Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 3 : 4 April 2003

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai

A Review of H.R.Dua's Science Policy, Education, and Language Planning

S. Imtiaz Hasnain, Ph. D.

Science Policy, and Language


Science Policy, Education, and Language Planning (Yashoda Publications, Mysore, 2001) problematizes science and language as a mechanism of social control by dominant elites, and explores the dynamic relationship between science, language, culture, economy, politics, and social practices from the perspective, which may well be called Critical. For, it assumes that the development of a critical awareness of the world and of the possibilities for changing it, ought to be the main objective of all education - weather it is language education or science education.

P. Eeire (1985) eloquently summed up this perspective as:

Whether it be a raindrop (a raindrop that was about to fall but froze, giving birth to a beautiful icicle), be it a bird that sings, a bus that runs, a violent person on the street, be it a sentence in a newspaper, a political speech, a lover's rejection, be it anything - we must adopt a critical view, that of the person who questions, who doubts, who investigates, and who wants to illuminate the very life we live.

This book assumes a critical posture because it not only tries to raise consciousness among its readers but also aims at showing up connections that are seemingly hidden from people - such as the connections between language, power, and ideology. These connections have been characterized with reference to English, in order to understand its hegemonic function in science, technology, and information system.


The primary focus of this book is to look into the connections between English and development, capitalism, and dependency, and to make a strong case for the use of Indian languages in science and technology at all levels of higher education for the realization of potentials of these languages.

The critical narratives of the author also include narratives that engage us with Lyotard's postmodernism, Foucault's post-structuralist account of power, and Geroux's notion of 'voice' in the context of cultural studies and discourse of Critical pedagogy.

The logic of post-modernism embraces and celebrates Lyotard's critique of modernity that focuses on meta-narratives and on the imposition of knowledge. Foucault's post-structuralist account of power focuses on the 'micro techniques' of power that are built into the very capillaries of social life that have the effect of normalizing modern life. Geroux's notion of 'voice' presents a convergence of modernism and some aspects of postmodern discourse.

The ideology of science and technology still continues to remain the dominant ideology of our time much to the displeasure of Lyotard who maintains that the meta-narrative of science in terms of progress, development, and modernization is no longer credible under the post-modern conditions. It is against this backdrop that the 'Ideology of Science and Politics of Language' (Chapter I) has been worked out. This chapter focuses on the issues related with ideology of science and technology, its repressive functions and forms of state control, and the factors that have contributed to the ideology and politics of science.

Ideological Promotions on the Mobilization of Language

Inasmuch as language plays a pervasive, subtle, and complex role in the construction of ideological formations and structures, the use of language (particularly with reference to English) in the exercise of ideological function of science and technology has also been looked at with a view to bringing out its implications for science policy, education, and Language Planning in the developing countries.

The developing countries have accepted the dominant position and status of English in science education. Who stands to gain and lose from this? How far the gain or loss is related to language, culture, economy, social development and other considerations? Answer to these questions provides some insight into the political and ideological role of language in the growth of science and technology.

Ideological promotions based on the mobilization of language take place through various institutions, intellectuals, elites, and other agents. Chapter 2 ('Intellectuals, Language and Science Policy') is an attempt in this direction. It looks into the role of intellectuals with special reference to issues related to language and science in India.


After discussing the types of intellectuals, their roles and functions, and the formation of English and Indian intellectuals, the author devotes a full section in discussing the problematics matters of language, identity, and conflict in the context of Indian languages. The author has provided a number of reasons to suggest that in spite of specialization, diversity, and vitality, the Indian language intellectuals have not been able to bring about any basic changes in the status of their languages vis--vis English. They have even failed in making a constructive contribution to the social critique of the dominant ideology and the existing patterns of language and power relations.

Corollary to the issue of ideology and language-power relations is the question of relationship between literature and science, that is, between humanistic and scientific-technical cultures. Both these cultures have been separated from each other, which, according to Dua, is not conducive to language development and creativity in science. To quote Dr. Dua,

If the Indian languages are not extended in the production of scientific - technical culture, they will not only contribute to jejune literature and derivative science but also pave the way for their further marginalization by supporting the hegemonic control of English. If this leads ultimately to shift and loss of the Indian languages, the Indian language speakers and the international community of languages will never exonerate the Indian language intellectuals for their failure to uphold both the vitality of the Indian languages in particular and the function and value of language diversity in general (p. 89).


Chapter 3 ('Scientific Community and Link Language') looks into the growth and dynamics of a scientific community, development of scientific communication, organization of scientific communication in the context of scientific community in India, and more significantly, the linguistic dimension of scientific communication.

Though there are studies suggesting the denial of any universality in the language of scientific communication or non-availability of scientific literature in languages other than English, or even exclusivity of English as the only source of scientific literature, the author observes that the spread of English still remains a worldwide phenomenon. Even the developed languages like German and French are feeling the increasing pressure of English as the international language of science and scientific communication.

