Language planning, English language education and development aid in Bangladesh

Erling, Elizabeth J. (2017). Language planning, English language education and development aid in Bangladesh. Current Issues in Language Planning, 18(4) pp. 388–406.



The increased status of English as the language of international communication and business has meant that development aid has increasingly been used to finance language planning initiatives aimed at improving and/or expanding English language education. The intended outcome of this aid is often to provide expanded economic returns and opportunities for those who learn the language. But is it really the case that they receive these benefits? In this paper I attempt to form a deeper understanding of the relationship between English language skills and economic value by providing a meta-analysis and critical evaluation of 11 research studies. By critically evaluating this research using Sen’s capabilities approach [1999. Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press], I find that while English language skills might enhance opportunities for individuals, they also appear to reinforcing embedded inequalities and therefore not necessarily contributing to the well-being of societies. English language education may have limited impact without sufficient political and economic stability. Moreover, there are ongoing and significant needs to develop literacy and numeracy in local and national languages. Equipped with this more nuanced understanding of the value of English, I argue that development aid and language planning initiatives can make more significant contributions to holistic development and social justice.

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