Project Topics



1.1 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.   Kenya adapted the Pitman version of shorthand from Europe. Under the East Africa examinations council, Kenyans learnt pitman shorthand and were examined by people from Europe. However Kenya got qualified shorthand certificate holders who were able to teach shorthand in Kenya. Since its inception, The Kenya National examinations council (KNEC) 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.  

1.2 Statement of the problem

Shorthand candidates have been performing very poorly in KNEC 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. Below are performance statistics in shorthand stage III between 2006 and 2010.               Table 1.1: Performance in shorthand stage III from 2006 to 2010. Year Number candidates  of Number passing Number failing 2006 1201   508 (42.30%) 693 (57.70%) 2007 1145   357 ((31.18%) 788 (68.82%)2008 1103   400 (36.26%) 703 (63.74%) 2009 1182   574 (48.56%) 608 (51.44%)2010 998   403 (40.38%) 595 (59.62%)   As shown in table I the percentage of candidates failing each year has been higher than the percentage of candidates passing. Studies undertaken in Shorthand training globally concentrate on the areas which students need to focus on in order to achieve great performance(Hong Kong Polytechnic, n.d.; Amuka et al., 2011), the training methods employed in Shorthand training in order to improve performance (Stonebridge Associated Colleges, n.d.; Rocha et al. 2010), influence of teacher competency(Coombs, 1970;Fayemi, 1991; Jekayinfa, 1993) and entry behavior of learners in practical lessons (Yadved and Singh, 1988; Adeyemi, n.d.). Despite the poor performance in Shorthand by candidates in KNEC examinations, there is deficiency of academic investigation in this area in Kenya in general and in Nyeri sub-county in particular. This is the academic lacuna that this study hopes to fill. This study is therefore is a modest attempt to examine the factors contributing to poor performance by candidates in KNEC shorthand examinations in colleges in Nyeri sub-county.

1.3 The purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to find out the factors influencing performance of candidates in shorthand examinations in training institutions  in Nyeri sub-county.

1.4    Objectives of the study

The study will try to achieve the following objectives-: 1.                  To determine the ratio of students versus typewriters in training institutions presenting candidates for KNEC shorthand examinations in in Nyeri sub-county. 2.                  To establish whether the time candidates are allowed for practice and tuition is adequate before sitting KNEC shorthand examinations in training institutions in Nyeri sub-county. 3.                  To determine teachers’ competencies in teaching shorthand at the various stages in training institutions in Nyeri sub-county.

1.5   Research questions

In order to achieve the objectives of the study the following research questions will be answered-: 1.                  How does the ratio of students versus typewriters influence candidates’ performance in shorthand in institutions presenting candidates for KNEC Shorthand examinations in Nyeri sub county? 2.                  Does time allowed for practice and tuition affect performance of candidates taking shorthand in institutions in Nyeri sub county? 3.                  How do teacher competencies influence candidates’ performance in training institutions in Nyeri sub-county?

1.6 Significance of the study

This study is significant to the students who will be taking KNEC shorthand examinations in future. The students will be guided to improve their performance in shorthand and this will help them acquire the required speeds within a short time. The study will also be of great significance to the Kenya national examinations council in that it will improve candidates’ performance in KNEC shorthand examinations. Due to improved performance KNEC will be able to attract more candidates for these examinations. The institutions offering shorthand examinations will also be guided to look for ways to improve performance of the students taking shorthand examinations. The study will also help the policy makers specifically Kenya Institute of curriculum development (KICD) in evaluating the entry requirements for these examinations. Above all it will be of great importance to the Government of Kenya, since the training institutions will produce highly qualified secretaries for employment.

1.7   Limitations of the study

It is important to note that the study was carried out in a few selected institutions in Nyeri sub-county, due to financial and time constraints that may impede the rolling out of the research to all Institutions that offer KNEC shorthand examinations.

1.8   Delimitations of the study

This study was carried out in Nyeri town in the training institutions within Nyeri town.   

1.9   Definition of significant terms

1.                  Performance  –  refers to accomplishment of a given task measured against preset known standards of accuracy, completeness and speed. 2.                 Poor performance  – refers to performing below expectations. 3.                 Examinations council – The national body responsible for overseeing national examinations in Kenya. 4.                  Shorthand – A system of rapid handwriting employing symbols to represent words, phrases, and letters. 5.                 Examination – A set of questions or exercises evaluating skills or knowledge.

1.10    Organisation of the study

The study will be divided into five chapters. Chapter one consists of introduction, background of the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, objectives of the study, research questions, significance of the study, limitations of the study, delimitations of the study and definition of significant terms. In chapter two, literature review is given. It includes introduction, importance of facilities in practical lessons, importance of exposure in practical lessons, teacher qualification in practical learning, entry behaviour of learners in practical lessons and a summary. A conceptual framework is also given. Chapter three discusses the methodology used in data collection and incorporates introduction, research design, target population, sample size and sampling procedures , research instruments, validity and reliability of the research instruments, data collection procedure and data analysis techniques. Chapter four will deal with data analysis and the research findings made while chapter five gives a summary of the research findings as well as conclusions and recommendations.