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Govt should strengthen English medium schools

Govt should strengthen  English medium schools
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Government Should Strengthen English Medium Schools. The edit page article of Yogendra Yadav with the title “And the winner is English” (August 7,...

Truly, there is a strong case for aptitude test and it makes sense to fight for it

The edit page article of Yogendra Yadav with the title “And the winner is English” (August 7, 2014) is highly debatable. One is afraid; he is reading too much into the controversy about CSAT exam. Unfortunately, he is attributing to the protest; rather an undeserving halo. Before, one argues how the major part of his advocacy is informed more of passion and less of objective ground reality, it is reasonable to concede the point that there is a dimension of his contention, which makes sense. It is that there is a palpable perception among people that Indian languages are a bit inferior to English. But, stretching this perception to the point of linguistic apartheid is nothing short of insulting the intelligence of people.

What is particularly galling is that he has gone to the extent of claiming that it is the core issue of the entire controversy. Is it so? It is equally an intentional misinterpretation of the reality to argue that CSAT is testing the English language proficiency of the candidates. No. It is not. It aims at testing the basic language skills of the future civil servants of the country. In the era of Globalisation, a civil servant is supposed to be the master of English. It beats one’s common sense, how men of Yogendra Yadav’s eminence take a stand of this sort. Is it not a fact that so many young people are taking TOEFL and GRE tests? Is it not also a fact that a great bunch of them hail from regional medium schools and second rate/third rate English medium public schools?

When that is the reality for the people who want to pursue higher education in the west, does it make any sense on the part of the future civil servants of the country of this diversity and language variety to create this much fuss about the CSAT English? Truly, there is a strong case for aptitude test and it makes sense to fight for it. As to the question whether the new pattern provides an extra edge to the elite is not conclusively proved. The example that Yadav cites regarding the Hindi medium people conveys an important point, about which one should be ashamed of for a different reason. Similarly, it is to be verified, whether it tallies with the other language students’ case. That is to say, what is the percentage drop of Tamil or Malayalam or Telugu students in final selection in the civil services after the introduction of the new system in 2011?

The shameful point is that the aspirationally-rich Hindi medium students, (forget about the multitudes of aspirational poor) are so weak in their English language communication that they cannot clear 10thstandard English, yet, love to become the civil servants of the country. Does one expect of them to handle English the way Khushwant Singh did or Arundhati Roy does? No. At one point in the article, he writes “Thus, this agitation is not against English but against the dominance of English. It is against the presumption that the national talent resides within the tiny pool of English speakers.” Undoubtedly, our system is biased against the less privileged in many ways structurally. Language is one among them. Surely, it is a commendable effort on the part of all socially sensitive people to fight against structural injustices in a spirited manner. But, it is not that correct to bat for a case, where there is no strong case at all.

One is even afraid that attempts of this ilk would weaken the otherwise solid cases like the great disparity in the quality of education even in the English medium too for the first generation learners. The great thirst for English medium education among the general public is being misused by many third rate private players. Where it is being provided by the government, the less said the better. The better option is to press the government to weed out the outright commercial English medium shops and strengthen its own institutions so as to provide the equal opportunities to all. Instead of so doing, it is exceptionally unfortunate that a case is built to throw the baby with the bath water.

If it is the implicit case of Yogendra Yadav that till the ground is flat, it is necessary to tone down the level of English test standard, or it is better to remove it altogether, one can only assure him that in this vast country, despite many impediments there are enough number of vernacular medium students, who can confidently face the CSAT and compete with the rest of the better placed. In conclusion, what one loves to see from the in-general logical and forceful pen of Yadav is that his verbal arrows should be aimed at in the right direction. Mercifully, as to the sting of his arrows, one is never in doubt. Only direction matters.

(The writer is a former faculty of Narayana IAS Academy, Hyderabad)

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