Cautious Path Through the Bramble: Integration of English Language Clinics Into Language Syllabuses of UBE Schools in Kaduna State Nigeria

This article is published in the Tasambo Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture – Volume 1, Issue 1.

Lawal Suleiman PhD
Department of English, Federal College of Education, Zaria, Nigeria


This paper studies the need to integrate functional English language clinics to surmount the challenges of structurally-based curriculums and syllabuses of English language teaching and learning in Kaduna state Nigeria. It is true that there are various types of English language syllabuses used for teaching and learning especially at basic education as well as secondary and university levels. The paper consists of two objectives to determine the strength of the English language clinics and the extent to which teaching and learning the English language could be efficient enough among learners for effective communication. Two research questions were formulated to guide the conduct of this study. The research design adopted is a descriptive survey research design. The population of the study was made up of 23.535 basic education teachers of English in Kaduna state out of which a sample of 392 was drawn for the conduct of the study. The research questionnaire was developed by the researcher and was subsequently validated by a team of experts in the field of language education. The researcher used Cronbach Alpha to primarily determine a reliability coefficient of 0.84. Statistical Mean scores and standard deviation were used by the researcher to answer the two research questions. It was found that there are various syllabuses used in the English language teaching and learning in basic education in Kaduna state, but learners’ pressing needs and challenges are not taken into account by teachers through converting the classroom into clinics to diagnose challenges and offer solutions. The paper recommends the use of workshops to intimate teachers on the techniques for the integration of the principles of English language clinics in Kaduna state Nigeria.

Keywords: English Language Clinics, Language Teaching, Syllabus, UBE Schools


Language teachers are the major organs responsible for the implementation of contents and syllabuses. The contents of an ideal language curriculum and syllabus are fundamental in language teaching and learning. They are essential materials needed by every language teacher. The development of effective English language syllabuses and curriculums is the responsibility of different organs that come together to prepare a blueprint that will serve as a guide to teachers, other stakeholders such as the federal as well as state ministries of education, educational agencies, research in education, teachers and the entire members of the society. Language teachers have the responsibility to lead concerted efforts towards the evolution of both curriculum and syllabus that will cater to the various language needs of learners from varying linguistic backgrounds. Efforts towards the evolution of language syllabus could yield positive results only after making thorough needs analysis of the social, economic, political, cultural, and communicative parameters that must be born in mind at the point of the syllabus as well as curriculum development.

From an examination of their contents, both the language curriculum and syllabus documents provide teachers with copious information containing the entire goals of the learning programmes and of course, the specific objectives given in unequivocal terms for accomplishment according to the breakdown of the designed teaching activities, periods, and learning periods. Learning experiences are the focal points of the two documents, which are designed to be taught in schools. In this section, the definitions of the two terms “curriculum” and “syllabus” are given before examining the various features of both curriculum and syllabus. Rubin (1980) observes that a language art or language study generally comprises various language skills needed for the development of the learners’ linguistic and cognitive abilities. Some of these skills are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is pertinent to discuss the component of a language syllabus, its features, and types first before discussing that of a language curriculum, its features, and types. This will be done before drawing the possible distinction between language syllabus and language curriculum in this section.

Conceptualization of Terms

It is not the attention of the writer of this article here to give definitions of terms or concepts in language syllabuses. The aim is to briefly take a cursory look at the various definitions of syllabus and curriculum, which demystifies how scholars use both terms interchangeably. A syllabus has been variously defined as a set of justifiable educational objectives specified in terms of linguistic content (Noss and Rodgers 1976). Language syllabus also entails a statement of what to be taught and a statement of approach that should be employed for the teaching of the linguistic contents (Strevens 1977). A syllabus applies to the specified contents of language teaching involving some structuring or ordering (Wilkins 1981). The content of a syllabus, according to Johnson (1982), Corder (1975), Mackey (1980), Candlin (1984), and Breen (1984) refers to a comprehensive list of inventory of items or units, specification of the content of learning, its selection, ordering, an atmosphere of teaching and learning created by teachers and their learners. This includes a plan of what to achieve at the end of teaching and learning in a specified period. Olaofe (2013) believes that the criteria for designing a syllabus include:

a.       Progressive nature of the syllabus from known to the unknown;

b.       Appropriate size of teaching units;

c.        Varieties of meaningful activities:

d.       Teachability of language items;

e.       Adherence to teaching objectives and sense of purpose;

f.        Sequencing of teaching and learning activities.

