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English as social leveller

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The Supreme Court may have touted English as the flagbearer of knowledge economy but the role of the Queen's language as a "social leveller" is witnessing a renewed push for English education among weaker sections.

Six decades after independence, there is a newfound zeal among intellectuals that English will not only equip SCs/STs for "new economy jobs" but also aid them in breaking free from the pernicious caste system.

UP CM, Mayawati's move to make English compulsory in primary education in the state stands out in the face of opposition from well-heeled rivals who see it as "cultural subversion". SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and MNS leader Raj Thackeray have made a strong pitch for mother tongue over English.

The pro-English mood has its roots in Ambedkar who saw "English" and "urban landscape" as the twin tools for social liberation. For him, English was the game changer - before its advent, dalits saw their destinies as "preordained" which later they saw as "man made". Educationist Bhalchandra Mungekar says, "Jobs create vertical and horizontal social mobility while caste, which is immobile, played an ascriptive role. With English came new skills and the system is fast becoming achievement-oriented."


For the full report in the TOI, click here

Food for thought for namma 'Mukhyamantri Chandru' - or, does he want to ordain that Kannadiga's just stick to raagi mudde'?

Muralidhar Rao

 

Comments

RKCHARI's picture

Three Cheers!

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Dear Murali Garu,

Great that you picked up this vital news item and have brought it to Praja forum for discussion. I am all for universalisation of English as  the primary link language with Hindi and / or mother tongue being a close second in terms of widening one's knowledge base.

Have you noticed how Namma CM is unable to answer extempore, questions put to him in English?  He gets answers written down in English and reads them out over the mike. Looks so pathetic that the head of a State Government cannot even put together one coherent sentence when asked a question by a scibe - does it not?

In this day and age of NDTV / Times Now etc which is watched by most middle and upper class urban citizens, ability to speak, write and read in English is almost a necessity.

Incidentally, defending primacy to English does in no way belittle mother tongue. Only those who are insecure of their mother tongue begin to think so.

My two penny worth

 

 

RKC

psaram42's picture

The TOI angle

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 Professor David Crystal has written in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English language that When 300 million Indians speak a word in a certain way that will be the way to speak it. It is felt that by 2010 India will have the world’s largest number of English (Hinglish?) speakers. The TOI angle seems to high light the Dalit’s late awakening. In fact it is perhaps the late awakening of our politicians too. This breed of politicians is marked for extinction. 

srini_mr's picture

Are we not swinging to other extreme?

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Two-three decades back we were over-proud of our languages which is inherantly linked to our culture and heritage and now we are under-proud of the same, we are ashamed to talk in local languages! Yes, knowing english makes easy for travel, communicating with the rest of the world and access to vast knowledge and many jobs. However ingoring our own language and heritage will build slavery/copy-cat attitudes. English is not really a must for advancement in science or economics or any other fields, there are ample global evidences for the same, we can look at most european, east asian countries where people hardly talk english yet they have achieved progress in every field. In fact, being proud of their heritage has made them uniquely competitive.

British education system produced clerks needed to run British Raj and today's India's education is producing digital clerks for rest of the world! There is nothing wrong in doing any kind of work (Basavanna told "Kayakave Kailasa") but best brains are getting diverted to do mundane work just because it pays more. Most of the IT work what we do is digital plumbing, masonry, painting and janitory work  not building new tools, techniques, architures or products which need lot of original thinking.

We need to strike a balance between our own heritage and language and english-globalization. We need to learn from both global and local experiences, don't have to always look out and far for every problems we face, there have been very ingenious, locally apt and sustainable solution used by our forefathers. If we are not proud of our language/heritage, we will lose that wisdom.

murali772's picture

proper balance - not blind chauvinism

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Two-three decades back we were over-proud of our languages which is inherantly linked to our culture and heritage and now we are under-proud of the same, we are ashamed to talk in local languages!

The discussion here is on something else - nobody is ashamed of the local language, please!

