FACTORS AFFECTING THE PERFORMANCE OF CANDIDATES IN SHORTHAND EXAMINATIONS IN TRAINING INSTITUTIONS
Background of the Study
Shorthand is a system of rapid handwriting employing symbols to represent words, phrases, and letters. It is a, form, or instance of abbreviated or formulaic reference. It has been described as any system of rapid writing using symbols or shortcuts that can be made quickly to represent letters of the alphabets, words or phrases. Various terms are used for shorthand. One of the terms used is Brachygraphy meaning short writing, from the Greek word meaning short.
Stenography meaning narrow or small writing from the Greek word meaning narrow is another term used for Shorthand. Tachygraphy meaning swift writing from the Greek word meaning swift is also used for Shorthand. Most historians date the beginnings of shorthand with the Greek historian Xenophon who used an ancient Greek system to write the memoirs of Socrates. It was in the Roman Empire; however that shorthand first became greatly used. Marcus TulliusTiro, a learned freedman who was a member of Cicero’s household invented the first Latin shorthand system which was devised in 63 BC. It lasted over a thousand years. Middle ages in Europe, however, shorthand became associated with witchcraft and magic, and disappeared.
Between the years 1118-70, Thomas Becker who was Bishop of Canterbury encouraged research into Tiro’s shorthand. Influenced by Tiro’s system, Timothy Bright designed an English system in 1588 that consisted of straight lines, circles and half circles. With the publication of Timothy Bright’s system of shorthand in 1588, the modern era of Shorthand began. In Europe Gabelsberger and Stolze in the early nineteenth century devised important systems but it has been the particular contributions of Isaac Pitman (1837) and John Robert Gregg (1888) which have been particularly significant for writing shorthand in English.
Both Pitman and Gregg used phonographic approach, words were written according to their sound instead of abbreviated spelling. With the publication of Isaac Pitman’s shorthand in 1837, the greatest epoch in the history of English shorthand began. Pitman’s shorthand may be said to be the first of the really scientific instruments of rapid writing that have been devised, and the inspiration of the wonderful development of the art that has taken place since its invention. Through its development by numerous adapters, Pitman shorthand is known, in one form or another in every country of the world. In 1840 Pitman brought out a new edition of his shorthand in which he introduced numerous changes and the system was called phonography. New editions were brought out in a rapid succession and the system was further developed and improved until1857 when the tenth edition appeared with a reversal of the vowel scale. This innovation produced a revolt among the writers of the system. The change was generally accepted in England, but in America phonographers generally rejected it. This rejection was however solved by Benn Pitman, a brother of Isaac Pitman who brought the shorthand system to America in 1855. He adhered to the old vowel scale.
Nigeria adapted the Pitman version of shorthand from Europe. Under the East Africa examinations council, Nigerians learnt pitman shorthand and were examined by people from Europe. However Nigeria got qualified shorthand certificate holders who were able to teach shorthand in Nigeria. Since its inception, The Nigeria National examinations council (NNEC) has been offering shorthand examinations to Secretaries and aspiring secretaries in the country. These examinations are offered in July and November each year. Shorthand examinations are done at three stages namely stages I, II, III. One has to pass the lower stage before proceeding to the higher one.
Beryl Pratt in her book “What Is Pitman’s Shorthand?” writing on the performance of pitman shorthand in the United Kingdomstates that dictation cannot teach any shorthand theory, outline or phrase. According to her, for one to do well in shorthand, they must learn and concentrate on basic phrases. One must also increase reading practice from printed shorthand instruction books to consolidate knowledge of outlines.Beryl advises those learning shorthand to endeavor to write as fast as a person can speak.as this will assist in improving the transcription speed. Sweet Henry in his book, A Manual of Current Shorthand, Orthographic and Phonetic, says that leaners have to improve English and spelling while learning shorthand. He advises learners to sharpen their powers of concentration and alertness which are both essential attributes for shorthand writing. He also advises learners to occasionally practice speed 20wpm faster than the examination for excellent results.
