Our obsession with English

Posted: August 7, 2014 in india

The current drama regarding inclusion of English in UPSC’s CSAT reminded me of what I wrote few years back:

In an ideal world, we don’t have to force a foreign language on our people, and our children should be able to become doctors, and engineers without ever having to learn a single word of English. Of course, we are not living in an ideal world, and learning English has become necessary to get a decent education in India. However I still don’t see the point of including English in a competitive exam like JIPMER. I agree that certain level of competence in English is required to pursue a career in medicine. The right way to test for that competence is to use test scores in English just to determine eligibility. Disqualifying people who don’t score certain prescribed minimum in English might be OK. But including English scores in ranking tips the scales in favor of  people in the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, even though higher scores in English may not necessarily translate to better suitability for the course under consideration.

Currently UPSC is trending on twitter. Here is someone who cleared civil services earlier and joined IRS opining about the current UPSC row:

He is right, working knowledge of English is required for our civil service aspirants. I would repeat my stand here on the matter: aspirants can be tested for knowledge of English. Design the test to disqualify candidates who don’t know enough of the language to do their job. That’s about it; don’t use the English test to decide who the best candidate is. Create a level playing filed. The purpose of the English test should be to make sure students can communicate well in English. Beyond that it should have no business in deciding  who the best candidate for the job is. There is a subtle difference between testing for qualification versus ranking based on the test score. There is no reason to use score in English to rank people for IAS/IPS jobs.Not everyone who clears ‘Civils’ is going to be a spokesperson for the Government.


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