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Reformation of English language education system in Bangladesh

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30th-Apr-2018       
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A.B.M. Razaul Karim Faquire, Ph.D. :
Bangladesh has got an English language education (ELE) system comprising compulsory education of Literacy English with an emphasis on the communicative skills as well as the optional education of academic subjects in English medium at all phases of education. The ELE system has been established backed by the guidelines of the National Education Policy (NEP, 2010) given that Bangladesh does not have a language policy. The educators and advocates of ELE in Bangladesh give some arguments in favour of the compulsory provision for the ELE in Bangladesh. They are i) English is a colonial inheritance, ii) English is an international language, iii) English is a means for the access to global knowledge, and iv) English is a means for the access to the global job market. However, these arguments are not enough to make the ELE obligatory in Bangladesh. Because ELE as a system is required to be established and run based on a language planning in compliance with a language policy underpinned by an appropriate ideology. Therefore, Bangladesh needs a framework for establishing an ELE system of its own.
However, there are certain frameworks in order to establish and run a system under the administration of a government. According to Shohamy (2005), the framework to be followed in establishing system like ELE system involves a five-step process: i) creation of an ideological basis, ii) formulation of a language policy underpinned with the linguistic ideologies, iii) interpretation of that policy into ELE planning, iv) establishment of an education administration and v) implementation of the planning through education administration as an ELE system. First of all, Bangladesh needs an appropriate underpinning ideology, which can provide a basis for an appropriate ELE system in Bangladesh. There are three different types of ideology in making provision for a language education system. These are: Educational Ideology, National ideology and Sociolinguistic ideology.  
Educational ideology provides a basis for the formulation of an education policy which backs a basic education inductive to the socialization comprising literacy and numeracy in Bangla not in Arabic or English. Similarly, none of the other two ideologies: National ideology and sociolinguistic ideology provides the basis for the compulsory ELE in Bangladesh. The national ideologies of the nation Bangladesh are Bangalee nationalism, Democracy, Socialism and Religious neutrality.
Among them, Bangalee nationalism provides a basis for the formulation of a language policy conducive to the promotion of Bangla and Democracy provides a basis for the formulation of a language policy which will allow one to choose a foreign language for study out of several foreign languages. The sociolinguistic ideologies (source: Cobarrubias, 1983) accounts for the ideology of Assimilation, Linguistic Pluralism, Revitalization, and Internationalization. Among these sociolinguistic ideologies, the plurilingual countries like Kenya, Ivory Coast and India make use of English as a tool for the Assimilation in integrating the people of different speech communities into a larger society in building their postcolonial nations. Contrary to those countries, Bangladesh does not require English as a tool for assimilation, because its population is well assimilated along the national language of Bangla. Among the sociolinguistic ideologies, Internationalization only provides the basis for the formulation of a language policy covering education of languages other than the national language Bangla in Bangladesh.
Therefore, the language policy, which the sociolinguistics ideology of internationalization supports, must cover the education of foreign languages. The term internationalization is now connoted to its broader term of globalization (meaning a process which involves the exchange of ideas, education, culture, commodities and capital etc., for the benefit of the countries and regions taking part in this process) which provides a basis for the education of global/area studies (studies of areas in foreign countries) and the languages spoken in those foreign countries. Hence, foreign language policy supports a foreign language education system, which will keep a provision for the education of foreign languages including Korean, Malay, Swedish and English but not a compulsory provision of ELE in Bangladesh.   
Though none of the above ideologies favours the compulsory ELE, it is run as a part of basic education and involves a cost of approximately one-fifth (source: BANBEIS annual report) of the total education expenses, which is financed mostly with the public money allocated in the national budget.
The national budget is allocated for the ELE with the wish to develop human resources capable of contributing to the economy of Bangladesh. Since the ELE does not comprise the basic education, it owes an economic analysis (EA) with regard to the effect of ELE policy on the budget (cost-effectiveness analysis) and the extent of costs of ELE that outweigh the benefits (cost-benefit analysis). A study [conducted by the author of the article 'Reconsidering the Prevalent English Language Education System in Bangladesh'. Journal of the International Mother Language Institute. Vol. 1, No. 1 December 2017.] on the EA of expenses fueled in the ELE shows that the prevalent ELE practices have continued to incur both implicit and explicit opportunity costs in six different forms.
These opportunity costs shed light on the extent and nature of wastages incurred from the ELE expenses causing to hinder the sustainable development of education sector in Bangladesh.
Hence, Bangladesh requires a Foreign Language Education policy, which will address the issues of i) opportunity costs derived from the budget fueled as costs of ELE and ii) measures to be undertaken in discarding these opportunity costs, so that a maximum benefit of the ELE can be attained for the sustainable development of education sector in Bangladesh.
Thus, the above discussion [based on the study of author cited previously] leads to take following steps in establishing a new ELE system in Bangladesh: i) undertaking the globalization as an underpinning ideology, ii) formulation of a foreign language policy underpinned by the ideology of globalization, iii) interpreting the ideology of globalization into a language planning, iv) implementation of that language planning, v) reformation of the prevalent ELE system complying with new foreign language policy, vi) abolition of the compulsory provision of ELE as a part of the reformation of prevalent ELE system and v) establishment of a new foreign language education system with the optional provision for education of foreign studies and the languages associated with those foreign studies.    

(A.B.M. Razaul Karim Faquire, PhD is a professor of Institute of Modern Languages, University of Dhaka).

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