Introduction: It has been almost two centuries that English education was introduced in India and since then it has been playing an important role in our national life, not to mention our educational system. Most people believe that the then British rulers needed some cheap native clerks who could work in their offices much like what Lord Macaulay called “a class of people, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. But I personally don’t hold this view.
Even ardent patriots like Raja Ram Mohan Roy expressed that learning English would help Indians to understand the philosophical and scientific advancement of the west. Later on English became a national link language and made Indians united in their struggle for independence. It has also improved our languages and literatures to a great extent. But after independence, the role and importance of English in our educational system as well as national life was seriously questioned by many. According to some of our leaders, English was a symbol and instrument of colonial exploitation.
Hence, it should be done away with completely from our systems. In the end, wise senses prevailed and English was kept initially for 15 years as an Associate Official Language for inter-state communications and communications between the states and the centre so as to give time to the learning of Hindi. Jawaharlal Nehru opined that “If you push out English, does Hindi fully take its place? I hope it will. But I wish to avoid the danger of one unifying factor being pushed out without another unifying factor fully taking its place. In that event there will be a gap, a hiatus. The creation of any such gap or hiatus must be avoided at all costs.
It is very vital to do so in the interest of the unity of our country. It is this that leads me to the conclusion that English is likely to have an important place in the foreseeable future”. And how rightly so! As a visionary leader that he was, Jawaharlal Nehru could see that some day English would not only be a stop gap language for communications, but it would become the most important language for national and international dealings. It has been 65 years that we have attained independence and instead of diminishing the importance of English, it has increased far beyond anybody envisaged at the time of independence.
With the changing world environment and exponential growth of the use of English all over the world, we must put great emphasis on teaching and learning of English in order to take advantage of our huge human resource. According to a recent study by the department of human resource development, sixty percent of our population will be at working age by 2020 whereas that of China, Japan, the USA and EU will be around forty percent. So, Indian government is emphasizing in giving technical as well as English training to the next generation so that Indians can take over the world.
Hence, we find that English still occupies and will continue to occupy an important place in our educational system and curriculums at different levels should be constructed accordingly. Unfortunately, despite repeated recommendations by different education commissions constituted by the Government of India, the position of English in the curriculums and methods of teaching have always been in a state of flux. For example, in 1984, the West Bengal government completely removed teaching and learning of English from primary school curriculum but from 1999 onwards, it had to reintroduce it as second language from class II.
Things have mostly been like this for the last few decades in relation to teaching and learning English. While some elite private schools have complete system teaching-learning in English, not many can afford to send their children to these schools. And the condition of teaching-learning of English in government schools is mostly pathetic. The standard of achievement in the subject has been falling day by day. A large number of failures at the secondary stage have been due to the pupil’s poor achievement in English.
Low standard of teaching the subject is also responsible to a great extent. In most cases the teacher of English has no idea of the goal he is to achieve and the old Translation-Grammar Method still reigns supreme. The so-called Functional Communicative Approach associated with “Learning English” series of text books has not helped either. We are yet to evolve a uniform method of teaching English as a second language keeping its socio-economic set-up, available resources and existing infrastructure without importing it from any other country.
Despite all odds, nobody can deny the importance of English in our educational system. It is through English that we are able to keep ourselves updated with recent developments around the world. New age economies like software development and call centers have made learning of English compulsory for those who want to find a good livelihood in this competitive environment. English is also of outmost importance incase of higher studies and research in the fields of science and technology.