English language education for human capital development and the question of social justice

Year: 2019

Author: Ali, Md, Maksud

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Like education in general, English language education (ELE) has shifted towards a more instrumental goal in the past two decades. In developing nations in particular, human capital development has become a policy priority for ELE which is geared towards harnessing the opportunities and facing the challenges posed by globalisation. This policy shift has led many nations to introduce English earlier in their national curricula and providing universal access to English. It is often argued that proficiency in English increases individuals’ productivity, employability and income at the micro level. At the macro level, it is believed that citizen’s proficiency in English will help nations to access and compete in the globalised economy. Thus, the discourses shaping the ELE policy trend for human capital development are those of economic growth, development and global competitiveness. Following this policy trend in other developing societies, Bangladesh introduced a landmark policy shift in ELE by introducing communicative language teaching (CLT) pedagogy for human capital development during the 1990s. Drawing on the notions of globalisation, neoliberalism, as well as Bourdieu’s account of capital and social reproduction, my aim in this paper is to trace the emergence of this human capital development goal in ELE and to examine the implications of human capital framing of language education for different social groups in Bangladeshi society. I will draw on relevant policies, curriculum documents and published literature as my data sources. Based on the analysis, I would argue that while the CLT pedagogy was introduced for human capital development in ELE, the policy has also legitimized competition over learning English in this polity. Thus, it will be argued that while the policy is underpinned by the discourses of universal access, individual and social development and social justice, in reality “English for All” may lead to social stratification, as not everyone may have equal access to English learning opportunities. Contrary to the popular discourses of English, universalizing access to this language of opportunity may not guarantee equitable learning outcomes for all.