Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor has said that English should not be treated as an elitist language in Kerala.

He was addressing a two-day conference on ‘Curricular reforms and classroom practices in English’, organised by the State Institute of English and the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, that began here on Saturday.

“Learning English should not be the privilege of a few. Malayalam should certainly be our first language. English should be the second language, if we, Malayalis, have to succeed in the globalised world,” he said. He stated that knowledge of English was a passport to economic, social and educational advancement.

“If we deny our children the opportunity to learn English, we are denying them their future. Malayalis certainly have to interact with non-Malayalam speaking people, especially because they are forced to go to the rest of the world as their land cannot offer them vast employment opportunities. English is thus more important to Malayalis than it is to Biharis or Tamilians,” he said.

He said that re-organisation of States had positive outcomes such as assertion of regional linguistic identity and resultant cultural pride, but it killed the multi-culturalism that prevailed in the country till then and the obligation to be conversant in languages other than one’s own.

“V. K. Krishna Menon had won a seat in Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram. All his campaign speeches were in English. Forty years later, I contested the same seat. Had I delivered all my campaign speeches in English, I would have lost even my election deposit. In those 40 years, India has changed. Kerala too has. Language has become a unifying phenomenon and a political instrument,” he said.

He said that language teachers in Kerala should not teach English as a textbook exercise, but as a living experience that enabled students to communicate effortlessly to fellow human beings.

He stated that the Union Human Resource Development Ministry would favourably consider the demand for constructing a building for the State Institute of English.

He presented a memento and a ponnada (shawl) to K.A. Jayaseelan, linguist and poet.

P.C. Chacko, MP, Therambil Ramakrishnan, MLA, P.P. Balan, director, Kerala Institute of Local Administration, and P.K. Jayaraj, director, State Institute of English, were present. Earlier, Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb inaugurated the conference.

More In: Kerala | National