Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Postcolonial innovations and transformations: Putting language in the forefront

From Colonial Baggage to Competitive Advantage: The Growth of English into the National Growth Strategies of India and Malaysia

Thomas Chacko / Mohammed Shukri Al Yajib (University College of Technology and Management, Malaysis)



Nationalists, liberal democrats, leftist historians, and post-colonialist literary analysts have critically examined, and despite the differences in philosophy among themselves, almost uniformly castigated the role that English was made to play by British colonialists in the economic exploitation and psychological suppression of their subjects. Orientalist projects such as politically motivated teaching of English Language and Literature, and simultaneous denigration of all native forms of artistic expression had to be continually deconstructed and racist-supremacist prejudices behind language- and -literature pedagogy exposed as part of the former colonists' intellectual emancipation from imposed Western modes of thought and judgment. Such a rebellious reading of colonial engagement with the intellectual life of the colonists is necessary not only to correct historical perceptions, but also to thwart current neo-colonialist projects like Intellectual Property Rights and World Trade Organization, which seek to hold former colonies in perpetual thraldom to the West. However, a number of historical forces, circumstances, and tendencies have combined to lend a special status to one of colonialism's enduring legacies, viz, English language, and a reasonably stable and competent system of teaching English as a second language and as the medium of instruction and evaluation of science, technology, and medicine. Added to the demographic and cognitive advantages of former colonies like India, the wide-spread knowledge of English among their young people invests these countries with an especially sharp edge in innovation and international competition.

In this paper, we examine how the Governments of India and Malaysia, and national organizations like India's NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) have sought to integrate this "English Advantage" into the national growth strategies of the countries in their bid to derive maximum benefits from the opportunities offered by emergent business trends like off-shoring and BPO which accompany capitalism's latest survival strategies, viz., liberalization and globalization. Though the initiatives have not been without controversies, the governments have decided to stick to the policy of ensuring and extending opportunities for education of and in English. Our paper will examine the policy decisions and pedagogic developments as well as explore the chances and challenges that this intricate interplay among language, education, nationality and identity, and economics and politics holds for teachers of English at various levels, especially at tertiary/professional education levels.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-27