Toiling in the fields isn’t Bathinda boy Sukhdev Singh’s idea of making a living. “We go Canada,” he asserts. It has only been a week since he joined an institute offering a crash course in spoken English, but he’s confident that a month from now, he’ll go West, flying high on his newly acquired linguistic skills.
Like Sukhdev, there are many wanting a one-way ticket to an oversees destination. And an equal number of institutes, both big and small, have come up to cater to the needs of aspiring Punjabis.
“After working for nine hours daily, and doing overtime every other day in a factory, I make only Rs 5,000 a month. If I manage to crack IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and move abroad, I could earn 20 times more,” says Hardeep Singh, a welder living in Amritsar’s Sultanwind slums.
But money is not what Bavy Kaur is thinking about when she travels 40 km a day from her village Fatehgarh Churian, near Amritsar, to learn English in one of the countless language institutes dotting Punjab. “My husband is in England, and
I need to learn English to get a visa,” she explains.
Many small-town girls believe that knowing English will improve their marital prospects, says Sunil Jaggi, managing director of Auscan Institute in Chandigarh. “About 80 per cent Punjabis who enroll for the course wish to settle abroad, while others are seeking placements in BPOs and call centres. It’s impossible to move ahead without English, and institutes like ours fill the gap,” says Sarita Gupta of Dashmesh Academy in Amritsar.
Students in the age group of 18-30 — from both villages and city colleges — take up English-speaking courses that range from 15-day programmes to month-long courses or longer. “The emphasis is on building a sound foundation in English. The course is usually divided into modules like listening, speaking, reading and writing, and is tailor-made for market requirements,” explains Gurpreet Wadhera, who is a centre manager at Better Think in Ludhiana.The business of going West, clearly, makes good business sense.
(With inputs from Vishal Rambani in Amritsar, Tawinder in Ludhiana and Swarleen Kaur in Chandigarh)