The Dominance of Angreziyat in Our Education

The Costs of Neglect   

The entire society is paying for this crime. Our modern architects functioning with borrowed knowledge make unlivable and ugly buildings and homes. Our modern offices need to use artificial lights even in broad daylight in a country where sunshine is abundant. There is no provision for ventilation, with windows sealed for air conditioning in a country where power breakdown is a daily occurrence. All these stupid buildings result from simply copying designs from western books and magazines. Our Ambanis and Singhanias produce fabrics whose designs are either straight copies of western designs or so garish that their own wives would not be seen dead in those sarees. In fact, they are seen proudly wearing the “ethnic chic” produced by our traditional weavers. It is not a coincidence that only the products of our illiterate or semi-educated, poor artisans have eager buyers in the international market. India's foreign exchange earnings come primarily from exporting cottage crafts, handloom textiles, traditional jewellery, leather goods, handmade fabrics, spices, raw cotton, mangoes, basmati rice and other farm produce.

It is our traditional artisans' products which act as reminders that we were once a great civilisation. The famous iron pillar of Qutab Minar in Delhi made centuries ago by our traditional lohars still stands proudly without rusting or corroding. The steel being produced by our modern degree-holders is of such poor standard that even the not too quality-conscious Railway Ministry has alleged that tracks made of SAIL steel crack up and corrode within months of installation, causing numerous rail accidents. Temples and houses made by our traditional sthapathis have withstood the ravages of centuries. Even as ruins, they look aesthetic and grand. The housing colonies designed and constructed by our modern degree-holding architects look like eyesores from the day they are built and start falling apart before they are occupied.

The modern sector of our economy is not an earner but a guzzler of foreign exchange. Our industries have become a dead weight on our economy and dare not face international competition. They are either groveling for government protection or foreign collaborations -- often both, and yet not able to put their act together. This is the reward our western educated elite get for treating their own people like colonial subjects. There was a time when only the West treated us with derision and contempt.

Today, even our Asian neighbors laugh at the pretensions of our educated elite. The Japanese, Chinese and Korean elites may not speak as good English as the products of our Doon School and St. Stephen's, but they communicate much better with the world and are more respected in international fora than our self-styled representatives. After all, what do they represent? Groveling poverty, mass illiteracy, a sickly malnourished population, a rich land turned into one of the worst environmental disasters, an inefficient and corrupt government! And it's a callous elite which does not even believe in sharing a language with its own people, leave alone wealth and education. Today, we are merely ridiculed and spurned in international forums, treated as pompous failures and self-righteous beggars. If we continue in the same manner, we will be treated as virtual untouchables by the rest of the world. Our leaders will be put through quarantine before being allowed to attend international meetings for fear that they may be carrying the many deadly disease germs India is so famous for. Today, our educated elite laugh at and express disdain for the likes of Laloo Yadav, his rustic manners, his dehati accent, his strong-arm tactics, his semi-literate wife brought in as a dummy Chief Minister.

If we don't start fixing our education system immediately, we will be saddled only with such tragi-comic figures for our leaders. Our Chidambarams and Jaswant Singhs might as well forget about coming to political power through the electoral route. After all, a man like I. K. Gujral could not win a seat in the parliament on his own strength. He has to be beholden to Laloo Yadav for his present seat and to Akali Dal for winning his previous election.

From Clerks to Peons

Actually, the problem is not just that the educated elite are divorced and alienated from their country's people. Our education system is poor even from the point of view of the elite themselves. The British are accused of having introduced a system of education designed primarily to promote an army of clerks, Indian in colour, but English in habits, tastes and values. They at least functioned to a purpose and produced efficient clerks. However, our post-Independence schools and colleges are not even producing clerks, but people whose skills don't qualify them for anything more than a peon's job. The following extract from a letter we received from the secretary of an NGO gives an idea of the communication skills of our college educated:

Yours consolatory and collaboration may kindly be solution to the [XYZ] Yuvak Sangha.… Which works in the field of education, Adult Education, Pre School Health and Family Planning. Forest and Environment to check the Environment pollution, Sport and cultural activities, Social developments, Women development, Youth activities and tribal development etc.

For the wide spread functioning of the above said activities. The organisation seeks your concolidation and collboration in the above said activities. If your organisation is going land with hand.  