Olaofe (2013) states that the actual design of the school language syllabus comprises the following steps:

a)       Comprehensive needs analysis;

b)      Sizeable topic or unit to be covered;

c)       Formulation of objectives

d)      Selection of contents;

e)       Organization of contents

f)        Selection of teaching and learning activities;

g)      Organization of learning activities;

The major component of the Universal Basic Education scheme that calls for attention is the ability of the existing syllabuses to equip children with listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills apart from lexical and grammatical skills necessary for communication.

1.2 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of carrying out this study were to:

1-       Examine the existing types of English language syllabuses used in basic education in Kaduna State Nigeria, and

2-       Assess teachers’ views concerning the principles of English language clinics to improve effective learning in basic education in Kaduna State Nigeria.

1.3 Research Questions for the Study

The study hopes to provide answers to the following research questions:

1-       What is the nature of existing types of English language syllabuses used in basic education in Kaduna State Nigeria?

2-       What are the key principles of English language clinics that can improve learning effectively in basic education schools in Kaduna state Nigeria?

1.4 The Research Methodology

As a way of carrying out this research successfully, a sample of three hundred and ninety-two (392) universal basic education teachers consisting of both males and females were sampled from the population of 23,535 primary school teachers in Kaduna state. About ninety percent of the teachers are specialists in the English language. The sample of the study was drawn across the three senatorial zones of the state: Kaduna North, Kaduna Central, and Kaduna South. Four-point Likert scale research questionnaire was developed by the researcher for data collection. The results obtained were analyzed using the statistical instruments of mean and standard deviation.

The research questionnaire was developed by the researcher and was validated by six experts in the field, who have about 20 years of teaching experience in primary and secondary, and tertiary education. Cronbach Alpha was used in determining a reliability coefficient of 0.84.of the research questionnaire. Mean scores and standard deviation were used by the researcher to answer the two research questions. For the conduct of this study, the discussions in this section provide answers to research question one on the types of English language syllabuses used in Kaduna state basic education schools. The responses of the UBE teachers to the questionnaire provide answers to research question two on English language clinics and their capacity to improve English language learning in basic education schools of Kaduna State Nigeria.

2.0 Review of Related Literature

Examination-Oriented English Language Syllabus

This syllabus, as the name implies is more or less associated with the need for passing examinations in English language learning situations. Scholars such as Jackson (2016), and Hutchinson and Waters (1987) posit that an examination-oriented syllabus is referred to an evaluative syllabus, organizational syllabus, or administrative syllabus in some quarters. The syllabus is described as prescriptive and administrative given the fact that this syllabus is only interested in making learners perform well in language examinations. The major weaknesses of this syllabus are that some external bodies that do not have contact with students through the teaching and learning process design the syllabus. The syllabus prescribes what teachers should teach from the beginning to the end of the term or even a whole throughout the entire programme for making pass examinations. It does not promote the permanent learning needed for sound growth in the target language. Its great value is that it points out areas students need to concentrate on to make their papers.

Structural English Language Syllabus

Designers of second language syllabuses give some approaches that describe this syllabus. Some of them call it a grammatical syllabus for example. It is believed that the notion of structures in language teaching and learning is the crux of the matter in the structural syllabus. Therefore, the structural syllabus stresses the needs of the learners for the mastery of the various forms of structures possible in the target language: understanding the forms and use of noun phrases, pronouns, adjectives and adjectival phrases, prepositional phrases, and nouns as well as adjectival clauses and so on. Structural syllabuses are offshoots of traditional grammar and structural linguistics. Hence, the major weak point of the syllabus lies in the fact that it does not accommodate the natural language needs of learners which is how learners use the language naturally to communicate with others. One of the advantages of the structural syllabus is that it trains learners in the production of error-free expressions. It does not, however, facilitates effective communication in the language.

