Role and Place of English in India Colonial and Postcolonial Perspective 

According to Graddol (2010),

“Throughout India, there is an extraordinary belief, among almost all castes and classes, in both rural and urban areas, in the transformative power of English. English is seen not just as a useful skill, but as a symbol of a better life, a pathway out of poverty and oppression.”

He further added,

“The challenges of providing universal access to English are significant, and many are bound to feel frustrated at the speed of progress. But we cannot  ignore the way that the English language has emerged as a powerful agent for change in India.”

English in Pre-independence India

The Upanishad Period

In this period, the teacher was referred to as the guru who was considered to be an abode of knowledge and spirituality and embodying good qualities. The teacher has the freedom to select his or her student and the student has the freedom to select his or her teacher as well. Writing developed in the later years due to which, oral transmission of knowledge took place in this period.

The Buddhist Period

During this period, the role of teachers changed. Teachers were required to be proficient in various domains of knowledge. The period emphasized religious education as well as secular education. Takshila and Nalanda were the centers of learning. The monastic system ensured that every learner was under the guidance and supervision of a preceptor (Upajjhaya). The disciple selected the Upajjhaya and respected him.

The Medieval Period

In their dominions, the Mohammedan rulers established schools called Maktabs and colleges called Madrasas. Students were instructed according to the Koran. They had to recite and read it. Writing and arithmetic were also taught. Studying Arabic was compulsory and the medium of language was Persian. The subjects taught in the Madrasas were grammar, rhetoric, theology, logic, metaphysics, literature, jurisprudence, and sciences.

The Modern Period

European missionaries started the scholars and established the teacher training institutions later on before the British arrived. At Serampur near Calcutta, a school to train the teachers was established by the Danish missionaries. Dr. Andrew Bell began with the monitorial system experiment in Madras, which was the basis of the teacher training program. In England, it was referred to as the Bell-Lancaster system. Sir Munro, in his Minute dated 13 December 1823, suggested an allowance increase and the introduction of the varying syllabi for the Hindu and Muslim teachers.

Following the arrival of the British many things changed in the education scenario of India such as the Wood’s Despatch, Lord Stanley Despatch, The Indian Education Commission, and more which in one way or the other have contributed to the educational progress of the nation.

English in India: Postcolonial Perspective

The language policy in Indian education is still something that is in progress. The three-language formula was introduced as a policy to safeguard national and regional interests. The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) also raised some serious concerns about language such as the number of languages that need to be taught, the role of Hindi and English, the teaching of Sanskrit, and more. In 1961, the Conference of Chief Ministers simplified the three-language formula and approved the following:

1. The regional language must be used when it is different from the mother tongue.

2. Hindi must be used in Hindi-speaking areas and other Indian languages in non-Hindi-speaking areas.

3. English or some other common European language can be used.

According to the framework of NCERT (2005),

“English in India today is a symbol of people’s aspirations for quality in education and fuller participation in national and international life … The level of introduction of English has now become a matter of political response to people’s aspirations, rendering almost irrelevant an academic debate on the merits of a very early introduction.”

Using the three-language formula has been seen as a convenient strategy to incorporate all the significant languages in education.