off the Ladder
nurses trained at the local nursing colleges qualify in
the professional exams but fail the simple IELTS exams while
applying for jobs in North American hospitals. In our private
sector, the garment industry, that constitutes almost 70
percent exports of the country, employs most of their middle
managers from neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, India
and Nepal. In addition, hardly any Bangladeshi is running
the show in the donor agency community that operates in
Bangladesh even though many have vast international experience,
let alone PhDs. Likewise, the top-level positions in such
organisations are filled up by the articulate professionals
from the neighbouring countries.
three are simple examples taken from the current institutional
and corporate establishments in Bangladesh. What is common
in all three situations? Is it because we are incompetent
and lazy? Surely not. Is it then the lack of English fluency
hindering Bangladesh from making the most of global opportunities?
The answer is affirmative. Overall, the standard of English
is quite sluggish, and this is a loss for Bangladesh. Bangladeshis
could have done better globally if we had upscaled our English
take a look at the past. In the 50s to early 70s as a result
of having tensions with West Pakistan, as a nation, we decided
to establish Bangla as our first language. It was mainly
to keep our Bangla identity and language, that we got liberated.
In the 80s when we formed SAARC (South Asian Association
for Regional Co-operation), and started to share stronger
collaboration with our regional neighbours, we failed again
to observe that Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and India took
both their local languages and English up to a dynamic scale,
and made sure that their citizens were educated in English.
Our practice then was quite reactive, we still hesitated
with the EITHER 'Bangla' OR 'English' concept. As a result,
we simply failed to join the race with our neighbours.
now we have entered the age of globalisation where every
day new opportunities are opening up with new forms of competition
from all the countries of the world. English is equally
important as Bangla for us to get into the global mainstream.
As we did not prepare for it, we are now struggling. Interestingly
Tagore can be called a 'global Bangali', long before globalisation
became a catch word and English gave him that edge.
like Singapore, have greatly benefited by using English
in their mainstream practices. Being a tiny state, Singapore
has become a global hub. Their entirely English-based education
system has a lot to do with it. The Chinese are catching
up in this regard. They have made English compulsory in
their curriculum, and have hired a lot of English teachers
for the purpose. I just wish we had some strong initiatives
taken at home for the purpose.
there is more emphasis on writing instead of spoken English
in our classrooms. The skills learnt are not enough to make
one an articulate English speaker for the future. It does
not matter the number of years of studying English, what
matters most is the quality. Having said that we need a
lot of skilled and articulate English teachers in the country
to overcome our shortages.
situation is even worse in the schools outside the capital,
Dhaka. Due to shortages of good English teachers outside
Dhaka, the standard of the students suffer, as a result.
Eventually, when a Bangla medium student from outside Dhaka
enrols into a public or private university in Dhaka, it
becomes almost impossible for that particular individual
regardless to get a job at an international bank or multinational
corporations that predominantly employs students with better
way things are going in almost five years time, hypothetically,
we are going to have four different professional sub-societies
in the country: professionals who studied in: (1.) English
medium schools, (2.) Bangla medium schools from Dhaka, (3.)
Bangla medium schools from the rest of the country, (4.)
Madrasas. Such 'class conflicts' or 'differences' would
adversely impact our professional life, and is bad for our
to standardise our English, Bangladesh needs to come up
with 'phase wise' and 'region wise' English training methodologies
and a greater number of professional English teachers both
in the primary and secondary level. Moreover, we should
overcome our shortages by reading more, thinking to be creative,
writing in a way that influences people, and simultaneously
combine and pursue these traits in English. In addition,
presentation is an area where we need to increasingly pay
untiring Bangladeshis all over the Middle East could have
been much economically productive if their English fluency
were like that of the expatriates from the Philippines,
Sri Lankan, or even India. Since manpower is our biggest
asset, let us make the best use of this priceless resource.
Philippines, Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Eastern European countries
are doing remarkably well following such thoughts into practices.
It is about time that we get a piece of the cake.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005