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English For All?

MD. MASUM BILLAH

I have gone through an article under the above caption “English For All” in the Daily Star of its 28 issue of March 2008 produced by an expatriate Alam Khorshed by name. I don’t understand from which point of view he has produced this article. Does it express his patriotism or profound love for mother tongue or he wants to avoid the reality. He had been in America for many years. I don’t know his profession or how, when or why he went abroad. His facing the American Embassy necessitated his English particularly his spoken English. But in his article he wants to put little or no importance in spoken English. He is right in his expression that language is the vehicle of cultural identity. Learning through mother tongue proves the strong footing on culture.

In this age of globalisation we can in no way keep ourselves aloof from the common trend of the world. By virtue of globalisation the people belonging to various cultures, caste, colour and language have come closer to each other. To develop a common communication and relation they must have a common means of language. English has occupied that place. Not only that it is the language of commerce, science, technology, literature and job. The candidate who can speak English preferably gets the job whatever office or organization it is. Most of the job market has been captured by private organization, non-government organization and international/ multinational companies. In all these organizations people who know English either in written or spoken are preferred and treated as human resource. The causes are not unknown to us. Don’t we respond to this pragmatic situation? Even government establishments also need English knowing people. Time and again they are to maintain liaison and communication and for rapport building they need English? So how can we deny these multifarious necessities and utilities of English?
The writer has got astonished to see three kinds of education in the country. He must understand that Bangladesh is a democracy. Democracy tries to cater to the demands and needs of all kinds of people. Only Bengali medium schools cannot not cater to the needs of affluent  city dwellers. Only English medium schools   cannot match with the situation of the country. There are some people in the country as well who think religious education is a must otherwise the true spirit of religion could not be upheld. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to satisfy the needs of the citizens. And to respond to the reality three kinds of educational institutions proclaim their existence in this country. All of our neighbouring countries see both English and native language medium educational institutions.

Again, understanding the pragmatic needs of English the government has introduced this language as a compulsory subject from one to intermediate level so that all the students can have at form a base of this global language can derive benefit from it in their future plan of life. Those who are meritorious and brilliant they capture the language somewhat well within this period of time. The common and the weaker ones face some difficulties to learn it. Even then they can guess and understand the language. It helps them to go ahead to further learn it in case of their service life. If they don’t have minimum idea about the language it will surely be difficult for them to learn completely from the beginning.

Learning a language from the situation is more effective, fruitful and practical. But to teach English offering these scopes is not possible in most of the cases in our country. That does not mean that we shall stop learning and teaching this language. The people who go English speaking countries capture the language within one year. Surely they will do it as to learn a language the conditions they experience are very much conducive to learn a language. How can we expect from our poor government to have that kind of situation? It is not also possible to establish large English teaching institutions depriving many people from the minimum light of education. So, the present of teaching English in our country conform to the practical situation though it is not very reasonable. But we cannot criticise or discourage to learn English.

In private sectors many such institutes have mushroomed to teach English. Though the situation is not so favourable there, at least the job seekers get some benefits from these privately run institutions. Moreover, these provide some job facilities for some youths.

Author: Senior Manager, PACE, BRAC Education Programme, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email:

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