Intimation maybe requested to Yours sincerely, XYZ

Many of our court judgments similarly sound like total gibberish. The following sample is an extract from a judgment by a session's judge in a case of child sexual abuse:

Besides all these, how it seems to be unnatural that the thing for concealing to which the accused was hiding himself here and there and was frightened in coming home, on call only he came to the house, on coming not before anybody else, except before those persons who were bent upon to punish him immediately and further were furious on him and tried to assault him, and who should have sent him in jail for the statement given by him against himself, has confessed before them his offence willingly. In the back ground of this, the accused who is not only literate but is doctor and is living in the present atmosphere, and confession of such offence by him in this manner seems to be unnatural in itself… More unnatural to these all is the confession of the offence before his father which he made before his father… in presence of five persons stated above. The family of the accused is also the family of the learned persons. On account of the last night's incident they would have not become perturbed rather they had so much time they would have come under the influence of the shock as of the family of Madan Gopal Kakkar and would have thought of the saving themselves, and out of them atleast one would have been who would have not admitted the offence again. In this way the story of confession of the offence by the prosecution by the family of Kakkar and Bhasin family is wholly unnatural, fabricated, and product of legal advice. This could not at all be trusted.

One can well imagine what brilliant grasp of law such a linguistic genius would have acquired. This particular judgment, in fact reads as if the honorable judge neither knows nor respects the ABC of law. It is not surprising that he went out of his way to exonerate a medical doctor accused of child rape.

Very few of our policemen know how to register an F.I.R. in legible hand leave alone one that is factually accurate and grammatically correct. Their ignorance of the law is frightening though expected. Their low educational skills make it virtually impossible for them to read and understand even bare acts leave alone legal treatises in antiquated Victorian English. But they take no time to pick up those provisions of law which help them fleece money. A linguistic analysis of the petitions filed by our lawyers even at higher levels, leave alone district courts, reads like products of a deranged brain. Here is an extract from an F.I.R. drafted by a Chennai lawyer in a murder case:

…two members going to received the the Time of medicine of mind effect and drinking methyl Alcohol for compulsory husband over drinking..This person Elumalai over drinking and tired staying my house. Again Drinking of Methyl Alcohol for my husband. After my husband wanted meals please take it by Anunchalam. But overtake of again and again attacked the Neg. Suddenly my husband Rolled to Land and earth. Retenched husband again and again attacked. Over attack for snag for my husband place...Husband sounded stoned some place. Ramaraja...warming Drinking of person attack for Arunchalam unattack of call to go and Sang removed...Five members joined attacked for my husband Head, mouth nose, attacked things of goods for stones. Some place suddenly number of husband…

My husband's sister Lands of agriculture lands buying try to Arunchalam. But my husband overtakes same Land buying my husband another sister's husband for 9 months. The problem dated warning for my husbands dated 27th April 1993 murder to my husband. The 5 members of speeches of my husband murder to doing ease for you. Also warning for me. My husband murders above 5 members promised. Related persons but deployed for me. Department of police something rupees allotted for received anybody. No action and Responses.

Respected Sir, this problem solved for me. The murder of my husband and brother Annamalai warning. Enquired for the problems solved please, Sir, Thanking you...[XYZ]

Linguistic Cripples

I hear similar gibberish even in elite business chambers and ministerial pronouncements. Most of us Indians sound mentally retarded when we propound our ideas in English. We are today becoming a nation of linguistic cripples which is an important reason why the work calibre of our professionals is so shoddy. A person who cannot handle any language competently is unlikely to be able to handle concepts or ideas required to think things through. Most of even our MBBS doctors are so poorly equipped in English that they cannot possibly follow the latest medical information already available in international journals even if they are inclined to access it. Therefore, too many of them practise quackery after having procured medical degrees of doubtful worth.

While we are churning out millions of unemployable matriculates, B.A.s and M.A.s, the country is facing a real shortage of skilled electricians, plumbers and a host of such technicians because we are simply not investing any money or energy into this area. Under our traditional occupation-based caste system, every child picked some or the other valuable skill from his parents, a skill which had been developed and perfected through generations. Today, everybody wants to be a white-collar pen pusher because that alone brings status and money. Only those who cannot make it, take to blue-collar occupations, but without the required skills for them. The electrical wirings in our public buildings are a virtual death trap; our water treatment plants are a scandal; our power stations are forever breaking down, our municipal sewage pipes frequently leak into water pipes. Most of those actually operating these services could not spell the word “hygiene” leave alone know how to provide a clean water supply. The fault is not theirs. The children of our impoverished farmers and artisans learn what they can by simply watching other ill-trained people. Their own educational skills are not such that they can acquire this knowledge through self-study.

