Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No English language skills, no social mobility

Dalits, the underclass in India’s caste system—says the Wall Street Journal—are benefiting from India’s rapid economic growth. Says WSJ:
“India's rapid economic expansion -- and its booming high-tech sector -- are beginning to chip away at the historical system that reserved well-paying jobs for upper castes and menial jobs for Dalits. With annual gross-domestic-product growth exceeding 9%, companies that have hired tens of thousands of workers in recent years are looking beyond their traditional sources of employees. High-tech firms, both foreign and domestically based, are at the forefront of that search. As a result, some Dalits are rising into India's middle class.”

Encouraging so far, except that when one reads deeper into the story, the author says that only few of the Dalits are actually benefiting:

“Still, success stories … are rare. Estimates of the number of Dalits with skilled jobs and steady salaries in India's New Economy vary from tens of thousands to around 100,000, according to employers, workers, experts and government officials. That's out of a total Dalit population estimated at about 167 million, or about 16% of India's total population of 1.03 billion.”
Government and the private sector are actually trying hard to recruit Dalits into the economic mainstream through affirmative action. The problem?

"Many Dalits, especially in rural areas, don't have a shot at a decent education-- a must for the fastest-growing areas of India's economy like software development, medicine and engineering. Those that are educated are typically taught in their native language, leaving them ill-prepared to compete with wealthier, English-schooled job applicants."

Yes, poor education and, specifically, lack of English language skills! They can’t just rise up the social ladder because they are poorly educated and can’t speak decent English!

This is also true in the Philippines. Wherever you go, companies always require good English skills. And yet some people in this country are still saying adopting English as a medium of instruction in elementary schools would aggravate the social divide. I don’t get it.

Related posts
Master English or perish
Mastering English the Chinese way
Addressing skills-jobs mismatch in the Philippines

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