptions and attitudes regarding the topic. It is possible that the instructors’ use of motivation, reinforcement, and suitable instructional tactics will help the learners acquire directions on what is expected of them.

The information that students may obtain from this survey will go a long way towards shaping their attitudes and will positively impact the manner in which they relate with others, including their parents at home. Parents as a whole would have a lot to gain from this seemingly crucial poll through their children since the information that students may acquire from this survey would go a long way to shape their attitudes. The worth of poetry will therefore influence the perception of parents and their nonchalant attitude towards poetry and Literature in general. This change in perception will have an effect on students.

In addition to having an educational value in and of itself, this research has the potential to enhance the learning of the other subjects taught in schools. The administrators of the schools, the people in charge of developing the curricula, and the Ministry of Education would be aware of the difficulties associated with the topic. When formulating new policies, they would take note of these difficulties and make adjustments to address them appropriately.

As the organisation in charge of allocating funds, the government stands to gain the most from this research. Armed with the knowledge of the impact that students’ gender has on their ability to learn poetry, the government can now organise workshops for teachers to educate them on the gender differences that exist in this area and also provide instructional materials that can be used during the actual process of teaching poetry.

In conclusion, the research would be helpful to other researchers in the sense that it would enhance the current literature on the same study field. Furthermore, it would provide a fertile ground for additional research that is based on the gaps left out by this study. Poetry can be used in this way to achieve multiple objectives at the same time, such as improving students’ traditional academics while also enhancing their school experience through the arts.

1.6. Scope and Delimitation of the Study

The study covers Gender (male vs. female) comparison of students’ achievement in poetry. The study is limited to senior secondary schools in Quan-Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State. However, it is of pertinence to not that despite the fact that the study is restricted to the selected local government area, the findings from this research can be generalized to other parts of the state and country at large.

1.7 Contextual Definition Of Terms

For the purpose of clarity, the following terms are defined as follows;

Gender: This is the state of being a male or female. In the case of this study, gender refers to either a young boy or girl in secondary school.

Students: Learners studying poetry in a classroom in a secondary school.

Learning:  The act of acquiring a new knowledge and skills from a poetry expert.

Poetry: A genre of Literature that is coated in lofty words or grand language which is engulfed with figurative expressions.

Teachers: Those saddled with the responsibility of inculcating poetry knowledge and skills into the learners.

Performance: Is used here to refer to achievement in examination.


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