Role of Socio-Economic Factors in English Language Learning: A Case Study of High School Students of Pendra, Chhattisgarh

Kalyani Pradhan and Dr. Anusree Sreenivasan

Abstract

The aim of this current study is to examine the role of socio-economic status (SES) in English language educational achievement of high school students of Pendra, Chhattisgarh. As we know, there are many factors or predictors that influence English language learning. Various cognitive, non-cognitive, psychological, social, and environmental factors have been observed to have a direct/indirect impact on children’s education. Among social and environmental factors, socio-economic status is of utmost importance to the extent to which it exerts great influence on second language learning of the students. Academic achievement is the final output in the school which determines an individual’s academic success or failure. It is not only important for getting success and livelihood but also for social recognition. Hence, it is very important to examine the impact of socio-economic status on a student’s academic life and scholastic achievement.

The present study discusses problems faced by learners in the English language and to identify the right way of language acquisition for second language learners of high school. This paper may help parents, teachers, and educational administrators to know the importance of socio-economic factor in determining the academic achievement of the students, especially in the English language. Around 60 high school students from Pendra has participated in this study.

Keywords: English Language Learning, Socio-Economic Status, Academic Achievement, Second Language Learners, Language Acquisition

1. Introduction

Learning the English language is becoming more and more important nowadays. During the last two decades, the usage of the English language for communicative purposes has not been confined only to the elite group of society. The social profile of the students in acquisition/attainment of English language points to reconsider the focus given to different aspects of language and the methods and techniques adopted in language teaching. Although second and third language learning is a complicated phenomenon with different variables concerning the psychological elements of the learner and the socio-cultural factors of the contexts, the interactional approach to second language learning still ensures a successful method that makes sense in the classroom. Socio-economic factor, which generally involves factors such as parental educational background, occupation, and income level, is a strong predictor of student achievement in second language learning. That is, students with higher parental socio-economic status demonstrate increased academic performance when compared to those with lower parental socio-economic status.

The plurality of India is reflected in its linguistic diversity. The languages spoken in India belong to several language families, the main ones being Indo-Aryan languages spoken by around 78.05% of the total population followed by the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% Indians. The languages spoken by the remaining 2.31% of the population are Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Andamanese and some other language isolates. According to the 2011 census, 43.63 percent of Indians speak Hindi as their mother tongue. Bengali, with 8.03 percent speakers is in second place; Marathi in third place with 6.86 percent speakers; Telugu in fourth place with 6.7 percent speakers and Tamil in 5th place with 5.7 percent speakers.

Different mother tongues are spoken in all the states of India. The main language of every state is its first language, while English is considered as the second or third language. For example, Marathi is considered as the first language in Maharashtra and Hindi and English as the second and third languages ​​of the state. Similarly, in Punjab, Punjabi has been considered as the first language of the state while English has been considered as a compulsory second language. In Odisha, Odia is considered as the first language and English and Hindi or Sanskrit has been considered as the second and third languages.

The English language was introduced in India during the British Raj in the 1830s. The purpose of introducing English as the official language during British rule in India was to improve trade and facilitate governance. In addition, the introduction of English to the Indian sub-continent brought in Western concepts of learning; English-medium schools and universities were established, and English became a prerequisite in all public spheres of Indian society. It has been said that the British Raj encouraged the use of English mainly because of the need to appoint more Indians to the armed forces and civil services. Furthermore, since English was a language sufficiently known to the Indian elite, the institutionalization of English as the official language of India helped spread the language to various communities of people in India.

In the post-independence period, the role of English language continues in India in administration, education, global communication, and general progress of the individual and society. Apart from prescribing Hindi as the official language of the Central Government, Article 343 of the Constitution of India allowed limited use of the English language for official purposes till 1965, but with the enactment of the Official Language Act, 1963, the use of English language was extended from 1965 onwards.

Multilingual mother tongue education was first introduced in the Education Policy of 1968, through the Three Language Formula (TLF). Jointly formulated by Central and state governments, it mandated that every child learn three languages: the mother tongue, Hindi, and English. TLF envisages that children in primary school will study through their mother tongue and this will lead to harmonious personal development and contribute to an educationally high quality of education.

NEP 2020 will continue the three-language formula introduced in 1968 with a major change in the country for the first time. In the earlier policy, Hindi and English were heavily emphasized in Kendriya Vidyalayas in most parts of the country, and it was considered mandatory in three languages. The third language will be either a regional language, a foreign language, or a classical language like Sanskrit. The new policy pushes away from the English-Hindi approach and provides the state’s option to select languages ​​to meet the needs of children from the respective regions.

