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Hindi is Our Ground, English is Our Sky

Hindi is Our Ground, English is Our Sky: Education, Language, and Social Class in Contemporary India

Chaise LaDousa
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Hindi is Our Ground, English is Our Sky
    Book Description:

    A sea change has occurred in the Indian economy in the last three decades, spurring the desire to learn English. Most scholars and media venues have focused on English exclusively for its ties to processes of globalization and the rise of new employment opportunities. The pursuit of class mobility, however, involves Hindi as much as English in the vast Hindi-Belt of northern India. Schools are institutions on which class mobility depends, and they are divided by Hindi and English in the rubric of "medium," the primary language of pedagogy. This book demonstrates that the school division allows for different visions of what it means to belong to the nation and what is central and peripheral in the nation. It also shows how the language-medium division reverberates unevenly and unequally through the nation, and that schools illustrate the tensions brought on by economic liberalization and middle-class status.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-233-1
    Subjects: Education, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. x-xi)
    Krishna Kumar

    As a teacher in an Indian university, my life has significantly changed over the recent years. Usually a third, but quite often half, of my teaching time goes into translating. I say something in either Hindi or English, then translate it into the other language. The wasteful chore involves reconciling myself to a relatively new social reality. Hindi and English form two intellectual orbits comprising my class; they cohabit, and casually overlap, but unmistakably signify two distinct sections of society. The students who represent these two sections have been socialized differently, in two types of schools. Their future trajectories differ...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  7. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  8. Transliteration Conventions
    (pp. xviii-xix)
  9. Transcription Conventions
    (pp. xx-xx)
  10. Introduction
    (pp. 1-35)

    I sat waiting on a humid October morning in the entranceway to a house in which I had recently become a paying guest. The year was 1996 and the place was Varanasi, a city in northern India. The clatter of the gate latch meant that it was time to go to school— and to work. Mr. Sahni, my former Hindi teacher, had offered to introduce me to the principal of his daughter’s school, which was called Saraswati Balika Vidyalaya. Saraswati is the goddess of music, culture, and learning; Balika means young girl; and Vidyalaya means school. Children dressed in maroon...

  11. Chapter 1 On Mother and Other Tongues: Language Ideology, Inequality, and Contradiction
    (pp. 36-67)

    School principals at the Saraswati Schools and the Seacrest School differentiated themselves from me by pointing out that we had different mother tongues, and they talked about their schools in the same breath. I was taken aback because the assertion that a school can be identified with a mother tongue (and vice versa) contradicted a large body of scholarship published on language in India beginning in the 1960s. The principals’ comments prompted me to reread and rethink much of the sociolinguistic work on India that I had read in preparation for fieldwork. Some of the most prominent sociolinguists of India...

  12. Chapter 2 Disparate Markets: The Uneven Resonance of Language-Medium Schooling in the Nation
    (pp. 68-107)

    The idea of national language prompts attention to language policy. Whereas scholars have neglected looking at schools through the lens of the mother tongue, they have devoted a great deal of research to the development of policy related to the question of India’s national language and the particular languages that should be offered in schools.

    During the 1960s, the Government of India created an educational requirement known as the “three-language formula” in an effort to facilitate communication between different linguistic regions of the country (Naik and Nurullah 1974). School boards, as part of a “syllabus” legitimating schools, began to require...

  13. Chapter 3 Advertising in the Periphery: Modes of Communication and the Production of School Value
    (pp. 108-136)

    During a short school holiday in December 1996, I decided to take the fourteen-hour train trip to Delhi from Varanasi. I met with the retired official of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), introduced in the last chapter, who knew of the policy by which students study three languages in school. I was intrigued not just by her knowledge, but also by her statement in response to my explanation that people in Varanasi do not know about the three-language formula: “Education outside of Delhi is a disaster.” Her statement constructed Delhi as a center, a place of order where...

  14. Chapter 4 An Alter Voice: Questioning the Inevitability of the Language-Medium Divide
    (pp. 137-154)

    A school’s language medium has become a major category of identity in Hindi-speaking northern India. People use the distinction between Hindi-and English-medium schools to frame a wide array of social entities and relationships: oneself, others, the place of Varanasi in the nation, and the place of India with respect to other nations. While the value ascribed to Hindi and English can vary greatly in spoken reflection on schools, nearly everyone I met during fieldwork has found in the language-medium divide a salient and convenient opposition. This chapter explores the case of one person who managed to complicate the very notion...

  15. Chapter 5 In and Out of the Classroom: A Focus on English
    (pp. 155-182)

    While chapter 4 considered the case of someone who undercuts the foundation of the division between Hindi-and English-medium schools, this chapter considers whether the language-medium divide accounts for the value of languages as they are used inside the classroom and reflected on outside of schools, from the vantage of people in lower-class positions. English class at the Seacrest School—English-medium and private—and Hindi class at the Saraswati School—Hindi-medium and government-administered— exhibit the same kinds of interactions between teachers and students. Classroom interactions in the Seacrest School and the Saraswati School thus reflect the language-medium divide. English is used...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-191)

    Two languages—Hindi and English—have come to stand as options in the educational system of Hindi-speaking northern India. Hindi-and English-medium schools call into play differences in massive test-taking regimes, the price of school attendance, and feelings about what it means to live in a nation. The institutional distinction has grown in importance in the era of economic liberalization in India because educational pursuits and credentials are linked to future employment plans for more people than ever before. One might describe education through the rubric of language-medium schooling as a pursuit of—but also a sign of—India’s new middle...

  17. References
    (pp. 192-208)
  18. Index
    (pp. 209-215)
  19. [Illustration]
    (pp. 216-216)