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Language issue-(contd)



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MV has made certain interesting observations. I give my comments on some
the points made by MV.
1. The example of clerk was given to illustrate the 'power' angle of the
language issue. If that example  is treated as a reason or an alibi for
everybody to be educated in english medium, then I would suggest once
again that it is simply impractical to think of educating every child in
India through english medium, due to sheer absence of facilities,
absence of teachers, absence of any inclination on part of the majority
of parents for english mediuem etc..  We should note our inability  to
provide basic primary education and even basic literacy skills to vast
majority of our people  after 52 years of independence, which should
have been much easier in the local language. Apart from all this, there
is also a question, in the first place,  of why at all one should
attempt it, as I tried to reason out in my first message. Let me
reiterate a that if one goes beyond cities and towns, English is almost
irrelevant to the major chunk of the Indian people. You can go to any
village to check this out. All their cropping practices, all names of
various stages of agricultural practices, names of crop diseases or pest
attacks, names of weeds, names of common plants and trees which are
useful in village life, the kinds of  fuel, names of instruments which
the artisans use, the land matters, various nallas and bunds over small
streams, different types of soil in the village, the folklore and
history of that area, the  festivals which need to be celebrated, kind
of discussions that take place in the villages, the arguments , quarrels
and attempted solutions or debates in the village over different matters
----are all in Indian languages. For most of these words, it is
difficult to find english equivalents readily. If you were to really
take up teaching everything in english language to everybody, just think
how you would actually get the teachers in the first place. We are
living in times when very few doctors like to work in villages and
commercialization of education is taking place in small towns.   There
are already two worlds in India and these two worlds are becoming more
and more divergent while the talk of globalization goes on.
Can one honestly think of internet-based online learning processes for
the masses through IT? Even if that is feasible, it could be most
effective in local language.
If you have attended any Participatory Rural Appraisal in a village, you
would notice that as a researcher or an urban person interested in
village lives, you will first have to do lot of unlearning before really
having any meaningful interaction with villagers because even the urban
variant  of indian language won't serve the purpose fully  and many
words villagers use are rarely used in cities and towns.  The point I
was trying to make was that already the present education system
alienates large number of children from their families as it does not
equip the children to do anything meaningful in their lives. If job of
an artisan is considered, for example, the artisan's child does not
develop healthy respect for the ancient trade. That is perfectly fine
and it would break the caste system , if there is social progress and
the child learns something else better or more useful instead. But, the
child in most cases grows up with nothing to substitute, and with the
education giving no tangible benefit to either the child or to the
family. OK, everybody need not get a government job, but those villagers
who study upto class X level generally find it difficult to go back to
agriculture and do manual work, nor do they find any alternative
employment easily either in government, private or self-employment. The
need of the hour is to see how  the youth in villages do not flock to
cities and towns in search of flashy lifestyles and end up in slums, but
to see how they can work for themselves and for the upliftment of their
villages in a number of ways. Merely teaching english language as a
medium of instruction would not address the issue of their livelihoods
at all. That would alienate the youth further from nation-building and
make them even more  useless for the society.
2. Now, coming to the second point about prosperity and english
language, I fail to understand how english language will increase
productivity. Of course education in the broad sense ( i.e. not only
reading, writing and arithmatic or basic literacy but also of knowing
one's place in the society, understanding one's rights and enabling how
to improve one's lot by constant endeavours for acquring new skills and
team work) is one of the important factors in improving efficiency. But
it is just one of the factors. Productivity or prosperity are low  due
to a number of basic  institutional factors. Due to constraints of
space, I am analyzing just one of them here.  Right from
pre-independence days, it was realized that one of the very basic and
important things that ought to be done after independence is 'land
reforms', because that would promote actual cultivator's stakes on the
land and the farmer can access institutional support like credit etc and
develop land, thereby increasing agricultural productivity. ('Land
reforms' is a broad phrase used to mean abolition of intermediary rights
like zamindaris, jagirdaris, etc, bringing the farmer directly in touch
with the government, declaration of ceilings, distribution of ceiling
surplus lands to landless people, checking absentee landlordism by
safeguarding interests of tenants or share-croppers, updating land
records, protection of tribal lands etc.) Not only India, but many of
the post-colonial countries took this up as one of the priority areas
for promotion of agriculture growth apart from equity considerations.