A study in India has found that a 10% lower probability of learning a second language in primary schools leads to a weekly wage decline of 8% indicating a premium that second language skills may be in the labor market (Chakravarti and Baksh, 2016). Azam et al. (2013) have also shown that earnings and second language skills are positively associated with persistence in India. Even though a control for the effect of age, social group, schooling, geography, and ability, this study found that hourly wages are on average 34% higher for those who speak a fluent second language and 13% higher for men who speak another language.

According to Proctor (2014), socio-economic privileges in India have historically been conferred by a second language (preferably English) since the British period and the current phase of globalization only reinforced the structure of that privilege. The above facts show that in view of the rapid process of globalization, colonial heritage, and linguistic diversity, the second language has acquired an important role in the Indian economy and society. However, learning second language macro skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) is a subject of enormous disparities given to students given their socio-cultural, gender, local and family backgrounds.

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Students’ academic performance or achievement is influenced by many factors such as parents’ socio-economic status, residential locality, gender, age, school, and classroom environment, and more. It is education that determines a person’s occupation, income, status, or position in society. On the other hand, the socio-economic status of the student’s family or parents has a great impact on the academic success of the students, they are related to each other, but socio-economic status is a significant contributing factor in the student’s academic achievement. The study focuses on high school students of Pendra, Chhattisgarh. In the schools of Pendra, the second language is a major factor affecting students’ academic achievement and a reason for their dropout from school.

2. Review of the Literature

There are quite a few works of literature from around the world where they discuss the impact of SES on children’s education. Here is a gist of some of those works and their findings.

APA (2001) describes the relation between a family’s socio-economic status and the children’s readiness for school. Across all socio-economic groups, parents face major challenges when it comes to providing optimal care and education for their children. For families suffering from poverty, these challenges can be daunting.

Furthermore, Ominde, S.H (1964) observes that even in families with above-average income parents often lack the time and energy to invest fully in their children’s preparation for school, and they sometimes face a limited array of options for high-quality child care both before their children start school and during the early school years. Kindergarten teachers throughout the country report that children increasingly arrive at the school inadequately prepared.

Lareau, Annette (2004) state that “low maternal education and minority-language status are most consistently associated with fewer signs of emerging literacy and a greater number of difficulties in preschoolers.” Having inadequate resources and limited access to available resources can negatively affect families’ decisions regarding their young children’s development and learning. As a result, children from families with low socio-economic status are at greater risk of entering kindergarten unprepared than their peers from families with median or high socio-economic status.

For Singh and Singh (2014), the parents’ income status, parents’ educational level and students’ health status are the most important family status, which has an important role in determining educational achievement and social behavior of students. A favorable home environment motivates a child to do extremely well in school. The high level of education which most often goes with high occupational status means that the parents will be able to provide the necessary learning facilities and assist the child with schoolwork (Muola. 2010).

According to Al-Matalka (2014), SES has a relatively strong impact on parental involvement compared to other factors and parental involvement has a positive impact on student achievement at all socio-economic levels. Families with high SES often have more success in preparing their young children for school because they typically have access to a wider range of resources to promote, explore and support young children’s mental and physical development. On the other hand, parents with low SES find themselves struggling to augment financial resources and lack time for their children in imparting values, good habits, manners, which may even end up in ignorance about immunizations or basic nutrition for their child.

The socio-economic status of a family is based on the income of the family, the level of education of the parents, the occupation of the parents, and the status in the society. Families with high socioeconomic status often have more success preparing their children for school because they usually have a wider range of resources to promote and support children’s development. They encourage children with various learning activities at home to increase the English language knowledge of their children. Parents who are educated help them to do their homework. But many people in India work on wages, small industries, shops and dhabas etc. Such parents are not educated. They are not able to help their children on homework. They do not understand the importance of the English language. Purpose of the study to find out the contribution of the socio-economic status of the family on the English language performance of the student in high schools in Pendra, Chhattisgarh.

3. Research Methodology

The study aims to answer the following research question:

  • Is there any relationship between the level of socio-economic status and achievement scores of students in second language learning?
  • How educational background of parents influences students second language learning?
  • How occupation of parents influences students’ second language learning?

