Bernstein’s Deficit Hypothesis and the Nigerian Context : A Survey of the Performance of Students in the English Language in their Senior School Certificate Examinations

Ajayi Temitope Michael


The English language is the major medium of instruction in the Nigerian educational system. However, the teaching of the language as a subject in the country’s educational system brings unequal access to knowledge across the various and varying social classes attested to in the country; a saddening picture that captures the arguments of Basil Bernstein on language and social class, code theory, which his critics have termed Deficit Hypothesis. In Nigeria, some children, by virtue of their parents’ educational status, stand the chance of acquiring the mastery of the language better than their counterparts, especially as depicted in their performances in the language in the Senior School Certificate Examinations. This work therefore examines the influence of the educational status of parents on the performances of their children in the English language in their Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), within the purview of Bernstein’s position on language and social class.


Keywords: English Language, parents’ educational status, Bernstein’s Deficit Hypothesis, students’ performance, Nigeria

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 [ISSN 0856-9965 (Print)]