English, vernacular both important for Civil Services: British expert

English, vernacular both important for Civil Services: British expert

English, vernacular both important for Civil Services: British expert, Amid the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT) row, a British educationist...

Kolkata: Amid the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT) row, a British educationist recently said students appearing in the examination can be tested both in English and in vernacular languages.

Andy Curtis, professor in the School of Graduate Education at Anaheim University in California and the president of the TESOL International Association, said, while testing applicants for knowledge, examinations in native languages were convenient for those who are not fluent in English or Hindi, but for gauging one's language abilities a test of English was important.

"If one is testing for content, then vernacular comes in, but if one is testing for language abilities, then a test of English comes in. For testing point of view, examinations in both languages can be a way," Curtis, who has roots in South America as well as in India, told reporters here when quizzed about the raging CSAT issue.

TESOL is an organisation dedicated to advancing professional expertise in English language teaching and learning for speakers of other languages worldwide.

Students have been protesting for the past two weeks, demanding that the government scrap the aptitude test which they term "discriminatory" against those who are from Hindi background.

In an attempt to put an end to the row, the government announced on August 4 that marks for English comprehension will not be counted in the final merit list.

Curtis was speaking at a discussion ‘English Medium Instruction: Boon or Curse’ organised by the British Council here.

Pointing out the differences, Curtis said it was not possible for anyone (central government) to impose one single language in the country, while in China; the language was controlled by the Centre.

"In China, English is used only for a specific purpose and that is money, while in India, it is used for a variety of reasons," Curtis said. With more and more students getting exposed to English early in the curriculum, this has put a question mark on the preference to vernaculars or native dialects.

However, there is no conclusive data that shows learning English at the primary school level is a boon. "At the tertiary level, English as medium of instruction (EMI) has the potential to be a boon. But at the primary level, EMI has the potential to be a terrible curse," he said.

Invest more in teachers' training than technology:

Indian English is far more “erudite and elegant” than what is heard in England, Curtis said. He stressed on investing more on training teachers than on technology.

“I always say more teachers, less technology. People assume that technology can be a substitute for teachers but they can’t. It is a fiscal mistake in investment more on technology than teachers,” Curtis said.

He said, "I think Indian English is more erudite and elegant than what is heard on the streets of England." “I would suggest, put 10 per cent of what you are investing in technology in training teachers,” he said.

Deliberating on trends regarding English usage in India, Anuradha Lohia, Vice-Chancellor of Presidency University, pointed out for scientists like her it was a “language of necessity more than anything else”.

“People need to learn English to survive in a globally competent world,” she said. Devi Kar, director, Modern High School for Girls felt that though oral skills of students have improved considerably in the current scenario, writing skills have deteriorated. “They are far more articulate, but writing skills have deteriorated,” Kar said.

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