Over the years, KNEC shorthand Chief examiners have raised various issues concerning the performance of shorthand examinations. In their reports the chief examiners have indicated that a lot needs to be done at the institution level to help candidates do well in their shorthand examinations. According to the July 2006 chief examiner’s report, most candidates’ scripts displayed lack of masterly of the subject. This shows that the candidates were not well prepared for the examination. In the same report, the chief examiner also noted that some candidates hadnot achieved the speed of the examination they had registered for. The chief examiner indicates that such candidates register for the examinations when they are not ready and consequently fail. In the subsequent chief examiners’reports, incomplete transcriptions have been identified as contributing to poor performance in these examinations. Wrong transcriptions and wrong outlines are also a common featurein the candidates’ work presented for marking. This according to the chief examiner indicates lack of enough reading and practice. It also shows that the candidates have not mastered the shorthand theory well enough to sit for the examination. Anyone willing to learn shorthand must have some specific skills also known as the entry behaviuor. Entry behaviourare the necessary specific skills that students must have prior to beginning an instruction. It is not a list of things that students can do, but the specific skills that must have in order to begin a certain course (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, n.d.) These are the required grades or qualifications a student needs to gain entrance to a particular level of learning. Different levels have different entry requirements. The entry behavior of learners affects the speed with which a teacher can introduce new material, the amount of reading of primary sources you can expect and the level of critical analysis you can demand. In practical subjects students need certain forms of
literacy to enable them succeed. One of them is tool literacy, or the ability to understand and use the practical and conceptual tools relevant to education and the areas of work and professional life that the individual expects to inhabit.(White, 2009). One of the entry behavior expected of a shorthand student is masterly in the English language. The KNEC chief examiners indicate that lack of masterly in English is also displayed in the candidates’ scripts during marking. The chief examiners indicate that masterly of English is a must for one to do well in shorthand since dictation passages are written and dictated using the English language.
There are two important aspects of practical classes. One of them is that ‘doing’ is an important part of the knowledge. A leaner learns about the doing part in a practical class. In a practical class one has to apply the theories in a practical situation. During a practical class the learner plays an active role in doing the work and applying the concepts(HongKong Polytechnic, n.d.). This implies that each learner has to have the required facility so as to be able to apply the taught theories in a practical situation. Inadequate relevant laboratories and workshop leads to practical courses being done theoretically and this leads to poor performance in examinations(Amuka et al., 2011).
Shorthand candidates must perfect their speed and accuracy through practice. To be able to achieve this, candidates should have adequatetime and typewriters for practice.
Practical exposure to students in the relevant areas and a sound theoretical background provides a modern industry oriented education. It aims at producing trained professionals who can successfully meet the demands of the various industries. A more practical and applied way of teaching can improve the relevance of work. Practical skills are an essential part of competence in some disciplines. As well as developing these practical skills, good laboratory and practical work also helps students develop expertise in critical enquiry, problem solving, experimental design, data analysis and presentation, and a long list of important academic and professional abilities. Practical classes can also help students to develop the kinds of practical intelligence so highly valued by professionals in many fields, and by those who employ them. (Stonebridge Associated Colleges, n.d.)
Dominant theories in Education point to the ideal a well rounded education that can educate “the whole person” that education should develop moral, aesthetic, physical and practical capacities not just cognitive knowledge organized in academic principles. Practical subjects can have the additional justification that they allow students to learn more active doing than what is typical in academic subjects. Due to inadequate relevant apparatus, machines or equipment, some students encounter these gadgets in examination rooms as they have never used them. This is a very unfortunate situation which leads to poor performance in examinations.
Practice is an efficient facilitator in the application of theory taught. Eunice and Fleith (2004) emphasize the importance of preparing students to think for themselves and solve new problems requiring the development of creative and independent thinking.(Rocha et al. 2010).
Emphasis in teaching practical subjects should be on students’ active involvement in doing the practicals. Practical process skills such as careful observation, interpreting, predicting events, designing experiment, organizing information and reporting and generalization will be acquired. Good quality work promotes the engagement and interest of the learner as well as developing a range of skills, science knowledge and conceptual understanding(United Kingdom Parliament, September, 2011). For shorthand candidates to perfect their speed and accuracy in transcription, they need enough exposure in practical lessons. The teachers also need to ensure that the candidates are well grounded in the theory aspects of the subject so that they can easily write shorthand outlines during dictation. Candidates are therefore required to increase reading practice from printed shorthand books and also practice in transcription to be able to pass their examinations.
