English and development: Discourses from two madrasas in rural Bangladesh
This research explores the discourses of English and development at two madrasas (Islamic educational institutes) in rural Bangladesh. Given the integral role that the language plays in the process of globalisation, many consider English a form of capital for the countries in the global South in the present global economy. Development interventions promote English in countries like Bangladesh, where both government and donor-funded ELT projects increasingly align with the development potential of English. However, there are also significant counter discourses, critiquing the connection between English and development, and local voices from the affected sites also need to be heard, accessed through independent ethnographic research. There are views at national and global levels that people in (Bangladeshi) madrasas should learn English for development and security (Karmani, 2005; Bano, 2014). However, the voices of madrasas about English in general and connecting development are little heard. In this context, this project investigates the ways in which English and development are discussed in a private and unreformed Qawmi Madrasa, as well as in a reformed, state-governed Aliya Madrasa in rural Bangladesh. The study collected data by conducting linguistic ethnography at the two madrasas in rural Bangladesh. The study finds that people in the Qawmi Madrasa mostly resist economic prosperity, question the validity of western development programmes, and reject the discourses of English as a language of development. These stances are strongly influenced by religious and professional Islam and Arabic, as well as some national and global discourses about madrasa reformation, and geopolitics of religion. At the reformed Aliya Madrasa, English is generally seen as a language of development, but. there are considerable entanglements, such as secular stigma to madrasas, that make it difficult for them to embrace it effectively. Overall, the project raises questions about the promotion of English for the development of countries like Bangladesh, and, drawing on post-development and Southern theoretical viewpoints as well, it argues that people in the global South in general, and students and teachers at madrasas in particular, should not be viewed as a homogenous block desiring to learn English for development.
PhD defended at
King's College London, Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy, School of Education, Communication & Society