A Different Kind of Diglossia in Europe

A kind of a diglossic situation is being created in most European countries where English is gradually assuming some of the functions of the national languages (e.g. Sweden). The situation in most developing countries is much more serious. English is already being used in science education and scientific research and its spread may not involve any perceptible language shift, but a definite marginalization of the indigenous languages.

Marginalization of Indian Languages in India: No Diglossic Approach

According to Dua, the domination of English and the consequent marginalization of Indian languages cannot be contained unless certain basic changes are brought about in the educational system and institutional practices involved in the production, distribution, and dissemination of scientific knowledge. Without these changes, the author believes that "the Indian science will not be able to establish an indigenous science tradition and indigenous linguistic resources will not be cultivated in coordination with the use of English as a link language in a more pragmatic and mutually enriching way" (p 119).

Alternative Science?

Growth of scientific knowledge, formation of alternative traditions of science, and the formative role of language in constituting the nature of science(s) and knowledge are the issues discussed in Chapter 4 ('Scientific Knowledge, Alternative Science, and Language Use').


Chapter 5 ('Science Policy, Science Education and Language Planning') characterizes the nature of interaction between science policy, education, and language planning as well as its implications for the efficacy of planning and economic development, social change, and modernization.

After presenting a synoptic overview of the processes of science and technology policy formation, issues in S & T policies have been discussed with a view to understanding the distinction between basic and applied scientific research, science and technology, and indigenous and appropriate technologies. The author believes that S & T policy should be holistic in nature integrating the development at both the economic and social levels as well as educational, linguistic and cultural levels. For,

the linguistic perspective on science and technology policy has serious implications for growth of pluralism in science, development of alternative traditions of science and technology, and self-reliant, innovative and creative growth of science and technology in the developing countries including India (p 172).


A critical understanding of the issues related to the language of sciences and its relation with power and knowledge is crucial to the growth of multilingual planning in education and pluralism in science and technology. Chapter 6 ('Language of Science and Power of Language') provides a critical understanding of these issues.

This chapter looks into the relationship between language of science and ordinary language, the constitutive role of language in science and social formation, and the significant contributions that science makes toward language development. These constitutive roles of language and science have seen discussed through the dimension of language, discourse, and power.

The dynamic interaction between language, discourse, and power can best be understood in the context of new information order. The linguistic hegemony imposed by the new information technologies has serious consequences on the development of science and technology as well as language, literature, and culture in the developing countries. Chapter 7 ('Information Technology and Linguistic Hegemony') focuses on these issues in order to understand certain serious problems of dependency, political control, and knowledge-drain in developing countries emanating from explosion in the growth of new information technologies, accumulation, and flow of information in the developed countries.

According to Dua,

the linguistic and cognitive implications involved in database production and access show the dominance of English, exacerbate the knowledge gap between the industrialized and developing nations, and legitimize the indigenous knowledge systems, science and technologies and socio-cultural and linguistic resources. (p. 287).


The need, then, arises to deconstruct those meta-narratives, which have accelerated the spread of English and strengthened its dominance. Chapter 8 ('The Spread of English: Deconstruction of Post-colonial Meta-narratives') is an attempt in this direction. It provides a critique of the socio-economic and political factors for the dominance of English in the non-English mother tongue countries.

The present education system, according to Professor Dua, not only indicates continuation of colonial legacy but also contributes towards the reproduction and legitimization of the ideology of science and technology along with dominance of English. English continues to spread in the non-English mother tongue countries as a language of science and technology and this has its implications on both development of Science and Technology in general and promotion and survival of languages other than English in particular.

Although there is a growing concern among non-English language communities all over about the consequences of the spread of English as a language of science and scientific communication, Dua laments that this concern has not been able to check the increasing pace with which English is used in scientific publications, scientific communication, and teaching and research. Hence there is a need to look into the reasons for this spread, and deconstruct the meta-narratives operative in the spread of English.

The author deconstructs the general discourse revolving around the legitimization, reproduction, and continuation of English. His critique of Fishman and others in this regard is a case in point here. Dua believes that the spread of English in the former British and American colonies is a reflection of externally imposed hegemony (or what Phillipson (1992) refers to as linguistic imperialism). He further criticizes Fishman (1996) who not only held the socio-economic factors responsible for its spread but also considered and treated them as "indigenous and part and parcel of indigenous daily life and social stratification" (p 295). According to Dua, the so-called emergence of "indigenous" English " were generated during the colonial period and perpetuated in one form or another to protect their neo-colonial interests" (p 295). Even the socio-economic factors that are behind the spread of English are being collaboratively reproduced, maintained, legitimated, and strengthened by the English educated elites who form an integral privileged component of the internal stratification in the developing nations.

In fact, if one looks at the spread of English in both English mother tongue and non-English mother tongue countries, one may find strong English imperialism despite the absence of any explicit language policy with regard to its spread. Hegemony of English continues to grow not because of any impelling "indigenous socio-economic factors" but due to the existing educational system in which English is associated mainly with tertiary education. Dua believes that expansion of the tertiary education, along with its impact on the secondary and elementary education has not only abetted the spread of English but also constrained the process of language planning and the development and spread of the indigenous languages.