Following is an estimate of percentage of land redistributed as a
proportion of total agricultural land in various countries. (Source:
Introduction by SR Sankaran for the book titled 'Land Reforms in India'
edited by BN Yugandhar and Gopal Iyer, Volume 3: Sage publications,
1996)
China--43%; Taiwan--37%; South Korea-- 32%; Japan--33% and can you guess
the figurefor India? It is 1.25% in India! The reason  'land reforms'
still remains an unfinished agenda from the point of view of the poor
and landless in rural India is not due to lack of english language but
lack of political will, lack of any attempts towards empowerment, large
number of loopholes in law, excessive and mischievous litigation, fraud,
misrepresentation etc etc. This is one clear example how a policy known
to be important and proclaimed as important was not implemented
sincerely. Why do we ignore basic institutional factors and say, 'Hey,
kid! concentrate on learning physics in english language!', when what
the person in the village requires is a basic security over the land
which he has been tilling over generations but for which no record of
right exists and he can be thrown out at will?  How does one say
prosperity comes by merely learning academic matters in english
language, when what is required at a bais level is a whole new paradigm
of empowerment through participation of people? If what you mean is
development of skills which are required in day to day lives of the
villagers, I am all with it and that can be certainly done most
efficiently in local indian language.
3. Regarding Gandhiji's exposure to English education, we may quote the
father of the Nation himself, who said,  " Let winds of various cultures
freely pass through all  windows of my house. But I refuse to be blown
off by any."
4. I think we should dispassionately try to note that middle class and
upper middle class honestly  constitute a small fraction of the
population. I am not saying that they should be ignored or sacrifised.
But, whether people can live harmoniously and work together for a better
society by a series of 'win-win' situations or whether they have to
fight against one another depends on how we all address the basic
issues.  In these days of internet and globalization, let us  not forget
the fact that majority of people simply stand excluded in most of the
public services because of this urban-rural divide on one side and
rich-poor divide on the other. It is one thing to say that middle class
or upper middle class will have a marginal advantage if they learn
english better, as it could enable them to go for GRE better, as sarra
pointed out. I wish such people well, who want to migrate in search of
better incomes. But it is an altogether different thing to say the same
about the vast number of masses. After all, not all these people can
migrate to USA by succeeding in GRE, not because of their infereior
level of education or intelligence, but because of the limits which
those countries have on how much immigration they would permit. Let us
not pretend that livelihoods of poor people are same as those of the
middleclass. The kind of value which parents of a middleclass child
attach to education, and how much care and attention they devote to
homework of the child, for example, are totally different from the kind
of things that happen in a poor household, with problems of poverty,
ill-health, lack of sanitation , alcoholism, wife-beating, etc leading
to overall lack of environment that is conducive to learning at home.
The goal of equality of course exists but the reality of existence of
inequalities cannot be wished away on the ground that everybody is
equal. That is the reason why I would say that the question "do you send
your child to english medium school or is it to indian language school?"
is  misplaced, as this kind of choice is available only for the
middleclass and upper middle class, whereas large chunks of population
are simply denied any such choice by sheer force of history and
accumulated results of deprivation over generations, which led to
poverty. The question does not make any sense to a poor tribal villager
as it has no practical relevance for them whatsoever. It is like asking
any of us, " When you live  on the planet Mars, would you be liking
earth TV channel or would you be watching only Mars TV?"
5. Regarding suggestion to encourage venture capitalists to come forward
to develop good english medium schools, let us not delude ourselves:
there is simply no profit in going to villages for teaching poor
villagers' children as they cannot pay any user charges. When there is
no profit, no venture capitalist will ever care to venture. Of course
individuals with good charity motives can help, as they have all along
been doing, within their limitations, on a small scale in a few
villages.



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