So the Brits came to India, and left the strongest cultural element: English! India lives in English, with our country claiming to have an English-speaking newspaper with highest readership in the world in the said language. The so-called “Northerners” communicate with the idli-eating south with English, rather than, say, Hindi.
I am not going to talk about the quality of English we speak, but the quantity. And what shocks me the most is the pressure that this trend of anglophonism has put on the rural education system. We impose on this population the pressure to integrate into the mainstream capitalist economy through enforcement of an educational system that is made for the urban population. And we ask them to integrate by overlooking the fact that the infrastructure in villages cannot be compared to that in urban India. The problems with literacy rates in rural India is not because of the absence of schools, but because there has been no study carried out about creating a sustainable environment to aid the already-established system in place. Instead of investing highly on procurement for teachers to teach English in the region, women should be provided with sustainable solutions to sanitary pads, the lack of which has been the major cause for high female school drop-out rates in India. Also, you cannot expect a village kid to take the pressures of learning the same level of calculus as a kid in a city, since there are opportunity costs involved in torturing you brains with it; the kid would rather be aiding his or her parents in daily chores or earning money by working at a local chai-center.
The obsession with colonial languages to fall into the mainstream “globalisation and modernity” trend is not particular to India. In one of my conversations with the Minister of Higher Education in Morocco, a similar problem with the obsession over French language has been observed. Same, I would believe, is the case for most of the developing countries who carry with them the pieces of colonial language. These trends not only put a pressure on the students in villages to compete with the students in cities, but the system also contains within it a not-so-apparent propaganda that portrays the urban life as superior and hence aiding the process of brain-drain in villaegs: the high migration of rural population into the urban areas. What we need indeed is to internalise the system, by creating a more sustainable process of exchanging knowledge. I do not necessarily believe that the formal process of education that lays more importance of diplomas and certificates is what we need. We need to approach it as an exchange of thoughts and ideas that than preaching the villages to walk and eat in a “civilised” way. I do not want the son of a carpenter to be educated only to be left convinced that fleeing his family profession to find a “better life” in the cities is the only way out! I believe that a properly formed internalised system would also address issues related to urban expansion and slums.
I do understand that what I propose is indeed an idealisation. Creating them would require an indepth understanding of the needs and issues pertaining to every village. But looking at many grass-root organisations working across the developing world has made me optimistic that this endeavor of creating “check-dams” within the rural social systems is indeed possible.