English for Employability

Saneli is a manager in one of the five big IT companies of the country. She was with us last Sunday. For long I wanted to know the real stories of the young new employees that join IT sector and their employability. Nasscom’s Educational Initiative, puts the rejection rate for non-engineering graduates applying to the IT and IT-enabled sector, both in “voice” and “non-voice” roles, at 82-83 per cent, for lack of skills of written and oral English. About 65-75 per cent of applying graduate engineers are also rejected. Saneli confirmed that. She has some engineers from local colleges under her. Her counterpart in London recently complained about the e-mails sent by the new engineers. They are on the assignment to provide software-related support services to a customer. Their e-mails lack clarity and the customer can’t understand what they really mean.

English was never in so much demand as today because of the MNCs hankering for India as destination for its shops and offices over and above it’s outsourcing and Indian enterprises getting global with acquisitions. One can see exponential growth of shops of all categories offering to make anyone Tom, Dick or Harry with its English courses even in small town and suburbs all around the country from Srinagar to Kanyakumari or frpm Porbandar to Itanagar.

BPOs, IT majors and MNCs expect good standard of communicating skill in English. In some work, particularly BPO or call centres they must be skilled to listen, understand, and speak in good enough English, keeping in mind the various slangs of different regions of the English speaking country. In software and other engineering services, the engineers are to read, understand and write in proper clear English.

Employees in the industry need all the four skills in different job assignments at different levels and assignments. Quite often even a new employee is sent to those countries where he will be expected to communicate with the employees of the customer company in English. Brajesh, the son of my relative Ramayan whom I got employed with HM passed out from a private engineering college in West Bengal. Brajesh has studied only in vernacular medium school. Today, he is working with a Bangaloru firm and as he informed me through e-mail he is going to Atlanta, USA. He has not completed a year in his job. He must have improved his English proficiency to the required level.

Unfortunately, the curricula in schools only emphasize reading and writing, not listening and speaking. English medium private schools as against vernacular medium government schools certainly stand better, but not as much as one expects. But why should an engineering student having English as a subject for 12 years or more for English medium, and more than 7 years even in English wise worst states not understand his lesson in English? I feel the education of language is not getting the right attention. Emphasis still is not on communicating skills but on answering questions of texts and passing the examinations and not on use of the language for communication. Teachers and students play the main role in learning of English. It is interest and incentive that can bring proficiency.

The main fault lies with the English teachers. Unfortunately, they will all fail if they are to attend an interview for a MNC themselves. They are neither ready to improve their own capability by advanced training and practicing to nor ready to improve their teaching with tech-assisted means such as excellent audio and video course materials available today in plenty for teaching English. However, it is for the students to become Eklavya and learn English by practice. And it is possible. Firstly, the teachers must at very early stage explain the need to learn English to the students to make them interested in putting effort for this. And the students must work hard to learn English.

For all graduates, particularly those with ambitions for jobs in IT sectors with science subjects or engineering education must develop proficiency of English through various institutions and programmes such as Jawahar Knowledge Centres and other finishing schools available today.

I was amazed to know from the ad on ‘NDTV Imagine’ that it is starting one such English teaching programme ‘Angreji mein kahate hain‘ from next week. But under no circumstances, one should feel morose enough to kill him as reported in ‘Outlook‘. I am myself from a rural and vernacular background and I know many who have excelled in career with initial handicap in English too.

If the Chinese can master English and American can learn Hindi why can any one pick up English of 26 letters.

And as good news, I can tell that very soon with technology of voice recognition maturing, the need for mastering English for communicating may also be over.

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