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Monday, April 18, 2011

English fever and low self-esteem

Chinese may be learning English but they are not switching their medium to English—all higher education takes place in Chinese.
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The obsession with English-medium education, particularly for technical and higher studies, is keeping millions of Indian children behind. The top business and professional schools in India remain English-based—their entrance exams are not only in English but specifically test English-language skills. A child in China, or for that matter, Japan or South Korea, does not have to deal with debilitating switch in medium to go to engineering, medical or business school.
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it is worth remembering that only four of the richest 20 economies in the world, by highest per-capita income, are English-based. Universal education, not English-medium, is what gives China the advantage over India.
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It is also a fallacy that our software success is built on knowledge of English. Israel’s population is half of Delhi’s, yet its software exports rival our own. It is true that many people in Israel do know English, though not many know it well. When I was a manager for Microsoft visiting my team in Haifa, I was surprised to find that the medium of communication—written and oral—within the Microsoft Israel office was Hebrew.
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When I was working at Microsoft, Redmond, we flew software engineers from as far away as Russia for interviews. Some of these people did not speak a word of English—I interviewed them through interpreters and they were some of the best hires I made.

Yet, in India, we may overlook talent if we insist on conducting interviews for technical candidates only in English, rather than the language they would be most comfortable speaking. The goal—to evaluate them based on their technical proficiency, rather than their knowledge of English.

—Sankrant Sanu in Opportunities Beyond English article in Entrepreneur magazine, March 2010

When I discussed about the article with Heleena (about 1-year ago), she told me that it's not possible to change low self-esteemed Indians.

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