As learning as a process can be viewed from a social-constructionist perspective, examining how and why students differ in learning second language macro skills, especially in a society where English is not the mother tongue, it requires a multi-dimensional interdisciplinary methodological approach. The explanatory factors behind enormous differences among learners in how successful they are in learning English as the second language can be broadly grouped into four sets: socio-cultural, economic, geographical, and individual-specific cognitive factors.

This study is mainly based on the data collected from Hindi medium high schools were they only study English as their second language. The students are from class 9th and 10th, both male and female, about 14 to 15 years old. There were 10 questions in the questionnaire that were given to the students. The samples of 60 students belonging to high school are taken as the subject for the present study. The data was collected by the investigator by personally visiting and administrating the tests. Objective type questionnaire was prepared to elicit information regarding learners’ demographic details, interest, aims and opinion in second language learning. Interaction and observation were used as tools to collect reliable data for this study. The survey was conducted in two phases. One deals with analysis and interpretation of the questionnaire and the other one pertains to interaction and observation with the students studying in high schools of Pendra. Inside the class, the researcher observed the learners use English words when they were asked to answer. The questionnaire in the present study included two main factors: parents’ educational level, and the effect of parents’ occupations on students’ second language performance. Academic achievement was determined by students’ overall marks in second language that they had received so far. Thus, the students were also asked to report their most recent marks in the questionnaire.

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Language learning is a social process and is related to social, cultural, and economic background from which students come. In that sense, high school students performance in second language is expected to be influenced by differences in social backgrounds of students, parental differences in terms of economic and educational attainment, location of origin, history of mother-tongue based primary education and nature of schools.

4. Problem faced in learning a second language

Language reflects social processes. Different varieties of language reflect different settings for language learning and use of language. There are various problems that are being faced by the second language learners, especially in Chhattisgarh state. They are;

  • Social aspects
  • Economical aspects
  • Psychological aspects
  • Cultural aspects

The present paper aims at the socio-economic effects of second language learning, now we will discuss the social and economic aspects and effects during second language learning.

4.1 Sociological aspects of second language learning in Pendra

Teaching English as second language to students who are non-native speakers of English is our common interest. Our common goal is to help our students learn second language, and this enthusiasm rests upon several presumptions. The most basic assumption is providing the opportunities for learning language. Many language learning/teaching courses have led us to believe that language can be taught, by providing factors such as presentation, repetition, and activity-based learning.

There are some propositions for learners by teachers. The first one was, teachers encourage those learners who develop best in their own personal ways. The second one was about the social context in the classroom. Learning alone might be attractive for some people but most people like to learn in a group environment because of the mutual support that the group can provide and create more memorable learning opportunities for both the students and teachers.

A good learning strategy is to ask questions about the things one does not understand. So, the people with fear of public humiliation can improve to speak in public. There are certain factors inhibiting teachers and learners, why they do not speak second language in classroom. Some of the factors are discussed below;

  • Lack of self-motivation for the teachers of second language. So that they are also unable to motivate the students in the classroom.
  • The teachers require/lack the strategies of teaching the second language in classroom.
  • Due to time constraints, the teachers of second language are unable to make an analysis on the language skills of the students.
  • School provides the syllabus that has no proper tools to enhance the skills of the students. Hence, teachers also do not show any interest to make the students involve in the second language learning activities.
  • Since students are accustomed to their mother tongue since childhood, it is very difficult for them to learn second language.
  • Students mostly interact with their friends and family only in their mother tongue.

The child’s first school is his home and first the teachers are his/her parents. The infant learns all actions from its parents in the early stages and acquires its knowledge. Parents not only give good education to the children, but also identify the right and wrong and work to create a golden future for the children. When parents do not understand the importance of education, then basic education for children is also a difficult task. For English education, it is very important for the parents of the children to be educated. Parental educational participation has been widely studied as one of the most important predictors of educational achievement not only in the United States, but also in other countries (Davis, 1993; Smit & Drezen, 2007). Parent involvement has the greatest impact on the educational success of young children, much of the literature supports the notion that children of all ages with all parents has a higher attendance, achievement level, and more positive attitudes toward school (Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Hill & Tyson, 2009) compared to those whose parents are less involved. However, several recent meta-analytical studies have found that different types of parental involvement (eg, homework participation) have different relationships to achievement (Patal, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008) and furthermore, Parental involvement changes as their children change.

