Sunday, December 03, 2006

Placeless Accent

The pool of institutions in India that gives their graduates the wherewithal to get a decent job is a little bigger than what this NYT article will have you believe. However, the report is directionally accurate. Post independence the class divide in India has been about having a placeless English accent or a thick local one. The opportunities that come to the former are orders of magnitudes apart from those that do to the later.

Local state governments, for various political reasons and misguided efforts at bolstering national pride make English inaccessible to students up to high school level. Once these kids get into college, the language handicap proves too much to overcome and they never make it to the uber-class level despite having comparable merit.

The bulk of recent graduates being from the lower class causes frustration to be rife both among employers and employees. Whereas, the specific job skills required to be successful at a call center or BPO operation are very simple and easily teachable, overhauling the cultural conditioning that comes from lack of exposure to an westernized school system and English language often proves impossible. Parents lacking the means to send their children to a decent English medium school can seriously limit their future employment prospects.

The exceptionally talented of the under class do make it to the big companies, may write world class software as well but they would not rise to any significant management levels in the organization - their oral and written communication skills would prove woefully inadequate. It is not cool to present in a local Indian language even to an all desi audience.

The language gap in India is a manufactured problem to a large extent. If we had the sense to allow the multitudes to speak and write in a language they were most comfortable in instead of making them feel like pariahs in the corporate world for not being fluent in English, we would have made better use of our talent pool.

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