Thursday, 3 August 2017

And the winner is English Y.Yadav

And the winner is English

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.

Yogendra Yadav -

Some years ago, a renowned Indian academic stunned me during a casual dinner conversation. I was talking to her about my writings in Hindi as well as English. Writing in Hindi was important for pedagogic reasons, she agreed. But she was shocked when I insisted that I write some of my articles originally in Hindi. “Languages like Hindi and Tamil are good for street conversation. But surely you cannot do conceptual thinking in these languages, the way you can in English and French,” she said.
That conversation has stayed with me, for it revealed in a flash something we all take for granted. She had said what our elites believe but do not say openly. Indian languages are believed to be inferior languages and those who express themselves principally in an Indian language are assumed to be inferior beings.

Like gender and race, inequality of language is so obvious and omnipresent that we take it for granted. We stop noticing the elephant in the room. Advertisements for English speaking courses, ever mushrooming English medium “public” schools, everyone at social conversations trying to impress one another with their limited English, parents speaking to their children in rudimentary English. We see and experience it every day. But we dare not name this linguistic apartheid.
The language question lies at the heart of the current controversy about the civil services examination of the UPSC. Much of the debate in the English media distracts our attention away from this core issue. The agitators themselves are much clearer, though they could have posed this issue more sharply.

The protest is not against an aptitude test per se, though some protesters seem to say so. All over the world, aptitude tests are a standard way of judging a candidate’s suitability for a job. You can dispute whether a particular aptitude test fits the bill, but not the very idea of an aptitude test. There can be a debate about the right mix of skills needed for being a civil servant. (My colleague, Manish Sisodia, thinks you need an “attitude test” — a test of social skills and emotional intelligence — for this job.) But it would be hard to dispute that certain basic analytical, linguistic and quantitative skills are a must.

Similarly, though there is something to the humanities versus science subjects dispute, this is not the heart of the matter. It is true that over the years, students with a background in engineering and management have come to do much better than others in the civil services examination. But then, medicine, engineering and management tend to draw a disproportionately bigger share of the talent pool of our school-leaving students. Science students may be more familiar with the format of the CSAT, but it is disingenuous to argue that tests of reasoning and quantitative skills are necessarily loaded in favour of engineers.

Finally, this protest is neither for Hindi nor against English. The protesters have gone out of their way to clarify that they are not making a special case for Hindi. Their point applies to all the Indian languages, or “bhashas” as U.R. Ananthamurthy would have it. They have repeatedly stated that they are not against English. They have not raised objections to the qualifying paper in the Main examination that tests English language proficiency. The media, especially the English media, has simply not understood that someone could raise the language question without being either pro-Hindi or anti-English.

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. It is not for privileging Hindi but for providing a level playing field for all Indian languages vis-à-vis English. Behind this seemingly innocuous and overblown dispute about the CSAT paper lies a deeper challenge to the informal system of linguistic apartheid in our country.

The real problem with the civil services examination is the insidious manner in which it privileges English. A test of aptitude can and should test linguistic skills, not language proficiency as it currently does. The level of English expected, class X or higher, is besides the point. The relevant question is why linguistic ability is tested only through English and not any bhasha. This is why the complaint about the quality of translation in the CSAT question paper is not a small detail. It shows that this test is not designed to be language neutral. Model answer papers for general studies are available only in English and thus work against bhasha candidates. The interview process also works against those who are not fluent in English. The protesters are upset, and rightly so, about being treated as second-rate examinees. They are protesting against an unjust power equation written into the supposedly objective system of examination.

Empirical evidence bears out this suspicion. Over three decades, the proportion of bhasha students had gone up, opening the doors of this elite service for students from non-elite backgrounds. The new system introduced in 2011 reversed this trend. The proportion of non-English medium students in the Main examination plummeted from 44 per cent in 2008-10 (three year average) to just 18 per cent in 2011-12. Though the formal report for 2013 is not yet in, the situation has reportedly worsened. The proportion of Hindi medium students among the finally selected students is estimated to be just 3 per cent, down from 25 per cent in 2009.

