English, the language of opportunity
“Look at her, prisoner of the gutters,
Condemned by every syllable she utters.
According to the law, she should be taken out and hanged,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English language.
This sentiment, expressed by that passionate defender of the English language, Bernard Shaw, resonates in the slums of India, where parents have realized that their children will forever search for food in the gutters of poverty unless they only rise in society with the benefit of a good English education.
It doesn’t matter what the authorities think is good for them. State governments can shout about the virtues of Tamil, Telegu or Kannada. The Center can try to sneak in Hindi through the back door. Educators can rave about the benefits of learning in one’s mother tongue. the common people does not care. For them, it is English that will open the doors to power, prestige and social acceptance.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the desi variety. Not the Queen’s English for sure. It may just be the basics of English vocabulary with a few buzzwords. But it gives them the feeling that they have arrived and that their children will travel far in life. Such is the power and influence of this language of the “oppressor”. In India, even today, the ability to speak freely in English is the gateway to improved social status and a better way of life.
Since there is no national language in our country (Hindi and English being the only official languages), each state can choose one of the 22 languages recognized as the language of instruction in schools. Unsurprisingly, a quarter of school children in the country preferred English as their first language. Since there is such a huge market for English-speaking schools, the CBSE and ICSE boards have approved hundreds of such establishments in the country. Nearly 2,500 schools in India are now affiliated with the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, and more than a quarter of all schoolchildren in the country study in English-speaking schools.
Unfortunately, their parents did not have this advantage. This means that a quarter of the child population in our schools is made up of first-generation learners. A generation that needs help learning to read and count before anything else; who needs specially trained teachers; a generation whose education can ruin their parents who will resort to tutoring since they are unable to help their children with their homework, projects and language skills. Schooling is a luxury for parents of first-generation learners.
The remedy is staring you in the face. When the highest court in the land ruled over 40 years ago that the choice of language to be learned in school should be left to the parents of the child, why not introduce English as the language of instruction? in one section of all public schools in the country with the official language in the other section, and leave the choice to the parents?
This language issue has remained unresolved for more than four decades in Karnataka. Each government preferred to sweep it under the rug, instead of adopting a firm position on the subject. Why should an academic matter be politicized? After all, language is just a means of communication.
The language used in schools is only a means of educating children, although politicians have used it for other than academic reasons. When the state language, Kannada, became the only compulsory mother tongue in schools following the recommendation of the Gokak Committee in 1982, the controversial government order was overturned by the Karnataka High Court. It is high time the authorities learned to separate academics from activism. Especially if the latter is part of chauvinist activism.
More than a quarter of all Indian schoolchildren now study in English-speaking schools. While Karnataka has 44,615 primary schools run by the state government, as well as 5,240 junior high schools and 1,229 high schools providing education to over 5 million students each year from grade 1 to 12, these places of affordable learning can start an English section in every school with qualified teachers to teach. Financially deprived parents will gladly turn to these free schools where their children can learn to speak, read and write in English without putting them in debt and further impoverishing them.
Again, since teachers are at the heart of excellence in schools, the government should spare no effort to appoint well-trained English teachers in all government institutions. If the teacher has good language skills, the students will acquire the same. It is much better for children not to learn English than to learn poor English.
Teachers should also be trained to communicate with children who come from economically disadvantaged homes with illiterate parents and a different cultural background. They need more user-friendly teaching methods while learning to read, write and speak a new language.
If the proposal is successful, this country will have the advantage of an English-literate population in addition to its diversity. Affordable English public schools with excellent teaching too?
“Oh, wouldn’t that be in love?” »