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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

English is a language of opportunity

It is a heartening sign that enrolment in English-medium schools has grown 89% over the past five years.

editorials Updated: Sep 29, 2015 06:40 IST

Hindustan Times

It is a heartening sign that enrolment in English-medium schools has grown 89% over the past five years. It is also a sign of progress — and a bit ironical — that enrolment in English-medium schools of Bihar and UP has gone up by 4,700% and 1,000%, respectively, because these two states have been the hotbed of opposition to English. The advantages of being literate in English will certainly be apparent in the coming years. Among the states with the highest proportion of English-medium schools, Jammu and Kashmir tops the list, at 99.9%, with the second-highest being Kerala at 49%.

All these years, low enrolment in English-medium schools was largely bound up with political resistance to the language, which has been a post-Independence phenomenon. This gathered steam when vernaculars also became a medium of instruction. Earlier all the examinations, Class 10 upwards, were conducted, by and large, in English. Hostility to English cottoned on among a section of the middle-classes and got entangled with regional aspirations. For those at the lowest end of the social scale, the issue did not matter anyway because they were (and, in many places, still are) deprived of all kinds of education. But four years ago articulate sections of the Dalit community built a temple in UP dedicated to English learning. They also celebrate the birth anniversary of Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose educational minutes in 1835 set the stage for the growth of English education in India.

The more the times roll, the more it becomes obvious that there is no alternative to English education in whichever field one joins. This is true for more than reason. First, books are in English. Second, the medium of instruction in any institution worth the name is English. Third, as mobility grows, a person without a working knowledge of English will find herself or himself thrown in at the deep end if she or he moves to another part of the country. English is here to stay. Depriving some people of its advantages can only result in creating deep social divisions. However, all this is not to say vernaculars should get short shrift.

First Published: Sep 28, 2015 22:34 IST