Skills-Based English Language Syllabus

From its features, this form of the syllabus is organized in such a way that it trains learners in the language skills such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills usually taught as units independent of each other. The skill-based syllabuses account for the internalization of the rules of grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary needed in speaking and writing as well as discourse encoding and decoding. One of the disadvantages of the skill-based syllabus is that it requires a team of experts in its production and utilization at the point of teaching. Unqualified teachers will always have challenges and therefore skip some difficult concepts in the course of teaching such as the aspects of pronunciation and this creates a serious gap in language learning. The syllabus is important. It presents some comprehensive language skills that learners are expected to have at various levels of their education (Philips, 2017).

Semantic-Based English Language Syllabus

From an examination of the instrument of language, it is believed that language is primarily for communication. To communicate means to be able to attach meaning to written and spoken language. Therefore, this form of the syllabus is developed as the aftereffect strategy for surmounting some of the challenges of the structural syllabus. From its functional-notional approach to language learning, the semantic syllabus does not only capitalize on the mastery of grammar, but it also emphasizes the ability of the learners to use linguistic resources to express their notions and concepts with ease and confidence in real-life practical communicative situations. Therefore, the semantic syllabus accounts for the various needs of the learners to function meaningfully in the language. The major concern of the syllabus is to help learners of the target language express themselves meaningfully. The major challenge with this syllabus design is that meaning is a product of expressions or utterances made in compliance with some grammatical rules and regulations, which determine how words are combined.

 Situational English Language Syllabus

Language is said to be situation-based (Philips 2017). This type of syllabus has to do with teaching learners to function in non-linguistic categories, that is, the situations in which natural language needs to be employed for the service of communication. The situational syllabus prepares learners to function naturally under diverse communicative situations in which the learners can find themselves. Some of these situations include the use of the language in the domains exchange of goods and services such as banks, insurance companies, hospitals, restaurants, schools, courts, etc. It is assumed that learners need to be able to communicate in these situations. The major problem of this syllabus is the fact that situations in which learners communicate are truly inexhaustible. Therefore, there are a large number of situations that may not be captured in the syllabus. Hence, learners have to be linguistically creative and responsive to the diversity and necessity of communicative situations and use the expected language patterns needed for communication.

Procedural English Language Syllabus

From the name, this type of syllabus came as an offshoot of underlying functional and structural language approaches to syllabus development for language teaching and learning in general. The proponents of procedural syllabuses such as Prahbu (1984) feel that linguistically and functionally based syllabuses are only interested or based on the product (everything is geared towards the specified goals that are attainable through learning) rather than the processes or procedures that could be followed so that learners could subsequently achieve such goals successfully and confidently. Prahbu (1984) and some of his contemporaries argue that language structures are best learned when attention to meaning and learners’ performance in numerous tasks are focused upon.

By implication, this means that when teachers and students are allowed to say what they want to say while performing a task, they can both use language confidently and productively without following the principles of any semantic, structural, and functional syllabus designs, hence the need for procedural syllabus in teaching and learning. However, Olaofe, (2013) feels that the best language syllabus is one that encompasses all the necessary language skills needed by learners for effective performance. Jackson (2016) and Jack (2009) believe that the implication of this is that a lopsided syllabus could not address learners’ communicative challenges and needs. This means there is a need for an integrated blueprint that borrows from the various components of all syllabi. This is why scholars such as Philips (2017) and Jackson (2016) believe that experienced teachers of English in Africa will have to be charged with the responsibility of the development of effective English language syllabuses for the enhancement of learning and using effective materials for English language classrooms needed at all levels. Nevertheless, erudite teachers with vast experiences in the linguistic complexities that are manifesting in learners’ performance at all levels are supposed to be consulted at the point of development and implementation of English language syllabuses for better results.

