‘The English Medium Myth: Dismantling Barriers to India’s Growth; Author: Sankrant Sanu , Publisher: Publisher: Garud Prakashan , Rs 229.00
Sankrant Sanu, with hands-on experience in the IT world, emphasises the fact that proficiency in English has nothing to do with excelling in business and other professions
There are very few books which we feel after reading them that we should have read decades back. It is because of the kind of content of such books that influences the readers and the topic which the authors have selected. There are some issues in Indian society and other countries that fail to go away as the policymakers and leaders are reluctant to address them with determination.
One such work is The English Medium Myth authored by Sankrant Sanu, a young Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduate who has put in years of experience in the world of Information Technology. Had he been a conventional IIT graduate, Sankrant Sanu would have put in extra efforts to ensure that he rises in the corporate world like a star and end ups as owner of penthouse apartments and castles and countryside resorts in some European countries with a fleet of swanky limousines at his beck and call. But Sanu, who had observed his surroundings as a student, chose to address a major issue that has been haunting his colleagues and youth elsewhere in the country. The English Medium Myth is a work which true to its title dismantles barriers to India’s growth. But it does more than that. Sanu, through painstaking research, has understood that The English Medium Myth has succeeded in sustaining the African and Asian countries which were liberated from the shackles of colonialist powers as eternally poor, downtrodden and underdeveloped. Though there may be many political and social factors that keep them enchained to poverty and least developed, the obsession with English is what links them
on a common thread. As an IT professional, Sanu had to travel across Africa, Asia and Europe as part of his official assignments and he made use of these journeys to study the reason behind the underdevelopment of countries which have been liberated from their colonial masters around the same time when India achieved its freedom from the Britishers.
India’s conventional educational system (popularly and reverentially addressed as Gurukula tradition) has been dismantled by Thomas Macaulay and his brand of British administrators and replaced with a model they imported from their country of origin. Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, Urdu and Bengali were shown the doors and English became the official language. Macaulay had an evil design.. “The aim of English education was manifold-one was to secure a buffer zone of trained bureaucrats who could be controlled and who would rule over the masses. The other was to use education as a means of establishing intellectual hegemony over this class by a mix of denigrating and exoticizing the native culture-more importantly, to have this elite class identify with the values of the conquerors rather than the conquered”, writes Sanu (English in India; the Colonial Mind- Page 41).
Though the country has many educationists, philosophers and thinkers, it took a NewGen IT software expert to diagnose the root cause of India’s basic problem. The author needs to be congratulated for taking readers to a new world and coming up with hard hitting realities
But what stands out in this book is Sanu’s systematic research and startling findings. These findings are capable enough of sending shockwaves through the spines of anyone who adores and respects Mother India. Titled “English-medium Education and Economic Good,” the opening chapter is a warning to the policymakers as well as educationists in India. Sanu lists 20 richest countries (categorised based on the Gross Domestic Product per capita in US Dollars) and it is interesting, informative and educative.
Sanu has listed 20 poorest countries based on their GDP per capita. Six nations in this list of poorest countries have English as official/mass language and the remaining countries have French/Portuguese as official languages. The countries which have English as official/mass languages are those which were the colonies of Britain while those with French and Portuguese were former colonies of France and Portugal. Despite getting freed from colonial rule, these countries remain as serviles of their previous masters. This study itself is capable of driving the nails on the coffins of the idea that English is the gateway or window to economic, educational and social development of a society. In India, English education has throttled the regional languages and created a new breed of brown sahebs who have only hatred and contempt for anything Indian. The brown sahebs or the civil servants remain as eternal slaves to their colonial masters. This slavery to the English language or the inveterate feeling that this foreign language would give them salvation from the “unfashionable and uncivilised” natives have taken them to a no-man’s land where they become aliens in their own country while the Englishmen do not accept these brown sahebs.
Sankrant Sanu begins his book with scientific observations made by Dr Shantanu Ghosh (HST Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital) who has written the foreword for this pathbreaking work. “Several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have reiterated that in the event of any concept or content being acquired through mother tongue, it is more stable and robust”, writes Dr Ghosh. Sivathanu Pillai, the father figure of India’s high-tech missile programme and who crafted the Brahmos Missiles, is on record telling that all students in the country should get the opportunity to have their school and college education in their respective mother tongue. “I had my school and college education in Tamil, my mother tongue and it is the main reason why I could do well in my studies,” Dr Pillai has said many times. Similar is the case with Mayilswamy Annamalai, project head of India’s Chandrayaan Mission to the moon. “Our education should be in our mother tongue and it
alone would strengthen the foundation of our knowledge,” said Dr Annamalai hailing from Kongunadu province of Tamil Nadu.
Sanu’s book should be read in detail by persons in charge of the country’s National Education Policy as well as the parents of the children who have fancy ideas about teaching their wards in English medium institutions. The author, with hands-on experience in the IT world, says that proficiency in English language has nothing to do with excelling in the field. Sanu goes one step further and demolishes the concept that the success in fields of business and professions are related to expertise in English language. “Is global business success linked to the knowledge of English? Hardly. The major East Asian economies -Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China-are all non-English speaking. Business schools just like other higher education in these countries are conducted in Japanese, Korean and Chinese, not in English,” says Sanu.
This is a book-nay, research findings by an author which we should have read decades ago. Though the country has many educationists, philosophers and thinkers, it took a NewGen IT software expert to diagnose the root cause of India’s basic problem. The author needs to be congratulated for taking readers to a new world and coming up with hard hitting realities.