'English, a language of opportunity'

Nilekani, who inaugurated the English for Progress conference at the British Council India Headquarters in Delhi on Wednesday and launched David Graddol book’s English Next India, was at his succinct best. “What the world calls demographic dividend when they refer to India’s young population could quickly turn into a demographic disaster in the absence of access to the right opportunities,” he said. “It’s not just the access to English for better opportunities and a level playing field, but the access to proper infrastructure, the access to good roads that lead to decent schools in villages, and the access to healthcare that can save youth from becoming a demographic disaster,” he observed.

He drew parallels between his vision of India’s Unique Identification Number Project and the British Council’s vision behind Project English: From Policy to Practice, quipping  he was eager to use every platform to plug his pet project! “Both projects are about providing access to those who are not fortunate enough to get equal opportunities,” he said.

NASSCOM President Som Mittal said: “In India, not being able to speak grammatical English is considered a stigma and it soon becomes a barrier to learning. We need to disrupt our traditional methods of teaching language – giving grammar precedence over usage — to see results.”

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