Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why the English Language? Why Literacy? Why India?

In my last post, I wrote about my experience conducting English language instruction and literacy training to volunteers who were teaching students who come from the leprosy colonies. Related to this, I came across an article in Deseret News on Friday that shares information about the Bindu art school in one of the colonies served by Rising Star Outreach. As I contemplate the different education programs instigated in India to help these individuals come closer to reaching their potential and developing talents and skills, the sociologist may ask, "Why education?" "Why English?" "Why literacy?" "Why India?"
India has the largest pool of scientists and technologists after the US, but almost half of the population is illiterate. That's significant. The current caste system in India is based moreso on an individual's education level than their family background as previously perceived. In other words, education is the key to unlock opportunities for students. It's the key empower students.
What is involved in teaching English? Many skills are involved: reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc. What is most important? This is not an easy question to answer; however, a huge part of education is knowing how to read. Reading is needed in every subject. In addition, a huge part of learning English is increasing English vocabulary. If students can’t read, their English vocabulary level plateaus. It’s through reading that students increase their vocabulary. Further, it’s through reading that students unlock the world of education.
Whenever an opportunity to educate in a context where education is not an integral part of a culture surfaces, I invite you to think about this quote attributed to an Australian aborigine: "If you've come to help me, you can go home again. But if my problems become a matter of your own survival, then perhaps we can work together."


  1. The quote by the Australian Aborgine was indeed very powerful. In order to help, the helper should feel the pain. There are many reasons why reading is critical and of course there's no other way to educate oneself than a healthy habit of reading. Sites like are a great step forward in this direction and their effort to make the learning easy, engaging and accessible is a welcome change for the students who are plagued by fear of failure.
    Education is about learning and making it fun to do so, should be the rule for every educational institute.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your thoughts!