IMPORTANCE OF ‘LEARNING ENGLISH’ IN INDIAN CONTEXT
India inherited ‘English’ from the British who ruled our country for more than two centuries. After independence, there has been a great deal of argumentation in respect to the position of English in free India. The Orthodox view advocated a complete stoppage of use of English in any form. According to them English language is an embodiment of Western culture and thus the learning or studying English can endanger our own culture and values.
“In my considered opinion English education in the manner it has been given to us, has emasculated the English educated Indians, constrained our intellect and rendered us effeminate”—Mahatma Gandhi
It is a bitter fact, that ‘English’ has created a wide gulf between the few English educated and many uneducated. The learned English scholars of India, contributed a lot to English literature, but these were not given any credit in the history of English literature. The works of Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Radhakrishnan were, beyond doubt, a great contribution to the literature of English language, commanded much praise and admiration throughout the world, but not in the history of English literature.
The moderates felt the necessity of making study of English optional during the transition period and according to many others, in the existing circumstances, a sound knowledge of English is necessary at least for acquiring higher education. They advocate the importance of learning of English for the advancement and growth of technical education in the country. They argue in favour of making the English subject compulsory in school and universities.
The crux of the problem lies between the two theories, one says making English as medium of instruction for all education, another says, making English necessary just for higher education. Undoubtedly learning of English is very important for scientific and technical education, but making English medium of instruction in school education shall not be an appropriate option in Indian perspective. Ours is a rural based society, our mother tongue is Hindi. We are using either Hindi or any other regional language in our daily life, in house, in market, and for all general communication. English is an alien language for the general public in such circumstances, attaining knowledge through a foreign language is so cumbersome, irritating and painful that the average student whether graduate or postgraduate, has degenerated into a mere crammer of the text books, unable to express himself well. All his energy and intelligence is consumed in cramming the text books to secure good marks. Even after 65 years of independence, passing a compulsory paper of English is so painful for an average student that he crams some essays, letters and other grammar rules, to secure just the passing marks.
Indians do not lack intelligence. Indian students have earned a reputation, a name in higher education, in IT, Space, Science and Technology where medium of study is English.
It is thus undisputed that learning of English as a language is very important as it is not only necessary for higher scientific and technical education, but it is a link language, spoken throughout a large part of the world. It is one of the most popular international languages for all diplomatic, political conferences, treaties and scientific discourses. One can’t imagine arranging any international conference, scientific discourse, without the help of English, as medium for communication among the members.
English had played very important role in making the Indians enlightened about many revolutionary ideas during the British rule. We can’t forget the role played by Indian scholars and educationists in our freedom struggle. Our freedom could have remained a dream as yet had we lacked scholars who had been able to tell us what freedom was. In present condition when India is free, English has been playing very crucial role in the progress of the country. The Indian students are the most favoured engineers, technical experts in European countries because they could understand and communicate well in English. The name of Indian students in IT, Space, etc is worldwide recognized. They could acquire the knowledge and expertise in the respective fields through English. The study of English language is thus very necessary to introduce us into the fast developing world. If India has to keep pace with the developed nations in the present scenario of globalization and liberalization we must give due importance to the learning of English language. If India has to keep abreast with other fast moving nations of the world, in the field of literature, science, space, computers, economics, we can’t ignore the importance of learning English.
Imagine, had Kalpana Chawla, Hargovind Khurana, Dr. Amritya Sen and hundreds of others, not acquired the knowledge of English, would they have earned the recognition, they achieved in their lives.
Shakespeare once said, sometimes out of ills cometh the good”. Macaulay introduced English in India to produce clerks but the study of English radiated on Indians an exhorting influence that made them confident of winning the freedom. But all this does not mean that English should be a cause of irritation or frustration among the general masses. English should not be a medium of education compulsorily.
For these reasons, English is no more the only medium for answering the questions in almost all competitive examinations. Even in States and Indian Administrative Services examination one can opt Hindi or other language for written examination. English can be a supplement, but can’t be allowed to supplant our mother tongue. No doubt learning of English is very important even in Indian perspective to acquire higher qualification to keep pace with the fast progressing world economy; to have communication with world’s emissaries, leaders, scientists etc yet English should not be allowed to be used as official language or for medium of imparting education at school or college levels.
“For more than two centuries of intimate contact has made English an integral part of our educational system and this can’t be changed without endangering our education in India. Moreover, English has today become one of the internationally spoken languages of the world and we Indians can’t neglect its study as it will put us in backwardness but the medium of instruction must remain the mother tongue”, said our late Education Minister Maulana Azad.