Similar effects are seen in the current case study related to the Pendra region. There is a significant correlation between socioeconomic status and English language learning in school. Parental income and education have a positive impact on students’ English academic performance. In our research, we have found that parents who guide their children to study at home, their performance is better than children whose parents do not help them when they are studying at home. In this area, more than half of the parents have no knowledge in the English language. They get their children enrolled in school, but they are not able to help them during their studies. In this area we found many such poor children who have left their studies due to financial constraints. Many families belong form below property line. They were not even able to buy books for their children. Children from such families do household chores after returning from school, their time is spent taking care of their younger brother or sister.

Table-1 Parents’ education and student’s English language performance

The table-1 shows the answer to the educational status of parents (no. of obs.) of high school students and their English-language performance. Blue line shows students average marks in English (%) and orange line shows the parents education. We found that average marks secured by students in English language is 42.3%. In this result we found that majority of parents’ educational level is below 10th standard. Parental involvement has been considered an important factor for children’s English language outcomes in school. When parents are involved in their children’s school studies, students have the home support and knowledge they need to not only finish their homework, but also develop knowledge in English language learning.

4.2 Economical aspects of second language learning in Pendra

Economics is a great concern in almost every sphere of life. Economical concepts can be found in different places and in different faces as well (Edward 2000). Much literature has been done and propounded already in this context elucidating economic factors and their importance in the lives of language learners. According to our perception a person with wealthy economic view is more efficient than another person.

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Economical conditions, indeed, affect the student’s education. Student’s performance in second language learning also depends on economic conditions of the family, because there is a strong relationship between economic factors and second language learning. Economic prosperity will ultimately enhance the performance level of a student (sometimes) towards learning. Statistics confessed that students with good economic background get good grades in second language classes as compare to the students, who are low in economic flow.

Second language holds the top spot for the most spoken and written language worldwide. People are desirable to learn English as a second language. English is defined as the “Language of Prosperity”. Speaking English gives people a distinct advantage both personally and globally from an economic perspective. English language will be a/is a basic skill needed for the entire workforce, and not just “a marker of the elite” like in years past. English is becoming globalized; it becomes more of a perk for transnational corporations to execute their business maneuvers in English. By doing this, transnational’s along with other companies open- up wider demographic consumers and business partners.

Speaking second language is also a specific advantage for locals who live in areas with lots of tourist. Learning the language will automatically give them a higher chance of making money and getting a job, whether it be on resorts mingling with guests or selling their products in the markets. In a global business, to provide the best customer service in the long run, it is necessary to understand the language of the company’s customers. So, the second language is a common language, also used / widely used in business.

Parents are unable to join their children in corporate schools due to the increase in fee structure. In Chhattisgarh State more families are unemployed so that they are unable to provide proper education to their children. Many people are considered under below poverty line. So, they have no proper knowledge regarding economic developments. Due to such reasons they are unable to develop/evolve themselves economically and educationally.

Table-2 Parents’ occupation and student’s English language performance

Table 2 shows the answer of occupational status of parents (no. of obs) of high school students and students’ performance in the English language. We found that the average score obtained by students in the English language is 41.6%. The socio-economic status of parents directly affects their children learning second language. Parents are the first teachers of a child, but low-income parents have to work long hours to earn money for their families, due to which they are not able to give much time to their family nor can help the child in his/her studies. .

CONCLUSION

The main objective of this paper is to investigate the relation between socioeconomic status and learning second language. There is a significant difference in SES between the students, who learn second language in school. It is clear from the research that SES of the high schools at the selected case of study provides certain evidence which form a big obstacle for the learners to achieve quality in language.

The socio-economic effects always affect the students learning environment and their attitude. Socio-economic aspects must positively be enhanced. Only then the students can grow themselves socially, economically, educationally, and professionally.

Some students in Pendra regions lack parental care, encouragement, and attitudes toward their learning process due to the impact of socioeconomic status. The parents of many students in these areas are illiterate, because of which there is no verbal interaction between family members, which hinders children to develop their second language skills.

The government should provide good education to the students and should change the syllabus that can cater the needs of the students. It is also supposed to eradicate the high fee structures in the corporate institutions to be reasonable to the poor as well as middle class people. If every school implements second language as a compulsory medium of instruction, the pupils can easily communicate with others in second language. Simultaneously, activity-based teaching and learning must also be implemented in the institutions. The process of acquiring the second language can be effective when both the learner and the teacher are involved in the process and derive fun out of it. This is the only way to keep the motivation and interest levels high. When this is achieved all the problems of teaching and learning get resolved and attain better results.

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