Allocate more time for English Language - WAEC charges schools 

BY: Felicia Kwarteng

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) has said candidates who sit for the English Language paper in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fail the subject due to poor performance in the comprehension part.

According to the Senior Deputy Registrar  and the Head of the Accra Section Research Department, Mrs Hattey A. Yarquah, most candidates failed to understand the comprehension passage they read at the examination, hence their failure to answer questions correctly.

“It is difficult for most students to answer comprehension questions correctly because they fail to understand what they read in the passages. Most students perform basically well in the objectives and oral aspects of the paper but fail in the summary and comprehension aspects due to lack of understanding,” she added.

Mrs Yarquah made this known at a seminar organised by WAEC to present its research findings into the poor performance in English Language in WASSCE for school candidates in Ghana.

The event was dubbed: “An investigation into candidates performance in English Language in WASSCE for school candidates in Ghana”

Problems

Mrs Yarquah explained the statistics from 2014 to 2019 per WAEC report, indicating that out of the total number of 241,418 candidates who sat for the paper in 2014, for example, only  108,638, which represented 45.21per cent was able to obtain Credit Pass A1-C6 and that in 2015,  out of  267,892 candidates, only 133,946 (50.10 per cent) passed.

“In 2016, out of 270,560  candidates, only 140,691 (51.65 per cent) obtained the pass mark while in 2017, a total of 286,404 candidate sat for the paper with only  151,794 (52.89 per cent) obtaining a pass. In 2018, 313,260 candidates wrote the paper with only 147,232 (46.79 per cent) passing and in 2019, 342,312  candidates sat for the paper with 167,733 (48.96 per cent) obtaining the pass mark,” she said.

She added that the Chief Examiners’ Reports for English Language from 2014 to 2019 repeatedly identified weaknesses in candidates’ written English Language scripts which included poor punctuation, spelling and wrong use of tenses and that those were dominant in some essays.

Again, she said some candidates used unacceptable words that had become common on social media while others resorted to copying portions of the passage as their answers to questions on the comprehension passage and that they (candidates) could not differentiate between the topic sentence and the illustrations in the summary test. 

“We are going to release our research findings to schools to aid teachers of the subject to discuss with their students the problems so that they are not repeated in subsequent examinations,” she said.

Solutions

A member of the research team, Mr Kwaku Dankwa, who took the participants through the solutions, said teachers handling the subject should have adequate knowledge of it as most teachers during the survey, admitted that they did not have adequate knowledge of the subject.

“A relatively high percentage of teacher respondents (78.1 per cent) said that their workload was heavy,” he revealed.

A Member of the Research Department of WAEC, Mr Kennedy K. Ashiabor, also stated that moving forward, the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ghana Education Service (GES) and school authorities should provide well-equipped libraries in schools and regularly hold in-service training for English Language teachers.

“ English Language teachers in the schools should be urged to give extra attention to the teaching and learning of the various components of the English Language subject that candidates find challenging,” he stated.