Integration of the Principles of English Language Clinics in English Teaching and Learning in Basic Education

There are indeed plenty of grammar books that dominate basic education classrooms in Nigeria. They generally focus on grammatical accuracy and the crying need for its mastery among learners. Many scholars in English language education continue to stress that most of even the syllabuses used in African primary and secondary are structural. They continue to give emphases on the learners’ need to have a good mastery of the grammatical structures at the detriment of the need for attention to the functional/communicative aspects of the language. In line with this, Jackson (2016) argues that the exponents of language clinics are for many years, dissatisfied with the language projects, which learning materials produced in the form of books for teaching and learning.

Language projects in this context refer to language teaching and learning textbooks, syllabuses, English language curriculums, and syllabuses developed with great concern for mastery of structures by established educational agencies for English language teaching and learning at pre-primary, primary, secondary, tertiary, and university levels. The implications of language projects also entail minimum standards issued by federal or state ministries of education in various countries for teachers at tertiary levels of education dealing with the diploma and undergraduate students of English and of course, the postgraduates.

The purpose of integrating the principles of English language clinics is therefore to investigate, diagnose and provide solutions to challenges associated with learning and other problems dealing with pedagogy in the course of learning to provide therapy. For instance, teachers of English and their students working in English language classrooms can always turn their classrooms into language clinics. Teachers can ask learners to perform certain functions with the language, challenge learners’ entry behavior, and test learners’ on various language skills needed for communication since language is primarily for the service of communication. English language clinics could bridge the gaps identifiable in various grammatical/structural syllabuses of examination bodies given the fact that for each of the examination bodies; WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, NBAIS, etc. there are standards to be met by candidates to merit pass in English. These bodies differ in their standards. Therefore, the gaps and uncritical usage of the varied syllabuses could lead to problems in both examination and language teaching and learning in Nigeria.

Therefore, it could be noted that the dissatisfaction of Nigerians with outcomes in WAEC towards the end of the twentieth century in Nigeria was what led to the emergence of the National Examination Council, NECO, and later others such as NABTEB as well as NBAIS. For instance, before the establishment of NECO as an examination body, students regarded WAEC questions as very tough. With the first set of candidates who sat and passed NECO examinations in the year 2000 in Nigeria, students felt generally that the new examination body sets questions that are more friendly than its WAEC counterpart. A few years later, Nigerian students began to complain that the new body was no longer a sure way to succeed in English, hence the changeover to WAEC. It is apparent that the emergence of the bodies has only escalated the situation since students run helter-skelter from one examination body to another looking for grades to meet admission and job requirements. However, another challenge is that of cases of impersonation detected in schools and left unpunished. Corruptible practices associated with examination centres and law enforcement agencies, which should bring culprits to book, make them lose confidence in the public eye. This is an indication of the failure of the English language government-funded projects in Nigeria and the need for another step to check the indices of the problems.

Characteristics of the English Language Clinics and the Application in English Language Teaching and Learning in Nigeria

Stephen (2016) identifies four major contributions of the English language clinics to surmount problems of learners of English as a second language. The purpose of the clinics is to enhance learners’ communicative abilities. Language clinics in this ream are simply borrowed from the fact that learners’ have linguistic problems at all language levels; listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The teacher of English is, therefore, the clinical psychologist, who diagnoses learners’ problems via teaching and arranges therapeutic procedures for solving the problems (Anderson 2008). This means that despite the contents and learning experiences in recommended English textbooks, syllabuses, and curriculums in the name of English projects for use in existing schools, teachers of English are expected to investigate challenges learners have at a particular level of education and provide dependable solutions based on their training and expertise. Teachers working in such clinics have the requisite content knowledge to be able to read and interpret learning materials and find out if they can meet learners’ communicative needs. They know when to use recommended syllabus and when not to as this could be suggested by the learners’ entry behaviour, language problems carried over from the kindergarten level in the form of reading, speaking, listening, or writing (Anderson 2008).