English is not really a must for advancement in science or economics or any other fields, there are ample global evidences for the same, we can look at most european, east asian countries where people hardly talk english yet they have achieved progress in every field. In fact, being proud of their heritage has made them uniquely competitive.

All the same, they are all now beginning to give considerable importance to mastering the English language. Besides, with over 30 official languages in India, do you want to advocate advancement of technology and science in each of them? If yes, wouldn't it be the recipe for balkhanisation of the country?

British education system produced clerks needed to run British Raj and today's India's education is producing digital clerks for rest of the world! There is nothing wrong in doing any kind of work (Basavanna told "Kayakave Kailasa") but best brains are getting diverted to do mundane work just because it pays more. Most of the IT work what we do is digital plumbing, masonry, painting and janitory work not building new tools, techniques, architures or products which need lot of original thinking.

That's all old story - we have gone beyond all that now.

We need to strike a balance between our own heritage and language and english-globalization. We need to learn from both global and local experiences, don't have to always look out and far for every problems we face, there have been very ingenious, locally apt and sustainable solution used by our forefathers. If we are not proud of our language/heritage, we will lose that wisdom.

Exactly - proper balance, not blind chauvinism.

Muralidhar Rao
 

Muralidhar Rao
sanjayv's picture

Is this the right focus?

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 English is essential in the modern world for the simple reason that (1) Bulk of the world's modern scientific knowledge is in English (2) English works in many parts of the world as a Universal language.

So it is our duty to teach every single child in our country to have good command over English by the time he or she finishes basic schooling so that the child is able to access these knowledge and skills, if he or she has the drive and interest.

One question on which there seems to be a lot of confusion and debate is that of whether a small child should be educated in English or the local language at the Primary level.  A corollary to that question may be the question of when and how do we start English education and transition to it so that the child is prepared and not handicapped to be educated in English at higher levels of education.

We should, though proper scientific research, attempt to find a good answer to these questions and implement it in our schools. Maybe there could be a simple test to determine if the child understands better in English or the local language and then give the parents a choice/recommendation in deciding the stream of education?

The more important need is to look at the content of what is being taught and to teach children to logically think and analyze and express their thoughts.  Many of our curricula to this day stress regurgitation instead of understanding and explaining why learning something is useful.

Our local languages are rich in prose nd poetry and are also languages we speak at home.  As long as we continue to speak and use them, they will never die.  The challenge on that front is to keep the local language relevant. As long as the language evolves with the times and there are new, exciting creative works and children are taught to enjoy that, the language will bloom on its own. For example,  If vernacular language movies are focussed on a hero and heroine running around a tree without any other  modern subjects, the bright lights of hollywood will steal the audiences attention, right?

 

murali772's picture

valid point

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@Sanjay - You make a very valid point. And, the answer may perhaps lie here

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Contrasting cases

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1) Minister's daughter

Kageri’s daughter keeps Kannada-medium flag flying Jayalakshmi Hegde, daughter of primary and secondary education minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri, has secured 73%. She’s a student of Marikamba Government High School, Sirsi, and was in Belgaum when the results were announced.

She’s in focus largely because she studied in Kannada medium. She did her primary education in a government school and then joined a government high school for secondary studies. If she or her family had so wished, she could have easily joined an English-medium school.
    
Her father once said he could authoritatively tell people to admit their children to Kannada-medium schools to save the language because he never felt learning in Kannada medium is inferior. Kannada-medium students can achieve more than their English-medium counterparts. And, that’s how he admitted his daughter to a Kannada medium government school.
    
Jayalakshmi said she would continue her PUC studies in Sirsi but was undecided over joining any technical courses after that.

For the full story in the TOI, click here
 

2) A garment factory worker's daughter    

Her mother works in a garment factory, her grandmother’s a domestic help and she lost her father a while ago. She makes garlands in her spare time to earn extra money. All this hasn’t broken Mahalakshmi N’s spirit. If anything, the adversity has steeled her to do better, and now, she has scored almost 90% in the SSLC exam.
    
