Friday, May 16, 2014

De-Macaulayization - 6

Agnimitra on BRF:

1. Survey results of English Proficiency Index (EPI) in among non-native English speakers worldwide shows India slipping down the rankings fast (from 14 to 21 between 2012 and 2014), even as the number of "English-literate" Indians rises.

2. Putting children from non-English-speaking homes into a school environment where English is the primary medium of instruction is shown to have a stultifying effect on their minds, intellectual confidence and creativity. Such English-medium students grow up unable to express themselves flawlessly either in English or their native mother-tongue. Note that this is the reverse of genuinely bilingual people, where knowing more than one language 'natively' has a beneficial effect on brain development. The vast majority of Indians don't have a word of English spoken at home. Whereas most of us English-proficient Indians have had about 3-4 English-medium educated generations in our we had that home support.

3. Surveys show that students from similar backgrounds studying in vernacular-medium schools who learn English as a second language tend to pick it up much better, due to being comfortable and confident in their educational environment, which endows them with a practical confidence and a hands-on attitude! Also check the stats for IIT-JEE entrants. The percentage of selected candidates who get admitted from among those who choose Hindi/Marathi-language entrance exam is much higher than English applicants - same questions, same standard of grading. Etc...

Even the most enthusiastic purveyors of Anglicization and English-medium schooling in India - Christian missionary convents - morosely admit that the 'butler English' syndrome is rampant in most areas. They hope that English proficiency will "trickle down" over 2-3 generations! Basically what's happening is the Philippinization or Mexicanization of India.

Read this BBC article, for example: English or Hinglish - which will India choose?

But leave culture and human creativity aside. From a purely economic standpoint of human resource development, this haphazard Anglicization is not sustainable for India anymore. In terms of developing a technical resource-pool, China is way ahead. Take the number of computer-literate people in China - MUCH larger than India. That's because in India, to be computer-literate (or educated in almost any profession), you first have to learn an alien human language (English)! So the self-delusion that deeper penetration by English is India's comparative advantage vis a vis other Asian nations has begun to be exposed, and its effects will be visible sooner than later.

India's Anglophile educated elites think of "Globalization" as "Anglicization". This reflects their psychological deracination more than the reality. The fact is that the technological giants of the world have a global vision of "Internationalization", where access to different markets passes through a "Localization" interface. So there is plenty of emerging technological support for multilingual interfaces. That is the technological future, thanks to the sterling insistence of most other non-English cultures, East or West. Recently there was a case where China had Coca Cola destroy a huge consignment because the English font on the products was larger than the Chinese font...

So it is very urgent that India implement a vernacularization policy, a new Language Policy. This is critical for our human resource development, just when we have a huge number of youth entering the educational space and the labour force. Being Gujarati-educated and proud of speaking Hindi even to our DDM English jerks, I hope Modi will take this up with vigour. Its already late for India.

Yet, millions of the poorest Indian families spend upto a third of their income just to send their children to an English-medium school. This is because of the higher-education and professional space in India. That can change only via government policy supporting grassroots aspirations. Plenty of grassroots aspiration exists in India to study in one's mother-tongue. The way forward is to support the grassroots mother-tongues via policy, technology, the revival of Sanskrit to update and standardize the Prakrits, and possibly a common script.

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