The CSAT paper, and the civil services examination in general, is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire system of higher education that controls white collar jobs is loaded against bhasha medium students. More often than not, they need to switch overnight to the English medium to enter the best institutions in the country. Even if the institution formally permits one or more Indian language as the medium of examination, there are multiple informal barriers at each step: syllabi, prescribed books, classroom teaching, question papers and examiners are all biased in favour of English. Bhasha medium students are consigned to lower rung institutions or to the lower academic rung of the better institutions. They are made to swim against the current all the way. The agitation against the civil services examination is a protest against the entire system that is rigged against Indian languages.
This is why I celebrate and salute this agitation. If it can avoid distractions to focus on its core issue, refuse to be bought with sops like one additional chance for examination, and not fall prey to the machinations of the ruling party and its agents, it can perhaps mitigate the effects of our desi linguistic apartheid. This may well be our last chance.
The writer is senior fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, currently on leave, and chief spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party

Aparna Krishnan
This upper class attitude, a subtle sense of superiority for being from 'elite institutions', for being 'fluent in english' ... in greater or lesser extent it is deeply engrained in each of us. Takes a long long time, and knowing some wise-and-wonderful poor-and-illiterate to even see it - and then to try to shed it.
Rahul Banerjee
Rahul Banerjee Akbar it appears was told by his advisors to develop a strong navy to fight the Portuguese, Dutch and English pirates ( thats what they were basically) who were ruling the waves in the Indian Ocean and throttling Indian trade. The Mughal Empire then at its peak had the resources to easily build up a strong navy and send the Europeans packing. But Akbar shot down this proposal and instead agreed to pay a cess to the Europeans to allow trade and also gave them footholds in India to conduct their own trade. And that is what later led to our becoming a colony of the British. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Indian artisanal industry was the strongest in the world but all that became history once the British conquered this country and finally it left us a country of paupers without any funds, with our agriculture and industry devastated and doomed to learning in English. It is difficult now to spurn English given its dominance but this does put a vast majority of our countrymen at a distinct disadvantage. It is easy to say as the votaries of English do that one should learn English as a second or third language but it is a huge ask for most people in India and handicaps them heavily in life.
Aparna Krishnan
Aparna Krishnan English is not a double edged weapon - but one far more lethal. To not 'empower' my village children with English is to 'handicap' them. To teach them English, is to play into the game of communicating the superiority of English (though I tell them, repeatedly and foolishly, that its just a language among others, and simply has a use value ... as if that will communicate anything !). Thereby they become also-rans in 'our' system, denying their own vast-and wonderful heritage (were that to become the paradigm, we would be worse than also-rans.)
Aparna Krishnan
Aparna Krishnan For years I did not teach English, and learnt to read Telugu so as to teach them that. Then my daughter came, and for her 'larger future' I compromised ... and then realized my own double standards. Exposed, i started teaching them all ... and knew all the while that for a small advantage I was playing into a larger loss
Sometimes I feel it might be best to simply let things lie alone.

 Rahul Banerjee
Rahul Banerjee you need to get colonialism and neo-imperialism a little more into your analysis!!!
Aparna Krishnan
Aparna Krishnan No. We need less of 'colonialism' excuses, and more of spine. To use only products made by local people/ to put our children in government schools/ to move towards greater and greater austerity / to live by 'there is enough for everyone's need but not enough for anyone's greed'.
Rahul Banerjee
Rahul Banerjee as long as you ignore colonialism and neo-imperialism you will not be able to get spine into people.
Aparna Krishnan Do i need that theory to convince people on the need to purchase that made by the unemplyed of the country ?? No - the stories of starving weavers are all around us, but why has there not be a total, or near-total voluntary switch to handlooms ...
Rahul Banerjee
Rahul Banerjee neo-imperialist exploitation and oppression is not theory but reality. the way they control global economy, politics and culture it is very difficult to push through an alternative decentralised and just paradigm.
One goes on fighting regardless but that does not mean that one romantically overestimates the power of materially resourceless villagers against oppressive and hugely resource rich entities. such romanticism will not get us anywhere.
Arvind Jha
Arvind Jha If all conceptual thinking could only be done in English and French the world would have been stuck in stone age, aint it ? Aparna, in a diverse world, you can not stop people from having biases expressing their opinions. The truth shall prevail.
Aparna Krishnan
Aparna Krishnan may many truths prevail. but let it be a truth, and not ill conceived arrogance.

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