Teachers represent a large proportion of the input of an educational system. Coombs (1970) observed that “the problem of teacher supply is not one of simple numbers. It is first and foremost a problem of quantity and of getting the right quality (Jekayinfa, 1993).Fayemi (1991) also observed that “it is a truism that teachers are the hubs of any educational system” that upon their number, their quality and devotion depend the success of any educational system”. Assuming that necessary facilities are adequately provided for, the environment is conducive to learning, the curriculum satisfies the needs of the students and the students themselves have interest in learning, learning cannot take place without the presence of the teacher.
The quality of education is directly related to the quality of instruction in the classrooms. It is a fact that the academic qualifications, knowledge of the subject matter, competence, and skills of teaching and the commitment of the teacher have effective impact on the teaching learning process.
Quality improvement in education depends upon proper training of teachers. The teachers cannot play any of the roles unless properly trained (Yadved and Singh, 1988)(Adeyemi, n.d.).
Students academic gain and learning performance is affected by numerous factor including gender, age, teaching faculty, students schooling, father/guardian social economic status, residential area of students, medium of instructions in schools, tuition trend, daily study hour and accommodation as hostelries or day scholar. Many researchers conducted detailed studies about the factors contributing student performance at different study levels. Graetz (1995) suggested “A student educational success contingent heavily on social status of student’s parents/ guardians in the society. Considine and Zappala (2002) noticed the same that parent’s income or social status positively affects the student test score in examination. According to Minnesota (2007) “the higher education performance is depending upon the academic performance of graduate students. Durden and Ellis quoted Staffolani and Bratti, (2002) observed that “the measurement of students previous educational outcomes are the most important indicators of students future achievement, this refers that as the higher previous appearance, better the student’s academic performance in future endeavours.
Lot of studies have been conducted in the area of students achievement and these studies identify and analyze the number of factors that affect the academic performance of the student at school, college and even at university level. Their finding identify students’ effort, previous schooling, parent’s educational background, family income, self motivation of students, age of student, learning preferences and entry qualification of students as important factors that have effect on student’s academic performance in different setting. The utility of these studies lies in the need to undertake corrective measures that improve the academic performance of graduate students.
It is generally assumed that the students who showed better or higher performance in the starting classes of their studies also performed better in future academic years at degree level. Everyone can be surprised with this assumption if it could be proved scientifically. From the last two decades it has been noticed significantly that there is great addition in research literature and review material relating to indicators of academic achievement with much emphasis on this dialogue, whether traditional achievement measures of academic performance are best determinants of future academic gain at university or higher level or innovative measures. However, it is also observed that many of the researchers are not agree with this view point or statement. Reddy and Talcott (2006) looks disagree with these assumptions that future academic gains are resolute by preceding performance. In their research on the relationship between previous academic performance and subsequent achievement at university level, they found that students learning or studying at graduate level and the score secured did not predict any academic achievement at university level. They also cited Pearson and Johnson (1978) who observed that on the whole grade association of only 0.28 between graduate level marks and university degree achievement.
It is also confirmed in the study of Oregon State University (2003) on graduate admissions that normal measures of educational potential and academic performance such as high school GPA (Grade Point Average) scores showed only 30% of the deviation in initial or starting (first) year at college. It is important to note that even these studies do not agree with the former studies who explored that previous achievement affect the future performance of the students in studies, they confirmed that the admission scores are related to academic performance at university level but to a very minimal extent. McDonald et.al (2001) also suggested that the scores of graduate level studies still out perform any other single measure of cognitive aptitude in predicting success at university level.
Parent’s socio-economic condition, which includes parents’ academic and professional qualification, revenue and occupational affiliation, is also associated with academic gain of students. The results of many studies confirmed that academic achievement of students is contingent upon parent’s socio-economic condition. So the students belonging from higher social economical backgrounds will perform better than other students associated with low social economic backgrounds. “Social and economical status of student is generally determined by combining parents’ qualification, occupation and income standard” (Jeynes, 2002). Among many research studies conducted on academic achievement, it is not very surprising to observe that Socio-economic status is one of the main elements studied while predicting academic performance.
