English: A Necessity of Nation

I never knew of the SC scare about China poising to overtake India in English proficiency. And that it may take away the leadership of Indians’ globally recognized advantages in IT/BPO sector. Does India aim to depend on one sector so much so to appear helpless without English?

The annual audit report by Pratham, the well-known education NGO, reported on Friday has added fuel to the scare. As reported in the audit report, the ability to read and comprehend English varied wildly across India and only 43.8% of Class 1 kids could read the alphabets, even in big capital letters.

I don’t know if the country as whole has switched over to English as medium of instruction. However, with the popularity of English medium schools growing exponentially, it will happen very soon. Proficiency in English will require the kids to be in schools and hostels with English as a mandatory communication language between the inmates. I don’t know if India can put so much of its resources for propagating English.

Surprisingly, as reported, ‘in the case of English, performance improves after class V. Till class V many states show the falling trend of students either able to read words or sentences. It can be gauged from the fact that while in class V the all-India average of students who can read sentences is 25.7%; by class VIII it goes up to 60.2%.’ It appears to be pretty logical. With good teachers, teaching practices and technological aids, the proficiency in English can be made up fast effectively. Moreover, along with the knowledge of the English language, the need is to learn the soft skill of modulation and mannerism for effective communication.

My main worry is about mathematics where it’s only marginally better. Just 69% of class 1 students could recognize numbers between one and nine. But things get worse as kids go up to higher classes. By class II, the national average of children who can recognize numbers between 11 and 99 declines to 54.6. And by class V, percentage of children who can do division comes down to 38%.

Perhaps, India lacks better trained and motivated teachers, and the government, NGOs as well as private entrepreneurs must do their best to improve the quality of teachers. Unfortunately because of poor teaching quality at schools, more and more parents are getting totally dependent on private or organized tuitions. And naturally, it requires a support for the children from the deprived class where the parents are neither educated enough to help their children nor having resources for increasing cost of tuitions.

However, according to the audit, as many as 96% children in the age-group of 6-14 are in schools. Thus the access to education has dramatically improved. But the quality of education being imparted is a big question and requires solution and too fast. Let the government work to eliminate the dropping outs before completing class XII or at least Class X that can get them into trade schools easily. For anyone wishing to have a good enough employment must be proficient at least in English communication and working knowledge of computer application.

More important is the acceptance of English by Dalit leaders. Some leaders of Dalits including Mayawati see English as social leveler.

But another news item is more shocking. A good number of the diplomats-in-making get selected in Indian Foreign Services by writing in regional language, particularly Hindi. And that according to report demand a special training for developing their skill of English that is essential for working in foreign office assignments abroad.

Let the people at large not listen to politicians and regional leaders with vested interests and learn as many foreign languages as possible to have better opportunity for prosperity in this globalized scenario.

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