According to Stephen (2016), the major functions of the teacher of English as a second language using the principles of English language clinics are to expose and treat learners’ difficulties by:

a.       Determining learners’ capabilities and difficulties in the acquisition of functional listening skills at the basic education level on entry to treat the major problems dealing with listening to users of the language so that at advanced levels, the learners could become functional listeners and confident speakers;

b.       Investigating from the onset the difficulties of the learners in spoken English in the areas such as vowel production, consonants, stress, intonation, rhythm, grammatical and communicative skills to be able to share their ideas and experiences with others at basic, post basic, and tertiary levels of learning;

c.        Detecting the linguistic and reading disorders that affect learners’ literacy and reading skills at basic, post-basic, and tertiary levels, which starts with particular attention to aspect of reading readiness, print awareness, letter knowledge, word and sentence reading, as well as passage reading to promote the acquisition of grammatical and functional reading comprehensions skills needed for evaluative and critical reading, where learners may be required to write or state their answers orally;

d.       Detecting and preparing to surmount challenges dealing with the component of learners’ writing skills at basic and post-basic education. For example, learners’ inability to make simple sentences, and frame topics on which pieces of writing could be composed. Other related areas are those dealing with brainstorming, thinking around ideas, generation, development and expression of points as this is aided by the acquisition of grammatical competence;

Data Presentation, and Analysis

Results gathered from the Questionnaire Distributed to Teachers of UBE schools in the three Senatorial Districts of Kaduna State Nigeria on their perception regarding the Integration of English Language Clinics while implementing English syllabuses

Table 1. Gender Distribution of Respondents




Male Teachers



Female Teachers






Looking at the analysis of respondents above as regard their gender, this shows that 202 of the respondents are male teachers which represent 52.7% of the sample regarding the male while 181 of the respondents representing 47.3% were female. This clearly shows that the majority of the respondents to the research questionnaire were males who expressed their views on the need to integrate English language clinics in the implementation of the English language syllabus to improve the performance of students.

Table 2. Teaching Experience of Respondents

Years on the Job

Number Ear


 1-5 years



 6-10 years



 11-15 years



 16-20 years






As regards the findings regarding the teaching experience of respondents, it is clear from the above that 7 (1.8%) of the respondents have been in the first to fifth years of their teaching in Kaduna State UBE schools, that is 1-5 years, 82 (21.4%) of them have been in their 6th to 10th years, 73 (19.1%) of the respondents have been in their 11th to 15 years, while 227 (57.7%) of the respondents have been in their 16th to 20th years in teaching service. This is an indication that the majority of the respondents revealed that they have been in the teaching service of basic education for 16 to 20 years. As such, they confidently perceive the integration of English language clinics in the implementation of English language syllabuses to improve learning in basic education schools of Kaduna State, Nigeria.

The table 3 below presents the analysis carried out in respect of the questionnaire given to the teachers in North-West zone of Nigeria










The use of an examination-oriented syllabus does not give the desired results in learning language skills at a basic education level












The reliance of teachers on the structural syllabus does not guarantee the needed skills required for effective English language learning for communicative skills among learners.


















The aspects of the skill-based syllabus do not stress the actual areas and challenges dealing with communication in the English language at the basic education level


















The use of purely semantic-base syllabuses by UBE schools does not improve the quality of learning in English productively among learners.












The examination-oriented syllabuses are not making learners to be productive in the use of the language












The use of a situation-based language syllabus is inadequate to give the students all the skills needed for communication in language at the basic education level.












The principles of the English language clinics help teachers to examine the problems of learners in listening as demonstrated by the syllabuses and the need to pay attention in that regard.