Graetz (1995) conducted a study on socio-economic status of the parents of students and concluded that the socio economic background has a great impact on student’s academic performance, main source of educational imbalance among students and student’s academic success contingent very strongly on parent’s socio economic standard. Considine and Zappala (2002) also having the same views as Graetz (1995), in their study on the influence of social and economic disadvantage in the academic performance of school students noticed, where the parents or guardians have social, educational and economical advantage definitely strengthen the higher level success in future. But it is also noted that these parents make available sufficient psychological and emotional shore up to their children by providing good educational and learning environment that produce confidence and the improvement of skills needed for success.
On other hand Pedrosa et.al (2006) in their study on social and educational background pointed out those students who mostly come from deprived socio-economic and educational background performed relatively better than others coming from higher socio-economic and educational area. They named this phenomena educational elasticity. It is obvious and true that the criteria for categorizing socio-economic standard in different countries are different depending of their norms and values. The criteria for low socio-economic status for developed country will be different from the criteria of developing nations and same will be in the case of developing and under developing countries. “The total income of families, monthly or annually and their expenditures also put a great effect on the learning and academic opportunities accessible to youngsters and their chances of educational success.
Furthermore, he also pointed that due to residential stratification and segregation, the students belonging to low-income backgrounds usually attend schools with lower funding levels, and this situation reduced achievement motivation of the students and high risk of educational malfunction in future life endeavors” (Escarce, 2003).
Considine & Zappala (2002) observed that children comes from those families having low income make known more subsequent models in terms of learning outcomes; low literacy level, low retention rate, problems in school behaviour and more difficulty in their studies and mostly display negative attitude towards studies and school. The view point of Considine and Zappala is more strengthen by this statement of Eamon, According to Eamon (2005) “Those students usually come out from low socio-economic status or area show low performance in studies and obtained low scores as compared to the other students or their counter parts”.
It is also assumed that children learning outcome and educational performance are strongly affected by the standard and type of educational institution in which students get their education. The educational environment of the school one attends sets the parameters of students’ learning outcomes. Considine and Zappala (2002) quoted Sparkles (1999) showed that schools environment and teachers expectations from their students also have strong influence on student performance. Most of the teachers working in poor schools or schools having run short of basic facilities often have low performance expectations from their students and when students know that their teachers have low performance expectations from them, hence it leads to poor performance by the students. Kwesiga (2002) approved that performance of the students is also influenced by the school in which they studied but he also said that number of facilities a school offers usually determine the quality of the school, which in turn affect the performance and accomplishment of its students. Sentamu (2003) argue that schools influence educational process in content organization, teacher and teaching learning and in the end evaluation of the all. All these educationists and researchers agreed with this principle that schools put strong effect on academic performance and educational attainment of students.
Students from elite schools are expected to perform good because they attend these elite schools and the main reason behind is that these schools are usually very rich in resources and facilities. Some researchers have the view that school ownership and the funds available in schools do indeed influenced the performance of the student. Crosne and Elder (2004) noticed that school ownership, provision of facilities and availability of resources in school is an important structural component of the school. Private schools due to the better funding, small sizes, serious ownership, motivated faculty and access to resources such as computers perform better than public schools. These additional funding resources and facilities found in private schools enhance academic performance and educational attainment of their students. It is also very pleasing that students from Govt schools colleges and universities in Punjab Pakistan are providing the laptops by the Punjab Government, so that the students could interact with the whole world and know about the latest developments and innovations.
It is concluded that the type of schools in which students studies greatly influence the educational performance and academic achievement of the students. Miller and Birch (2007) summarized the views of many researcher and educationist in their study on the influence of high school attended on university performance. This study let the research scholars to hypothesize that the background to the students positively correlates with the academic attainment of graduate students.
Statement of the problem
Shorthand candidates have been performing very poorly in Examinations. Such performance indicates that this much needed skill for our secretaries is not being acquired as required. This poor performance has been noted for several years and the institutions offering the examinations seem not to be putting any effort towards improving the performance.
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