Aug 07, 2010 Editorial
It is now quite trite to note that we are living in a “globalised” world. While many may be worried about creeping annexation by multinational corporations, the new dispensation has presented numerous opportunities for small countries such as ours to interject ourselves into the world economy and improve the standard of living of their citizens. However, for us to be in a position to exploit those opportunities, we have to ensure that we have the proper tools interact with the new world. An option is not an option unless it is an exercisable option.
One fundamental tool for manoeuvring through the globalised world is language for communication. In this regard, we have been very fortunate that after all the humiliations and tribulations of our colonial past, we have been left with English as our official language. English has also become the de facto language of business in the globalised world: in Japan, for instance, every high school teaches English.
Unfortunately for many of us, Standard English is almost a second language since we generally communicate with each other through our “Creole”. Our passes (or lack thereof) at the CSEC in English Language reflect our lack of facility in this key resource, which could give us such a head-start over so many others in the world. Our educational system has recognised this major shortcoming and several policy measures have been already been put into place to improve our English performance.
However, there is another area where the Education mandarins have been continuing to go with the old flow and in the process are leaving us in the backwaters of the evolving global synergy. And this is in the area of “foreign” languages. We agree that not because English has become so dominant that we must ignore other languages. Spanish was introduced after independence as a second language into our secondary schools.
This was a positive step since it recognised the geographical reality that so many of our neighbours speak Spanish. The global world begins at our doorstep and while it may be theoretically possible to trade with any country in the world, one would expect that our neighbours should be our starting point.
However in Queen’s College, Bishops’ and the other elite high schools in our capital, in addition to Spanish, French has continued to be a compulsory foreign language. And this, we believe, should be changed.
After all, there was a time when those same elite schools insisted that to be “educated” one had to grasp the essentials of Latin but we have dropped that dead language without skipping a beat. The burdens of learning Latin had come to outweigh the benefits in the new world order. And so we believe for French at this time.
French was the language of the “cultured” of Europe, when the nations of that continent divvied up the world into fiefdoms for exploitation. France ended up with the second largest empire next to Britain and it possibly made sense at the time for the children of our elites – being trained as it were to administer bits of the empire – to be able to converse with their competition. That time has long passed.
France itself is frantically trying to avoid becoming a backwater: only last month they launched a world news service in an attempt to remind others that they exist.
The question that should be occupying the minds of our policy makers in our educational system is whether our best young minds are best served – for themselves and their country – to still be crammed with the phonics of French. We believe not.
We suggest that just as we introduced Spanish because it facilitated communication with so many of our neighbours we ought to jettison French and introduce Portuguese which is the language of our giant neighbour to the south – Brazil. Brazil has become a big player in the new globalized world and there are so many benefits for our economy if we could increase economic linkages with that burgeoning economy.
Our administration and every political party in the country agree on this stand. So why don’t we try to make that option an exercisable option by having our young people learn to communicate in Portuguese?
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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