The teaching of Composition writing in Zambian High Schools: The case of two schools in Choma District

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Sidambi, Jojo Jeremiah
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Zambia is an Anglophone country, resulting from its colonial past, and hence English is its official language. This means that high school leavers need to have mastered all the receptive and productive skills in the use of English required for effective communication in the real world outside school; in political, commercial and social administration. For this reason, English is taught as a second language and a medium of instruction from Grade one to university. The choice of English as a medium of instruction was thought to have potential to facilitate the pupil's acquisition of the language skills needed for communication and social administration. However, there has been dissatisfaction with school leavers' language skills; especially writing. This is despite the fact that the language skills are taught separately and appear on the timetable. In the case of productive skills of writing a separate lesson is timetabled where fortnightly the pupils are taught how to write composition. In simple terms, the situation has been, and still is, that the pupils finish Grade 12 with very poor composition skills. But what we do not know as yet is whether what goes on during those lessons designated for composition is anything that can promote the learning of the skills needed for a pupil to be able to write a composition. A study was, therefore needed to find out how composition was being taught in high schools.The information is intended for Teacher Education and high school teachers in the teaching composition writing.The study was designed to be a cross-sectional case study. The population consisted of 11 high schools in Choma District, and two of them were sampled for data collection. Data collection involved actual observation of live composition lessons and discussions with the teachers who had taught the lessons. Quantitative data was in form of absolute figures and percentages. Whereas Qualitative data was in form of what was observed, opinions, feelings, and suggestions as expressed by the teachers in the two schools. This data was analysed in terms of what was being observed and said in relation to the question as to whether whatever went on in the lessons designated for composition was anything that could promote the learning of the skills needed for a pupil to be able to write composition.The findings were that the teachers are in dire need in all the vital areas of teaching composition. Among such areas are: content and knowledge of composition types, discourse types composition skills, and of the actual teaching-learning procedures in a composition lesson.The conclusion arrived at was that what went on in the eleven of the twelve lessons observed could not promote the learning of the skills needed for pupils to be able to write a Composition.In light of the conclusion above, we recommend that the Ministry of Education should design and run a refresher teacher education programmed to retrain teachers in the teaching of Composition, including teaching grades 10, 11, and 12.The study suggests that perhaps a larger scale of study involving a district or a province might be necessary to find out whether or not the teaching of composition runs differently in the teaching of the skills in a composition lesson.
Applied Linguistics--Study and teaching--Zambia , Written communication(composition)--Zambia , Language and languages--study and teaching--Zambia