Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

India English growth 'too slow'

India student
India's English language skills are slow, a study says

India is falling behind countries such as China in its attempts to increase the use of English among its population, a new report says.

The study by the British Council says a "huge shortage" of teachers and quality institutions is hampering India despite a growing demand for English skills.

The study says China may now have more people who speak English than India.

India's emergence as a major software and IT hub has in part been possible due to its English-educated workers.

'Poor English'

The study, English Next India, by British author David Graddol says English is a "casualty of wider problems in Indian education".

Much of the world is catching India up in terms of the English proficiency of their populations
Report author David Graddol

It says: "The rate of improvement in the English language skills of the Indian population is at present too slow to prevent India from falling behind other countries which have implemented the teaching of English in primary schools sooner, and more successfully.

"China may already have more people who speak English than India."

The report says India will need many more people speaking English to sustain its economic growth.

Increasing demand for English language schools, a rising number of jobs which require English skills as well as growing social mobility are driving demand for English in India, the study says.

But the spread of the language, according to the report, is being hindered by a shortage of English language teaching in schools.

The report says Indian universities fall far short of rival countries in the quality of teaching and research, and "poor English is one of the causes".

Also, the report adds, it is "impossible" to improve standards of English without addressing the problem of "very low levels of academic achievement" of students studying in government and private schools.

The study says a range of approaches is required to improve English proficiency in India, and no single method will help.

English has been spoken in India from the days of colonial rule, but there are no precise estimates on how many Indians speak, read and write English.

One estimate suggests 333 million people in India "use English", but India's National Knowledge Commission says "even now, no more than 1% of our people use English as a second language, let alone a first language".

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