Friday, 27 November 2015


According to the 18th edition of SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) US, Mandarin (Chinese) is spoken by 850 million people as their first language and by 3 million as a second language; English is spoken by 380 million people as their mother tongue and by 510 million as a second language. In total English is spoken by 890 million people across the globe. These data are enough to say that the popularity of English is likely to exceed that of Mandarin.  English is used as an official language in several countries.

Likewise, according to research, the top 10 English speaking countries in the world are: the UK (97.74%), Australia (97.03 %), the US (95.81%), the Philippines (92.58%), Canada (85.18%), Germany (56%), Nigeria (53.34%), France (36%), Italy (29%) and India (11.38%). Most of the people who want to specialize in English prefer the UK, the US, Australia and Canada to other English speaking nations. The tests that are recognized by these countries to enroll in their universities are International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Pearson Test of English (PTE) and Cambridge English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) etc.  Globally very demanding course at the moment is MA Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MA TESOL).

English in South Asia
Many researchers opine that the history of English in South Asia is one of prolonged heated debates and controversies. The controversies about the legacy of English and desirably of its continued place in language policies and its cultural associations have still not abated. Yet, the political map of South Asia is completely altered now from the way it’s when the English language was originally introduced to the subcontinent two centuries ago. The profile of English in the subcontinent is also different from that in 1947 when the colonial period came to an end as the country was divided into India and Pakistan. In 1972, an independent nation, Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan after considerable bloodshed. The population in South Asia is increasing year by year and so is the number of English speakers.

Since South Asia is linguistically diverse, English can serve as an instrumental link language between countries and regions. English is an official language in India and Pakistan. In the rest of the countries English is used as a language of education and medium of instruction. In Iran, an Asian Muslim nation, English is taught as a foreign language just from Grade 7. Across the South Asian or Asian region, English is seen as essential in accessing the best education and job opportunities. English was a must only in high-level careers but is in demand now in every walk of life. It has to be used by individuals who come from different walks of life.

For the demand for English has increased across South Asia, English education has become more prominent in the national curricula of these countries—in part to better equip school leavers for the job market. In Bangladesh, for instance, it’s mandatory from Grade 1 and an indispensable part of a school leaving certificate. Likewise, in Nepal, English is a compulsory subject right from Pre-School to Tertiary Level. Low-cost private English-medium schools are mushrooming across the region in response to parental demand for English background and as a reaction to the low quality of government school. In Andhra Pradesh, India, for example the choice of private schooling increased from 24 per cent among children born in 1994-5 to 44 per cent among children born in 2001-2. Private English language tutoring schools are also common across the region. Despite the increase in provision of English, the low quality of education that is often provided means that demands are not being met

Relationship between English and Economy in SA
Capstick, a researcher, lays emphasis on fluency which leads to increased opportunities for migration among migrants from Pakistan. A piece of research from Bangladesh suggests that if migrant workers were well equipped with vocational skills, including English, the remittance earnings could go up by $30 billion a year. As English  is regarded a benchmark of  quality education, culture and status across South Asia, knowledge of the language is perceived to lead to enhanced social status.

Unemployment rates in South Asian Countries (CIA, 2013)
Unemployment rate              Youth unemployment (15-24)
             35.0% (2008)                                                  NA    
             5.0%   (2012)                                 9.3%    (2005)
             8.5%   (2012)                                 10.2%  (2010)
             15.5% (2012)                                 23%     (2008)
             46.0% (2008)                                                    NA
             6.2%   (2012)                                  7.7%   (2008)
Sri Lanka
             5.2%   (2012)                                 19.4 % (2010)

*Bhutan and the Maldives are excluded but Iran added on research purpose.
Not only is South Asia home to nearly one quarter of the world’s population and the most densely populous geographical region in the world but also the financially poor zone with the lowest GDP per capita. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the countries to facilitate people’s entry into the workforce by proffering them computer literacy, communication skills, vocational training and English language skills and making people cognizant of global occurrences. This would allow them to take advantage of employment opportunities in both home countries and abroad. Furthermore, on account of English language skills, an individual can be self-employed by running language institutions and expanding business because English is the only means of communication.

English in Nepal
Australia has been the most favourite overseas study destination for the Nepalese. According to Ministry of Education (MoE), this fiscal year the number of students applying for the No Objection Letter has doubled over the last four years with as many as 29,380 students applying for the letter from mid-July 2014 to mid-June this year. Australia is the second, after Japan as the destination of Nepali students due to the strictness in visa process. In the fiscal year 2070/71 11, 184 letters were issued for Australia, 7,933 for Japan, 1456 for the US, 1003 for India and 438 for the UK. What conclusion we can draw from these data is that English speaking nations are their major destinations for their tertiary studies. The applicants for the No Objection Letter are bound to soar up as many Nepalis have been waiting for the IELTS dates for the past nine months. In the long run Nepalis will hone their English language skills.
The Flash 1 Report 2010-11 released by MoE states that the total enrolment at school level reached to 848,569 in 2011 from 587,566 in 2004. The total average annual growth rate during the period was 5.4 %. Of the total 587,566 students in 2004, in total 13.3 % in institutional and 86.7% were in public schools, whereas it’s 16.5 % students were in institutional schools in the school year 2011. Compared to the year 2010-11, the share of enrollment in institutional schools noticeably increased in the school year 2011-12. Poor school management, lack of English medium classes and poor SLC results have resulted in the poor enrollment in public schools.

There’s always a dearth of manpower that possess a good command of English in Nepal. According to the Office of Controller of Examination 2014, average marks obtained in English out of 75 (excluding 25 practical marks) was 30.26 in Regular SLC Exam Results 2070. In addition to it, Public Service Commission (PSC) has recently published the results of written exam for the post of Secondary English, Grade 3 in the year 2071-72. Although required no. is 69, a total of 1934 applications were dropped for the very post excluding Central Development Region. This too hints at the rising number of university graduates who specialize in English.
Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), founded in 1992 to set up a common platform for all English Language Teachers so as to support their professional development, collaborates with the British Council Nepal, American Embassy, Ministry of Education and Sports and Room to Read to improve the lives of people through English.  In 2009, Santosh Bhattarai in his editorial of NELTA Choutari delineates the topic ‘English as an Official Language in Nepal’. The topic was further reinforced by ELT practitioners and personages like Ganga Ram Gautam, an Associate Professor at TU and ex-president of NELTA, Kashi Raj Pandey, Asst. Professor of English at KU, Shyam Sharma, an assistant professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University, US etc. The growing importance has been realized in Nepal as well. Sajan Kumar Karn in a Journal of NELTA, Vol 16, Dec 2011, discusses ‘Inventing Identities in English’. If English is adopted as an official language in Nepal, Nepalese people are bound to enhance their job prospects not only in the local market but also in the global market.

After intensive study of some research, I can say confidently that there is an obvious need for skills development in South Asia and that people with higher literacy and numeracy skills and English language skills are more likely to gain employment and earn higher wages. Studies like Azam, Chin and Prakash have produced impressive findings, citing increases in wages of 13% for speaking a little English and 34% for speaking it fluently, and such statistics have been celebrated in the media. The details of such studies, however, are often neglected. English is promoted as if it’s a panacea for poverty and skills development, and the fact that English accrues with other socio-economic variables and is only likely to be acquired if there’s a strong base of general education is not kept in sight. No matter what research indicates, perceptions and ideologies about the value of English are pervasive and very strong across South Asia – even for the rural poor.

 Amar Bahadur Sherma [Editor-in-chief]  

No comments:

Post a Comment