In this paper I would like to dwell on the subtle interiorization of coloniser’s culture by the educated Indian in the postcolonial city space as reflected in Bhavani Prasad Mishra’s poem ‘Kya Karte Rahte hain’. This poem can be read as a document of fractured modern identity of the educated class in Indian cities at the threshold of post Gandhian era. Gandhi had criticized this class for becoming obsessed with Englishman’s language and ways. Bhavani Prasad Mishra, a Gandhian in thought and by practice, is deeply disturbed by the Englishman’s parting gift, the poisoned sweet that is being spread by the modern education system. The poem is about a class which is obsessed with English language and culture. It describes how the Western mode of education and work patterns have shifted our attention and energy away from our more urgent problems to pursue the goal of becoming a ‘Developed Nation’, an idea propagated by the West. Mishra’s poem questions this belief and undercuts the notion that achieving the status of a developed country would provide us with immense power and endless zones of comfort and convenience.
21st century has seen globalization, IT boom and the Internet shift the world focus from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based society impacting the ELT paradigm across the world. In the light of rapid pace of socio-economic development and the emergence of information age, demand has arisen for ‘knowledgeable workers’ and ‘smarter graduates’ equipped with a set of new skills and attitude towards work.
I feel sad and even annoyed when I hear teachers and parents complaining about the poor performance standards of students in English. ‘This is unfair,’ I would say to myself. ‘Have we ever asked those kids to communicate their ideas?’ No. All what we have done is teach them bits and fragments of English in terms of discrete sounds, words and sentences. When we ask them a question we expect them to reproduce the information that has been given to them. We don’t want them to come out with their ideas; nor do we encourage them to ask us questions, as both involve risk, the risk of making errors. Probably we have taught them hundreds of questions and answers and also have made them do several vocabulary and grammar exercises. We even go to the extent of teaching them nuances of pronunciation. By definition none of these activities provide space for communication, though we may claim that we are following communicative language teaching. I feel annoyed because this is a collective treachery inflicted on the learners as well as the teachers.
Two decades ago, the UNESCO supported World Conference on Special Needs education led to the creation of the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. The key premise of the action plan was to encourage schools to “accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions.” The statement further states that children who are “disabled… and…from other disadvantaged or marginalised areas or groups” need to be catered to by the school system (Salamanca Framework, 1994). Inclusive education is thus an umbrella term that encompasses educational practices across institutions that are sensitive and responsive to diverse populations of children.
There is a requirement for qualified and capable business professionals who can sustain India’s economic growth. This is perhaps the reason that the number of students seeking admission to the MBA (Masters in Business Administration) has escalated over the years. According to a report by MBAuniverse.com, the number of MBA seats in India has grown four fold, from 94,704 in 2006-07 to 35, 2571 in 2011-12. While there is no dearth in the number of management graduates in the market, employers claim that only a small percentage is actually employable. A survey of 2,264 MBA graduates carried out by MeritTrac, an Indian Assessment and Testing Company in 2012 showed that only 21% were employable. Graddol observes that ‘a part of the unemployment problem emanates from the mismatch between the skill requirements of the market and the skill base of the job seekers’(Graddol, 2009, p.106).