An article by Max de Lotbiniere in the Guardian Weekly of 5 July 2011 (www.guardian.co.uk) cites a British Council Report released last month to show that English speakers in Third World countries had a higher earning power — by 25 per cent — than others. The research was conducted in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Cameroon and Rwanda. It also found that the US and UK invested a greater amount of their FDI in countries where English was more prevalent.
Lotbiniere also notes that the ‘benefits of English are being felt predominantly by urban elites, who have access to a better standard of teaching – mostly delivered through private education – and higher-paid jobs’.
This inequity in the education system has been pointed out by other observers as well. Prof Chris Kennedy, director of the Centre for English Language Studies at the UK’s Birmingham University, pointed out that the report did not offer insights into the ‘effectiveness of government policies promoting English language learning, such as using English as the medium of instruction in schools’. This is a hotly debated issue. He felt that the complexities of the situation have not been taken into consideration, that will come in the way of policy implementation.
The article continues, ‘Journalist Zubeida Mustafa, whose book about her native Pakistan, Tyranny of Language in Education, was published last month, says the benefits of English in Pakistan are restricted to a tiny minority and have resulted in ineffective education policy.
“English cannot solve our ills. There are not enough teachers who know English and can teach in English. Children cannot comprehend what they are taught,” Mustafa said.
“The artificially created demand for English has distorted the language in education strategy. In fact there is no strategy and schools are following a hit-and-miss method mixing English, Urdu and local languages.”
Michael Carrier, head of the Council’s ELT arm, is quoted as saying the report provides the statistical evidence to back up the organisation’s belief that English has economic benefits for developing countries, but that it is a first step and further research is needed.He spoke of the importance of bridging the gap between the urban and rural areas.