English medium education
State governments should take steps to shift all government schools to English medium. Image: iStock

Not just BJP, Left has also kept masses away from English education

Communist leaders preach and practise exactly what the Sangh Parivar leaders do — English medium for the netas and regional language education for the masses

Rahul Gandhi’s stand on English medium education for all children on the basis of language and knowledge equality is a challenge not only to the RSS-BJP ruling class, but also to the Communist dual stand on the school education system. On the question of English-medium education for all classes, Communist leaders preached and practised exactly what the RSS-BJP leaders did — English medium for the leaders and regional language education for the masses.

Addressing a rally in Rajasthan’s Alwar as a part of the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul said: “BJP leaders don’t want English to be taught in schools. But the children of all their leaders go to English-medium schools. Actually, they don’t want the children of poor farmers and labourers to learn English, dream big and get out of the fields.” 

He also said that all the RSS-BJP leaders, including Amit Shah, who is spearheading the movement for anti-English and pro-Hindi school college and university education in the government sector, send their own children to high-class private English-medium schools, colleges and universities. The RSS-BJP leaders’ nation is not ‘one’ when it comes to the life of their own children and the children of the productive masses, he added.

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The CPI, CPM and other small Maoist/Naxalite group leaders have never taken a stand on the potential social, political and cultural revolutionary agent, English-medium education for all. At least, not like Rahul Gandhi took during his Bharat Jodo Yatra. They know very well that education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution and the state governments have full powers to implement equal language and content education for all — the working class and the bourgeoisie.  

Dual education system

The Communist leaders of India mostly are petty-bourgeoisie and upper caste. They too educate their own children in the best English-medium schools available in their respective states and also in national institutions, and leave the children of the food-producing parents to regional languages with sub-standard syllabi. 

But even in states like West Bengal and Kerala, where they were/are in power for a long time, they have followed a dual education system of private English and public Bengali/Malayalam. Their central committees and Politburos have never seriously discussed the role of English-medium education in India. After over 200 years of its existence, how can English still be called colonial? 

The Left leaders know that all the major institutions of India conduct their business in English and if the rural people do not learn that language, they will be slaves in democratic India, too.

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In fact, for a long time, they propagated the same kind of mother tongue chauvinist ideology like the RSS-BJP. The believers in Communist internationalism and in the theory of ‘Workers of the World Unite’ closed a channel of international communication for the working class of India by asking them to educate themselves in regional languages. 

In what language should the working class of the world speak to each other if not in English?

English not a foreign language

Unlike the RSS-BJP leaders who read only Indian works like the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Manu Dharma in Sanskrit or in regional languages, the Communist leaders read the writings of Marx, Lenin, Mao and, of course, some Indian books, in English. But they never realised that English as an international language must also reach the children of the working class. 

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After 75 years of Independence and about 100 years of existence of the Communist ideology in India, English still remains a foreign language for the working class but it remains the ‘home language’ of the top national level Communist leaders.                         

The idea that ‘English is a colonial language’ has become a tool in the hands of all political leaders to keep the working mass as modern blind followers without acquiring the ability to question them. In the RSS-BJP, at least many top leaders like Mohan Bhagwat, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah cannot speak and write good English. The situation among the Communist leaders is different. In their committee meetings, they use only English.

Rahul Gandhi comes from a family of three generations of prime ministers and the longest-serving Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi. But, unlike other leaders, he realised in the padayatra the difference between South and North, between English-medium educated youth and regional language-educated youth. He saw the difference in their dreams. He knows the opportunities in an advanced capitalist globalised and liberalised world for English-educated youth. 

That is the reason why, to counter the Modi-Shah “One Language (Hindi) One Nation” theory, he said that with Hindi they cannot dream big, cannot get out of farm labour, cannot engage with America, Europe and so on. Is it not true? 

Tool for communication

How can Communists not understand the basic truth that without English they cannot also speak to China, Russia and the whole of Africa, which was also liberated from colonialism much later than us?  What is the national language of South Africa today? Is it not English? How can a Communist’s dialectical thinking miss out this fact?

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It is for MK Stalin as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and Pinarayi Vijayan, as the Chief Minister of Kerala, to take a call and introduce the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana model of English medium in government schools with one language (Tamil/Malayalam).

If the Congress comes to power in Karnataka in the next election, that government will have to follow the advice of Rahul Gandhi. Then the whole South would have shifted to English-medium education in government schools. 

The Tamil Dalits are more sentimental about their Tamil nationalism.  The Tamil Brahmins and Chettiars shifted to complete English-medium education a long time back. Gita Ramasway, in her memoir Land, Guns, Caste, Women, tells how the most conservative Brahmin families sent their girl children to Catholic Christian schools. She also tells how the children and the parents went through the trauma of confronting the cultural clash between primitive Brahmin family culture and liberating English-medium school culture. 

Path to success

English-medium education has made most conservative Brahmins global citizens and rulers now. Kamala Harris and Rishi Sunak are outstanding examples of that transformation. All other castes would have produced such global rulers if they too were given English-medium education.       

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The Brahmin migrants to America are realising their American dream. US Vice-President Kamala Harris, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and former Coca-Cola CEO Indra Nooyi are known big Tamil Brahmin names that got everything in the world with English language education. 

The Dalits of Tamil Nadu and Kerala should not live in a fool’s paradise for long. The government schools currently teach only one subject in English from classes 1 to 10 in both the states. That is not going to help in the future. It should be English-medium school education for all with one subject in regional language.  

The regional political leaders are afraid of hypocritical intellectuals and media network owners, who educate their own children in English medium private schools and preach about Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada sub-nationalist pride. Such an intellectual class must be opposed with all the strength at the command of Dalit/Adivasi organic intellectuals, and English education should be pushed into their families and communities. That is the only way out of their historical enslavement.

(Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist and author. He has been campaigning for English medium education in all government schools of India for the past 30 years.)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal.)

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