I’ll let her pursue any course she wants to,” Ganagathi (mother) said about her daughter, who she calls Mala. Mahalakshmi says she wants take up Computer Science and become a software engineer. She has applied to PES and National PU College, simply because they are close to her home.
    
Mahalakshmi studied in Kannada medium till Class IV. Her headmaster spotted her talent and told her to enroll in an English medium school. Apart from watching TV programmes, she spends her spare time making garlands.

For the full story in the TOI, click here

The question that arises is won't the minister's daughter suffer from a handicap if she now chooses to opt for science or technical courses? Hasn't continuing in the Kannada medium reduced her options to just arts and literature, and that too in Kannada alone. Well, some people may be happy with just that - fair enough. But, can they impose that on others?
 

Muralidhar Rao
nl.srinivas's picture

The way english taught

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The problem is the way english is taught ( should we say for that matter anything is that is taught in our schools). Children just happen to pick up the language rather than learning it in the school. There is nothing inherently wrong in "picking up" the language but the contribution of the schools is very little in this. Because of this we simply cannot do anything worthwhile using the language the least being communicating effectively.

Murali saar, it is not an old story. We are still reaping the benifits of that education system:-)

I am not a right winger by the way :-)

 


rohith's picture

whats wrong in it?

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May be this is a rather old post, but I deem it relevant to be discussed, hence my comment.

Mr Murali here has asked a rather intriguing question in one of his posts above: "Besides, with over 30 official languages in India, do you want to advocate advancement of technology and science in each of them?"

I have a straight question to that remark - Why not? What makes you ask that question in a tone that seems to believe that bringing technology in all those 30 (or how many ever) languages, is impossible or is an overhead!?

It will be possible and is definitely not a sin to be able to deliver knowledge and learning to each and every citizen of a state/nation in his/her own language, the best medium for his/her learning. It shall be possible only when we have an efficiently managed education system and true decentralization in place. Education today falls under the concurrent list of subjects of governance, which is any day not a wise thing. What and how things are taught in a particular state need only be decided by the state that runs those schools. The recent hand-over of corporation run schools to CBSE curriculum indicates one such adverse outcome of a pseudo-decentralized system of education where states start giving up on their charters. As long as states dont make the first move to equip their languages to teach sciences that can win anna, such comments (quoted above) could be deemed right.

We must realize that all this is but a challenge we as a people need to take: Bringing good education in our own languages is indeed the need of the hour, and we cant afford to shy away from this challenge, nor think that is impossible, or a sin. We may, for the time being, consider English as the social leveler or anything equivalent to that, but we must realize that it is education and technology that are the actual social levelers and not English itself. It is left to us (and only us) how we can make our own languages good tools to build such levelers in our societies.

-Rohith

Rohith Rao

 

murali772's picture

inspired!

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I am truly inspired! My mother tongue is a dialect called Tulu, spoken largely in the South Kanara region of Karnataka. Quite recently, Sri Veerendra Heggade convened a World Tulu conference in his his Dharmastala, where the attendance was reported to be in lakhs from across the world. So, we are a sizable bunch alright!

But, again, that largely comprised the Bunts (Shettys), whose Tulu is a lot different from my Brahmin Tulu.

With the newly acquired inspiration, I now want to retain the pristine character of my Tulu, uncorrupted by the Bunt Tulu, or, least of all, Kannada or Malayalam or Coorgy, which all have left their marks over the years.

So, I am now going to be purifying it, developing a script for it, and by the time a grand child of mine is ready to go to college, which if things go well could be within the next 20 years, I would like to see him/ her being offered a B Tech course by an IIT, or at least NIT, Suratkal (located in the heart of Tulunadu), totally in pristine Brahmin Tulu.

Do you want to join me in the effort? Since we have a common surname, I am wondering if you are my jaathwallah (oops - nammaklu).
 

Muralidhar Rao
rohith's picture

Yes...

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Dear Mr Murali,

I'd like to jump into such an exercise cited in your comment. My ignorance of the Tulu language (or dialect) though will act as a big impediment in my role. 