Our colonial rulers could at least run their exclusive enclaves efficiently and provide functional civic amenities for Civil Lines areas. Our post-Independence elite cannot even ensure clean water supply or regular electricity in the opulent and exclusive New Delhi areas. Frequent tragedies like mid-air collisions of planes, collapse of newly-built bridges, breakouts of fire in public buildings, power breakdowns, dysfunctional telephones and general civic chaos are as much the products of sheer incompetence and inefficiency as they are the offshoots of corruption.

Destroying Minds                                                                             

Thus while our policy makers have destroyed the traditional skills of our people, they have denied them good quality modern education and opportunities for acquiring new skills necessary for running today's economies. The sarkari school system meant for the poor is a mockery in the name of education. These schools function mainly to provide naukris for the teachers and a host of babus of various grades who man our education departments and ministries. Consequently, there is very little teaching going on in them today. The little that happens is of such poor quality that anyone who has gone through 11-12 years of that exercise has for all practical purposes become a dysfunctional human being, and is unlikely to be able to think coherently on any subject except those areas of life not touched by school education. To top it all, they acquire contempt for any manual work. A son of a farmer or lohar who has studied up to matriculation or B.A. is likely to despise his father's occupation even while he himself is skilled for no other, and therefore, likely to end up adding to the large army of unemployable youth.

Among the many very saddening exposures to how our schools are destroying brains, I would like to cite one. While I was on a visit to Vitner village of Maharashtra some years ago, the people there proudly introduced me to a teenage boy as the brightest and most diligent student of that village. I asked him to write an essay on himself and the boy sat down dutifully to do the exercise. After about 45 minutes, he brought a two-page neatly written essay on Mahatma Gandhi. I was puzzled and asked him why he didn't write about himself. Somewhat embarrassed he told me that they had not “taught” him to write on “that topic” in school. If this is what our school system is doing to our brightest and most hard-working, we can well imagine the fate of our not-so-bright and less-than-average students.

I have been experiencing the products of this devastation year after year in the Delhi University College where I teach. As with that village student, my first assignment to even my B.A. students is an essay on themselves. Most of them (except the few from really well-functioning schools) look as bewildered as that village boy and many simply cannot write more than 6-7 lines that do not go beyond giving the student's name, father's occupation, the area he/she lives in and a couple of other identification points. Their excuse is the same: this topic was never a part of their curriculum. Over the years only a handful has given me something resembling an essay. This was the case even though many of them came from non-sarkari schools.

Even our private sector in education functions abysmally because of the very low standards set by government schools. Most of the private schools, especially those that have mushroomed in small towns and villages are worse than teaching shops because, for all the money they charge, they give students very little in return.

Brain Drain

Nehruvian socialism has wrecked our economy with its policy of nurturing the supposed commanding heights of our economy by exploiting and depressing the farm sector and other segments of the vast unorganised sector. Its counterpart in education was the belief that a handful of institutions like Mayo College and St. Stephen's will provide us the talent to run our entire society and economy for one billion people. The result is there for all to see. The few talented people this country produces are desperate to find a foothold in foreign countries largely because they feel threatened and choked by the inefficiency and corruption all around.

If we do not begin to put our act together in the field of education, think beyond a few elite schools and colleges, and aspire to high quality secondary level education for every child in this country and opportunities for acquiring real skills, in a few years we will need to start thinking of importing skilled manpower and well-trained professionals to run even our basic services and civil amenities, as well as our universities and colleges, perhaps even our primary schools.

Our leaders have given us a sickly legacy of substituting ideology for ideas, using radical rhetoric as a substitute for sensible politics. We, the educated elite, not only swallowed phoney rhetoric avidly but were deeply mesmerized by it as long as it was being mouthed in the correct Oxonian English. Today, when Laloo Yadav or Rabri Devi use similar rhetoric of “social justice” we feel outraged because they are speaking in dehati tones that we so despise. No democracy can be made to function meaningfully by tiny informed elite who shut out all information and knowledge from others by speaking, reading and writing in a language no one outside their charmed circle understands.

Those who feel convinced that the country can't manage without English should at least have the good sense to ensure that it becomes the language of mass literacy and education, and that there are enough schools and teachers available to provide quality English education to our people. Today's ruling elite may not know how to manage our economy and society, but at least can appear as respectable suited-booted beggars before IMF and the World Bank and do a bit of crisis management. Tomorrow's ministers and bureaucrats will not even know how to write a coherent letter to various aid agencies asking to be bailed out. Fifty years from now we might have to hire foreigners to beg on our behalf just as today we hire western professionals to lobby with foreign governments because our diplomats know little diplomacy.

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