Issues related to the spread of English prominently occupy Professor Dua's concern. He feels that its spread has generated language shift tendencies and contributed to language loss in a substantive way. Though there may not be any direct or causal relationship between the spread of English and loss of certain languages, still Dua ponders to suggest that language displacement in a many developing countries is happening on account of an increasing trend in the Anglicization of elementary education.

Although major Indian languages are well-established vernaculars playing a significant role in the local economy, polity, and media, they are not able to withstand the pressure of English language spread at the level of elementary education. And on top of it, even the language policies of the state, both overtly and covertly, favor English at the cost of use, promotion, and development of indigenous languages. No wonder, despite five decades of sophisticated program of language engineering spelt out in the constitution of India, language solution continues to elude the nation.


Chapter 9 ('Future of Indian Languages: Issues of Counter - Hegemony') suggests certain possible alternatives, which may be used not just to counter the hegemonic practices but may also help in evolving strategies for developing indigenous languages.

Chapter nine begins with the definition and characterization of language problems. According to Dua, two aspects have dominated language problems in India - first, Indian languages are not developed enough for use in science education, and secondly, there should be a common language for unity, modernization, and growth of science. Interestingly both these aspects constitute the hidden ideology of language policy and planning, which is not acknowledged by the practitioners and theorists. Tollefson (1991) refers to it as an "invisible" ideology " requiring everyone to learn a single dominant language widely seen as a common-sense solution to the communication problems of multilingual societies".


Another aspect of hidden ideology in the characterization of language problems is the isolation of language development from language use. It not only serves ideological functions but has "also led to failure of language planning and reversing of language policy decisions in many developing countries" (p 346). Dua traces the history of the debate between language development and language use, and makes a strong case for justifying the use of Indian languages from the perspectives developed in social theory.

The author has consistently followed the tenor of critical when he exhorts the practitioners and theorists of language planning in the developing countries to engage in a sustained dynamic counter - hegemonic movement. The repeated use of must by Dua in successive sentences after sentences (pp. 388-89) certainly heighten our consciousness but do not provide any concrete answer to the question HOW in clear terms.


Dua's critique and deconstruction of the post-colonial meta-narrative is very insightful and convincing. However, what one misses here is his failure to look into the ruptures in such a class divided education system, which shapes specific debates over development, democracy, and social change. Besides forming a dependency relationship between the developing and developed nations, and creating an uneven empowerment, the active support extended by the elites to the spread of English increases the polarization between castes, genders, and religious groups. Surprisingly Dua overlooks this insight in his otherwise remarkably good exercise in deconstruction.

Dua suggests that one should look for alternatives to Western science. What surprises one most is that despite his post-modernist perspective and deconstructive tenor, Dua still unconsciously succumbs to the dominant ideology of the Western science. This is evident from the use of the term 'alternative'. Alternative assumes that there is a 'norm' (and norm is the Western science), which is superior by virtue of the fact that it is the frame of reference for judging and measuring the new possibilities. The non-Western systems of science will have their legitimacy only if they follow the criteria of objectivity defined by the norms of the western science.

There is yet another problematics with the use of the term 'alternatives', which, surprisingly, has once again been glossed over by the author. Conventionally, alternative in science and technology has focused on the end results, that is, the way the science has been put to use. The praxis of science may be perverse and destructive or friendly and constructive. What is required is to use the knowledge of the laws of science for the benefits of humanity at large. Such arguments set the alternative debate within political boundaries.


The need is to look for sciences which are different in nature, style, characteristics, and contents, and which have a bearing in non-western epistemologies. Capra's rejection of reductionist methodology and mechanistic framework formulated by Descartes, Newton, and Bacon is a case in point here. Even Needham's monumental work on the history of science in China sets assumptions, which are the epistemological starting point for research. The goal is not a political one but epistemological. However, currently the powerful politicians who occupy positions of power in India seem to suggest alternatives mainly to fulfill their political agenda, but not as exploration of indigenous epistemology.

The book provides rich data, ample examples, and insightful observations and analysis for exploring the dynamic relationship between science, language, culture, social practices, and discourses that are established, reproduced, and legitimized through the educational system. The only drawback with this book is that at times it becomes too wordy, descriptive, and repetitive. The issues discussed here will be useful not only to linguists and language practitioners, but even to those working in the areas of culture studies, discourse, critical education, and science policy.

HOME PAGE | BACK ISSUES | A Study of Assamese Hindu Male Names | Cognitive Processes in Writing: Exploring the Strategies Used by Second and Foreign Language Learners of English | Lord Macaulay: The Man Who Started It All and His Minute | Indian Mass Media and Language Education | Urdu in Andhra Pradesh | Computational Morphology of Tamil Verbal Complex | Science Policy: Empowering Indian Languages vis-a-vis English -- A Review of H.R.Dua's Science Policy, Education, and Language Planning | SOME NEW BOOKS IN INDIAN LINGUISTICS | CONTACT EDITOR

S. Imtiaz Hasnain, Ph.D.
Department of Linguistics
Aligarh Muslim University
Presently Senior Fellow, Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570006, India