English for marginalized youth
Having worked with marginalized communities through not-for-profits and corporate social responsibility, there is one reality that has always hit me hard. Any input that seeks to enhance the opportunities for marginalized youth, needs to factor in their lived socio-economic experiences. Unless that is understood, the relevance of the input is diluted.
Is English language training relevant for all groups of youth? This question is intimately connected with considering English as a means to an end and not as an end in itself. If English is an end in itself, then perhaps its relevance as a language may or may not be relevant to all sections of society. However, the relevance is immediate, if English is a means to an end, where it assists in securing a job/higher salary/starting an enterprise.
Marginalization can be class/caste/ethnicity/gender/disability related/religion related. As the term suggests, marginalized groups have suffered decades of discrimination, have been bereft of social justice and subject to atrocities. Their access to education is limited. Even when in the classrooms, it has been noted that they tend to receive little to no attention from teachers. Since they are subjected to discrimination at other levels in life too, it leads to low self-esteem and confidence. The absorption capacity of the groups that are being taught English hence, depends on their socio-economic realities. Consequently, an understanding of their lived experience needs to be factored into the preparation of the trainings. Against this background, in the job/livelihoods market, there is need for measures to bring marginalized youth to a level playing field with youth from other community groups.
Along with economic gains, the increase in social status alters a marginalized identity and replaces it with one that garners respect. I have seen the transformation in the perception of marginalized groups that learnt to navigate in English. This transformation was most inspiring since it was related to how they saw themselves after spending years of feeling like a lesser being. English language skills can act as a catalyst that brings equity and hence inclusion.
Dr. Joy Deshmukh Ranadive is an economist by training and a social scientist by practice.
She comes with over three decades of experience in the area of social development. She is an Advisor and Consultant to NGOs and corporates on issues of sustainability CSR, gender and social programmes. Dr. Joy retired as Global Head CSR of Tata Consultancy Services where she was responsible for the strategy, policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and impact measurement of CSR programmes. She has earlier been Director, Indian School of Microfinance for Women in Ahmedabad; Country Director, International Centre for Research on Women which is head quartered in Washington.
A doctorate in Economics and a gold medalist at MA from the University of Mumbai, Dr. Joy has several books and papers to her credit in the areas of gender, development, microfinance, human rights and CSR. She is also a published poet, whose poems have been widely translated.