Why English Language Is The True Savior For The Poor And The Backward?
NEP fails to acknowledge the role of English language in the success of India’s educated class, and thus positions itself to further widen the intellectual and economic divide in the country.
If someone argues that English speaking skills aren’t crucial in deciding the outcome of job interviews today, we have to call out the hypocrisy. In all private-sector jobs, one of the most basic and elementary questions asked is “Tell me about yourself” which is used as a decoy in order to judge how well the candidate can communicate and the command they have over the language. All meetings, even with all Indians in the room, are conducted in English, thus making the language a significant factor in the person’s corporate growth and promotions.
There will always be people who say that – No, English doesn’t matter and I come from a regional medium school and I still did well in my corporate career. But that argument uses outliers to make a non sequitur conclusion. There will always be exceptions – people who did remarkably well incorporate careers without speaking a sentence in English. One cannot ignore the extra effort and work that needs to be put into becoming that exceptional example, which only means that the individual was at a disadvantaged position in the first place. And ultimately, we must remember - these are exceptions, not the rule. The rule stays.
The success that the middle class of our country achieved in the last couple of decades is primarily due to the surge in technology and technology-enabled jobs from the private sector, many of them working closely with international clients. Most of these jobs were created purely because of the liberalization policies that the government adopted in the 1990s allowing foreign companies to start investing in our country. It’s a no brainer that you need English skills to communicate with international clients, but the cultural shift that these companies brought in the Indian corporate sector resulted in even domestic companies working for domestic clients also embracing English as the primary, and often the only official language, for communication within the company.
Despite laptops, computers, mobiles being equipped with multiple language support – all devices have English as the primary language, and all software programmers write the code for these devices in English. Backoffice software including basic ones like Word, Excel, Powerpoint – all come in English. BPO jobs, same story. For a country producing the highest number of software programmers, back-office and BPO staff in the world, who cares if a large number of our people are systemically kept disadvantaged from working and excelling in these jobs?
But of course, most companies, and people, would never acknowledge it publicly or officially that English is such a critical factor for selection of a candidate and success of the employee within the organization. Any such acknowledgement will be distorted as an insult to our own national and regional languages and Indian culture as a whole. Try arguing with that.
Let’s also not turn a blind eye towards the psychological aspects and the impact created by simply being able to communicate in English in day to day life in a city. Irrespective of the financial status of an individual, the respect he or she commands in social setting often is driven by his ability to speak fluently in English language. Whether it’s an interview, a meeting, or just a random communication with a stranger, English is an unspoken set parameter that distinguishes between educated and the uneducated groups of the society. A person would be made to feel inferior if he can’t place a simple order for a coffee at a café - a rather harmless, though hurtful, instance. But a situation where a large segment of our society is not able to read labels on medicines that they need to give their child can’t be overlooked.
We live in a country where a 4-year old child is denied admission to his parent’s choice of a private school on grounds of their (the parents) inability to clear the interview in English! Imagine the despair and the sorrow of the parents after coming to terms with the fact that their limitation is playing such a significant role in determining their child’s future. And isn’t this promulgating and perpetuating the divide and passing on the denial of opportunities from one generation to another?
The theatrical launch of NEP 2020 talked about making regional languages as the primary medium of instruction in schools until 5th grade. Of course like all announcements by the government these days, we have no specific details on how they would go about executing these policies, and what counts as “encouragement” to regional languages in schools. But in my opinion, the policy fails to acknowledge, forget giving due importance, to the role English language played in the success of India’s middle class. The policies, of course, are designed by people whose children go to the most expensive and elite English medium private schools of the country and thus explains complete disregard of the basic requirements of the underprivileged sections of the society to help themselves uplift their situation. So when the privileged class designs policies for the underprivileged, it is not surprising that the policy intends to keep the divide intact by ensuring the English speaking club doesn’t allow any new members from segments of society they don’t want to mingle with. The best way to perpetuate discrimination is to systemically enforce it, and embed it in our society. No greater way to do that than making policies that would deny the underprivileged a weapon that they can unleash to achieve bigger things.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
Around The World