But regardless of that I have a suggestion for you - if you want to take it, that is. You dont need a script dedicated to a language to teach in that language. People in the "tulunaadu" as per your definition are already capable of reading in the Kannada lipi, which means from over the lakhs that attended the tulu conference, if you could evince interest in 1% - that would be 1000 people - in this direction, I am sure you could get these 1000 people to join hands with you in writing lessons for BTech (or BSc, BA, LLB, MA, MTech etc.) in Tulu (via Kannada lipi maybe) - which is the kind of a *movement* I referred to in my earlier post when I said "we cannot afford to shy away from this challenge." I am glad you took my comment more practically ahead. But what happened in that conference is up to you to look back upon now, and ponder how you can make a difference in the years ahead.

And in the meanwhile, if you've been working on getting a good meaningful script for Tulu, at least the great-grand-children (GGC) of your GGC could get a chance to begin studying in Tulu script, and perhaps even publish papers in Tulu script in a Tulu conference in their ages.

Please note, I am not kidding here. Before you could start your next response request you to clarify once again your stance now in this topic - because you had posted this matter quite sometime ago - perhaps a li'l more than an year ago, when things could have been different :)

I ask that because I didnt get the focus in your recent post and how it related to the original blog and my comment upon the same.

Rohith Rao

 

sanjayv's picture

Let us be practical

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Murali sir, 

Was amused by your sarcasm, but you are bang on.  I went to college in the Hindi heartland  (a college which now, even though it is in the plains, falls in the beautiful state of Uttaranchal / Uttarakhand).  One of my professors - a really good teacher with a mesmerizing teaching style - was a big proponent of technical education in the local language.  His classes were all conducted in impeccable English, but in our department library (every department had a dingy, ill used library apart from the main, fancy library) we had bound, cyclostyled notes of the subject he taught- strength of materials - in Hindi.  There were couple guys in my class whose grasp of the English language was not as good as would have been desirable. Even those folks would not touch these notes with a long barge pole. The notes were good.  Very well organized just as Prof. Shukla's lectures were.

The reason is simple - Most of the knowledge in modern areas, esp. science and technology are in English.  New knowledge is developed and shared in English.  We need English to plug into this stream and to learn and contribute back to the developing knowledge.  If we focus on writing Strength of Materials books in Hindi - the first head scratcher will be to decide what to call "Stress" and "Strain" in Hindi. Prof. Shukla had terms for them!  We have to decide on what is worth spending more time on.  Have our children learn English so that they can plug into all that is available or develop new words that can describe new areas of Knowledge in our vernacular script.  It is a no-brainer to me.

murali772's picture

don't go the MNS way

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Given our diverse linguistic identities, reviving the old language debate is totally unnecessary. According to Article 348 of the Constitution, the language to be used for the conduct of affairs in the Supreme Court and the high courts is English. This is because the cases that come up for hearing before these courts may involve litigants from across the country. If Tamil were to be made the language of the Madras high court it would be a serious impediment to non-Tamil litigants. Similarly, job reservation for Tamil speakers opens a can of worms, as other states can make similar demands. Another constitutional guarantee, allowing Indians to live and seek work anywhere in India, would go out of the window.

For the full text of the TOI editorial, click here

This applies to all states, not just Tamilnadu.
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Think practically says the HC bench

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"English has became a global language. So think practically. In this globalized era, the scope for development is very high and we cannot create barriers... We cannot direct private companies to provide jobs for only Kannadigas. Though the state cabinet approved the Mahishi report owing to political reasons, we cannot accept such recommendations and pass orders," the bench added, reserving its verdict.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

Well said, your honour.
 

Muralidhar Rao
rohith's picture

'morrow

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Mr Murali,

Thanks for raking this up again, nearly after 2 years I can say. But you'll have to wait at least until tomorrow for my response to this.

gnite,

Rohith

Rohith Rao

 

rohith's picture

misleading media reports & people ready to get confused by them!