Integrating English language clinics helps teachers identify learners’ challenges in the aspects of spoken English to make effective learning












The English language clinics give teachers insights into reading disorders and difficulties of learners so that solutions can be given












Integration of English language clinics helps to expose teachers to learners’ challenges in writing skills s that solutions can be proffered












Cumulative mean







Table 3 presents the perception of respondents on the English language clinics and the challenges of the various types of syllabus and their inability to cater to effectiveness in the learning of the English language in basic education schools. Considering the above, the findings from the study revealed the cumulative mean response on all ten (10) items, which is 2.69, and this is found to be higher than the decision/standard mean of 2.5000. The table shows a standard deviation of 1.000, which implies that UBE teachers of English in the three senatorial zones of Kaduna state consider the integration of English language clinics as a therapy to challenges bedeviling effective English language learning needed for improvement of learners’ performance in the English language at the basic education level.

Discussions of Findings

Considering the data collected, presented, and analyzed, one can see that items 1, 2, 3, 5 - 7, and 10) show teachers’ submission to the fact that various English language syllabuses as used in basic education schools of Kaduna State are inadequate to meet learning needs. These aspects of the English language clinics are not properly captured by previous researchers that examined issues and problems affecting the learning of the English language at the basic education level in Kaduna State. It can be seen that the various English language syllabus is used as highlighted by teachers on the table denoting the highest mean response from all the respondents, which are reference points. This shows that English language clinics are required by all UBE teachers of English so that they can attain some degree of competence in teaching. From the data above, it is found that the English language clinics are all-encompassing since they can be used to surmount various learning difficulties that are challenging to effective written and spoken communication among learners.

Moreover, identifying speech and writing difficulties of learners starting from problems in the development of effective listening, speaking, and reading as well as handwriting, copying from chalkboard summaries, and moving down to completing blank spaces, story completion can all be possible through the English language clinics. Therefore, teachers can critically evaluate English language teaching and learning materials cum difficulties, challenges of learners, and situations so that they can identify if the recommended textbooks are relevant to teaching and learning and could solve the identified problems.

It is true that no book on earth can meet all the language needs of learners. This includes the theoretical and philosophical undertones that underlie language content development, language teaching, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Therefore, for learners to use the language well, the profundity and intellectual capacity of the teacher of English is something that should not be compromised. Unless language teachers are innovative, passionate, and content with their profession, learners cannot learn, and schools will standstill in the bid to provide avenues for effective teaching to boost the communicative skills of learners in developing economies at basic education levels.


Teachers of English a basic education levels need to arrange language clinics that assess learners’ challenges before organizing instructions in primary and junior classes to guide learners on listening, speaking, pronunciation, and comprehension of English. Learners should be able to pronounce words correctly and represent them in writing.

Stress and intonation need to be given attention. Learners should be able to pronounce words correctly. They should be able to make statements, ask questions and express requests/commands through copious utterances.

Governments of countries need to provide enough funding to support poor learners at all levels of education. This includes providing children with basic needs such as food, and healthcare support in schools so that children, whose parents live below the poverty line can improve their educational and linguistic competencies.

Solicitation of funds from international donors for their financial and moral support in education at all levels to provide better mental, physical, and infrastructural learning conditions as well as the participation of community elders, philanthropists, business tycoons in the development of education so that men and women could have the opportunity to kiss the glamour of the new down.


It could be seen that both various languages syllabuses have various challenges that cobweb them. No wonder, the learners continue to have challenges in listening, speaking, reading, and writing as well as other language skills. The state governments through the existing ministry and local education authorities need to intimate teachers of the English language on the need to always examine learners’ competence and performance level before giving instructions. It should however be noted that no matter the beauty and beautiful contents of both language curriculum and syllabus, English language teachers need to give attention to communication in English, which should include both written and spoken. The fact is that the availability of the syllabuses for English language teaching and insistence on mastery of contents cannot guarantee or produce significant gains in English language learning in which the ability to communicate effectively appears to be at the top of the range of all the skills needed by learners in basic education in this state of the federation.


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DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.36349/tjllc.2022.v01i01.007

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