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Letter from London: Valedictory letter

EducationWorld August 2019 | International News

I am sorry to inform my readers that a serious illness prevented me from writing my Letter from London last month, and even more disappointed that this will be my last one ever. Writing this monthly letter has been the greatest joy and honour of my past two years.

In my last despatch, I complimented EW’s sister journal ParentsWorld for its outstanding analysis of the growing phenomenon of home schooling. Sadly, I now have to follow this bouquet with a brickbat. Among several excellent and useful features in the May 2019 edition of PW was one about helping children to love science which begins with a piece of mythology that is completely beyond stupidity.

The author stated that Lord Macaulay’s Education Act of 1835, which replaced Persian with English as the medium of instruction for the people of India, is the root cause of today’s mindless rote-learning and loss of intellectual creativity. As I acknowledged in my letter of March 2019, there was, of course, a Gradgrind mentality of stifling creativity in Victorian England so shatteringly castigated by Charles Dickens in Hard Times. But was there an age that was also more creative scientifically, technologically, industrially, in literature and in culture? What sort of preparation would instruction in Persian have been for a future world superpower (the current condition of Iran is instructive)? How anyone can write such rot is beyond belief.

English is the sole link language of India and its educated elites, as well as the world’s international language, and it is with typical foresight and wisdom that the editors of EW have co-published a unique text and video English Speech and Pronunciation (2019) which is proving hugely successful in China simply because first-class English is the key to success in both countries. It is a new, unique and life-transforming programme designed to teach students to speak English fluently, correctly, confidently and impressively, with a neutral accent that will be understood and respected around the world.

Instead of waxing nostalgic about a non-existent golden age of Persian creativity, the writers of the PW feature would have done better to be realistic and quote people who are really knowledgeable about modern India and its requirements. I mean people like distinguished banker and entrepreneur Jerry Rao, who recently spoke on a BBC programme on the importance of English in India as follows: “Even if you have a Masters degree but your English is poor, you are likely to be a participant in a labour market where salaries are significantly lower… English is, in India, a skill.”

Once again, as I sadly take my leave of EW readers for the last time, I wish this publication every success in its tremendous contribution to improvement of India’s education system. India has a brilliant future ahead of it thanks to the remarkable symbiosis of our two great countries.

(A classics scholar at Cambridge, and former professor at Cape Town University, Dr. Peter Greenhalgh passed away on July 31. RIP — Editor)

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