Journal of Language, Technology & Entrepreneurship in Africa

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A case for teaching English as a service subject at universities in Kenya

AN Kioko


Language plays an important role in teaching and learning activities whether the
teachers and learners are conscious or unconscious of this. Thus language and
communication are the most important components of the school curriculum (Lopez,
2000, p.1). This is because there is a very close relationship between language and
thought. As Muthwii (2002, p. 1) notes, “special problems arise in multilingual
communities where learners frequently join the school system equipped with home
languages that are often different from the languages of education”. A consequence
of this is that the learner is expected to acquire and utilize skills using a language he
or she is not quite proficient in. It is, however, usually expected that by the time
students join university they have enough of the language of instruction to function
effectively in their major areas of study and to interact with the acquisition and
propagation of knowledge at that level. Recent studies on learner English have,
however, shown that the language of high school graduates, (Nyamasyo, 1992) and
even that of university students (Njoroge, 1996) have the same type of errors as
those observed in the English of learners at lower levels of education. If many
students entering the universities today have not attained the expected English level,
what should be done to counter this challenge?
Using an analysis of students' performance in an English Placement Test, this
paper discusses the English language needs of Kenyan students at the time of
entry to the university; appraises the programs which are put in place to address
this need in the local universities; and makes recommendations on what
universities in Kenya ought to be doing in order to produce students that can
compete internationally and fit in the global academic field.

Journal of Language, Technology & Entrepreneurship in Africa Vol. 1 (2) 2009: pp. 99-111

AJOL African Journals Online