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Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India do not provide for equality of opportunity for all citizens based on language, yet if recent media reports are to be relied upon, observations made by a Karnataka High Court division bench after hearing a PIL seeking implementation of Sarojini Mahishi Varadi seems to have misconstrued this minute detail of the said Articles.

Read further, here.

Rohith Rao

 

murali772's picture

multi-dimensional "national interest"

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@ Rohith  -  Do try presenting your idea of what is in "national interest" to the higher courts - let's see what they have to say.

PS: I didn't quite understand the need for your advance notice, informing that you will be responding in a days' time, though! Besides, any number of times within the past two years too, I have repeatedly been commenting, on what I see as chauvinistic tendencies, whenever I come upon them.

Muralidhar Rao
rohith's picture

two years, in vain?

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Dear Murali,

You brought this topic up on a nearly 2yr old thread, and I dint know your close monitoring of related matters elsewhere. Hence I posted a precursor to my response.

BTW, based on your comment, you've lived in Benglur for two more years since this thread started, but you continue to have the same opinion about demands for rights of localites. That is a pitiable state, in my opinion.

Thanks for your comment about courts. Nice joke!

Rohith Rao

 

rackstar's picture

local language

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Local language proficiency is considered basic requirement in B2C businesses. Recently even McDonalds wants its employees to know kannada well, same is the case with most organised sector jobs like reliance fresh. Govt job can be mandated as central govt spends crores on teaching hindi to govt and PSU employees.

murali772's picture

advice for Hardik-bhai; namagu-nu

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If you love Hindutva, you gotta live with it and all its cultural baggage. All right, enough background. Now for some proper advice. There is one very easy way for Patels to get white-collar jobs. You need to leave Gujarat and go to a place that is called ‘India’. You should visit it. It has cities like ‘Bangalore’ and ‘Mumbai’ and ‘Gurgaon’ and ‘Noida’ and ‘Chennai’ and ‘Hyderabad’. In these places people, including the children of servants and drivers, have been entering the middle class through white-collar jobs in the last decade. There is not as much whining about reservations by the urban middle class in these cities any longer. Want to know why? English.

For the full text of the column by Aakar Patel in the Sunday ToI, click here.

Nothing more need be said. Unfortunately, 'Namma governmentu' seems hell bent on squandering away the advantage by imposing all kinds of restrictions on private schools, even as it does not have, and cannot build, requisite capacity to meet the multiplying demand. Nobody has an issue with promotion of Kannada; in fact, everybody is for it. But, should it be at the cost of English, as essential element to furthering career mobility?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

protsahana, not imposition, the way forward

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The KDA has so far issued 300 directives to different administration agencies to ensure that official correspondence between the citizens and the state is in Kannada.

The move received a thumbs-up from major political parties, but the BJP has sought relaxation for a cosmopolitan Bengaluru. "The objective behind the move - to encourage use of Kannada - is laudable, but Bengalureans must get an option of filling forms in English too," said Rajajinagar MLA and BJP spokesperson Suresh Kumar.

JD(S) MLA YSV Datta welcomed the KDA decision and said availing state benefits must be linked to learning of Kannada, and "this might encourage people to learn the language".


For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

Perhaps this matter keeps getting raked up whenever somebody takes over the Chairpersonship anew, though, quite as Sri Suresh Kumar, who has served as a senior minister, understands and appreciates, there are limitations to taking the matter too far. Well, quite as Sri YSV Datta has stated, availing state benefits can perhaps be linked to learning Kannada.
 
Art and culture can do a far more effective job of 'protsahana' (term used by the famed singer, Raghu Dixit - check here) of the language, if the intent of the government is genuine, rather than any of these kinds of impositions, which can only back-fire.

Muralidhar Rao
blrpraj's picture

will the govt stay out of this please

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Everytime i read language related topics on praja.in or anywhere else i shake my head. Will the govt. stay out this language business please!!!!! For heavens sake let them do their primary job of maintaining law and order and give a conducive environment for citizens, businesses etc. to function efficiently and peacfully. They have enough work to do to in terms of providing better infrastructure.

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