WP272 English and development: Voices from two rural Bangladeshi madrasas



Because of its global status, donors and states both promote English for the economic development of countries in the global South such as Bangladesh. National and western discourses propose that people in madrasas (Islamic educational institutes) should learn English for development and security. But voices from madrasas are little heard. Based on a linguistic ethnography, this paper presents some of these neglected perspectives on English for development, drawing on fieldwork in rural Bangladesh primarily at a private and unreformed Qawmi Madrasa but also at a reformed Aliya Madrasa. The findings show that people in the Qawmi Madrasa adopt a religious, reflexive and alternative stance, reject economic progress and western development programmes, and largely resist English as a language of development. People in the Aliya Madrasa, on the other hand, identify English with economic advancements such as mainstream higher education and employment, but their aspirations seem vulnerable to the (secular) stigmatisation of madrasas dominant in the society. Based on these findings and drawing in Southern theory, the paper interrogates the promotion of English for development, and asks how alert it is to heterogenous and complex southern realities.