Vedaaranya Heritage Arts and Healing Festival 2016

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Gour K Das Ph. D(Cambridge)




Former Professor of English
University of Delhi
& Former Vice Chancellor, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar

DECOLONIZE ENGLISH: TEACH ENGLISHES

It is widely accepted in the English-speaking world now that there is no one English, but a variety of englishes—spoken and written, even in Britain. One has to look at the monumental Handbook of World Englishes (2006) edited jointly by Braj Kachru, Yamuna Kachru and Cecil Nelson to appreciate fully  the global panorama of englishes in their variety. English vocabulary at the moment is the most eclectic, and English speech more latitudinarian than any other. In Vikas Swarup’s Slumdog Millionaire (2006)Ram Mohammad Thomas’s flattering feeling on his acquisition of ‘Queen’s English’ from father Timothy is only the delusion of a ‘slum dog’. There is no longer a ‘received standard’ English.  Learning and pedagogic strategies are more versatile today than ever.

The classroom in India is increasingly becoming borderless. Many international students from diverse language streams come to study in India as they find the costs more affordable here than in their home country. Learning English in India is functionally as good as anywhere in the Anglo-American world. Several Universities from Australia, Britain and USA also have set up centres in our metropolises. Increasing pressure on the classroom has led to a situation where the teaching/learning policies and programmes do require a high priority on the national agenda.  Without that our higher education system is likely to collapse sooner or later. The strategies being followed currently need overhauling and renovation, however.

A  National Mission on Education (NME) has been set up under the auspices of the HRD Ministry, at Tirupati . Two of its manifold objectives are:  a) ‘pedagogically efficient multi-lingual, high quality e-content for all subjects,’ and b) ‘to set up a ‘virtual technology university.’ It sounds good, but what precisely are the drawbacks of the current education system that the NME seeks to minimize through lab experiment ‘over the net’.  Have those been identified, or is NME’s perception only a hypothetical supposition? As to language labs that our language learning centres are being encouraged to establish, are they really used very much, and fruitfully?  The reality is existing state of the art language labs/cells lavishly funded by the UGC, more often than not, languish unused.

I believe that trained human resources can do a far more competent job than machines in this area of learning. In a country rich in human resource like ours, it is inexpedient and unwise to follow an impractical and unrewarding policy of pedagogic dependence on the machine.  Should we not, instead, be deploying adequate number of trained personnel, who can more easily reorient themselves than the machine, to the changing social situation and need?  They certainly are less prone to obsolescence than the machine.
 
Bio-note:

G. K. Das, Ph. D. (Cambridge) is a former Senior Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, USA, and a retired Professor of English, University of Delhi. He is also a former Director of the University of Delhi South Campus, and a former Vice Chancellor of Utkal University, Bhubaneswar.

His books on E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence have been simultaneously published in Britain and USA. His latest published work is a volume of essays titled Literature of Resistance: India 1857 (Primus Books, 2009) which he edited jointly with Sushma Arya.