Is English Education An Answer To Dalit’s Woes?

is-english-education-an-ansDalit political scientist Kancha Ilaiah points out that tempests in teacups over politics of symbolism shouldn’t take over a pressing need to make education in English accessible to Dalits. It is important to note here that not just Dalits, large swathes of the country’s students suffer from poor English skills, thanks to Government schools who pay little attention to teaching the language and private schools which treat the language as less of a necessity and more of a social statement. Result? Thousands of Indian students either learn no English or aren’t good at it. Something that needs serious intervention.
Of the several holy cows that populate the Indian socio-political discourse, caste is probably the most sensitive after religion. We were recently treated to a taste of how deep caste-based biases and conflicting political visions, run in the country, when sociologist Ashis Nandy ran into serious legal trouble for commenting that the most number of corrupt people come from the Dalit community.

Of the several holy cows that populate the Indian socio-political discourse, caste is probably the most sensitive after religion. We were recently treated to a taste of how deep caste-based biases and conflicting political visions, run in the country, when sociologist Ashis Nandy ran into serious legal trouble for commenting that the most number of corrupt people come from the Dalit community.

Dalit political scientist and writer Kancha Ilaiah had then brushed aside the controversy. He had said that Nandy’s comments were mis-worded but his intentions were not wrong or directed towards demeaning the Dalits. In an interview withThe Times of India, Ilaiah, however, makes a pertinent observation about what is most important to the Dalits of India. In the present social climate, Ilaiah notes, heart burns over Dalit political narratives shouldn’t take over concerns over education. He points out that the concept of ‘Dalit politics’ is old and has found a comfortable place in the larger political narrative of the country already. However, it is the ‘Dalit intellectual stream’ that is struggling for recognition amid a lot of biases and baggage.
In the interview, he repeatedly points out that it is the lack of access to education in English language that is holding a large section of Indian Dalits back. Asked about what is holding the Dalit community back, Ilaiah says: “The main barrier is the lack of English education, still a faraway dream for most Dalits.” Ilaiah also avoids answering a question on reservation stressing the need for English education instead: The Dalit’s main agenda is not reservations. My way of equality is English education. Even if 10 per centt of our children got English education, the intellectual field would have changed. This country would have changed. My hope is education, not reservation  and I emphasise, English education.
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