An investigation into the factors for poor performance of grade twelve pupils in reading comprehension: A case study of selected High schools in Kalomo District

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Chazangwe, Victor
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There have been some concerns on the poor performance of pupils in reading comprehension from people in different fora. For instance during School Programme for In-Service for the Term (SPRINT) Meetings in schools, and Grade Twelve Marking Centers. Examiners and teachers have expressed this concern generally in Zambia. The concern is that generally Grade Twelve pupils do not perform well in Reading Comprehension. An analysis of the Examinations Council of Zambia examiners report on the 2007 Joint School Certificate and General Certificate of Education examinations also shows this weakness on the part of pupils in reading comprehension tasks. Reporting on the passage, the report indicates that more than fifty percent of the candidates scored below half the total mark in reading comprehension section; with some scoring as low as between 0 and 5 marks out of 20. The 2008 Examination Council of Zambia, Examiners’ report shows almost the same scenario. This state of affairs has raised concerns among education practitioners and officials in the country. However, the performance and reasons for the performance varies from one school to another. The focus of this study was to find out the reasons for the performance of grade twelve pupils in reading comprehension in the selected High Schools in Kalomo District. The study had (5) five main objectives and were: 1. Find out the teachers’ attitudes towards reading comprehension component. 2. Find out the rate of teachers’ planning and preparation for reading comprehension lessons. 3. Find out how a reading comprehension lesson proceeded in grade twelve classes observed in the selected schools in Kalomo District. 4. Find out the appropriancy of the materials used for teaching reading comprehension to the pupils. The study followed a descriptive research design. Interviews, observations and focus group discussions helped to derive the respondents’ opinion on the performance and reasons behind the performance in reading comprehension. The tests in reading comprehension given to the pupils helped to give an idea of the actual performance of pupils in reading comprehension. The study also tried to establish the reasons behind the poor performance in reading comprehension. The reasons are quiet many. They range from the way reading comprehension lessons are taught to the reading culture among pupils. The responses obtained from both lesson observations and teacher interviews stated that teachers found it difficult to teach reading comprehension. For instance, some teachers talked to said teaching reading comprehension was difficult because it was time consuming and also the quality of pupils they usually had were difficult to teach in that they did not even understand certain concepts used in reading comprehension passages. The above reasons make the teaching of reading comprehension some what problematic for many teachers of English Language and thus, making the performance of pupils in reading comprehension poor. The other reason for the poor performance of grade twelve pupils in reading comprehension is poor reading culture among pupils. This research has established that the poor reading culture among pupils is due to inadequacy of relevant and appropriate reading materials for pupils. Materials such as books and comprehension texts whose content is related to the young generation and depicting some local settings were missing. This study has some recommendations, among others: School administrators at a High School to make it compulsory for pupils to belong to at least any of the clubs that has to do with reading; and languages teachers with correct qualifications recommended for them to be teaching at a high school should be appointed to positions of patron/matron for such clubs, and the government through the Ministry of Education to increase funding for procurement of books in schools.
Reading(Secondary) , Reading Comprehension