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.

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Updated: 20th June 2017 — 11:25 am

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