The American Center director on Tuesday told a group of children, many of whom come from underprivileged families, the importance of learning English.
“We at the American Center focus a lot of effort on teaching English to students who couldn’t otherwise have access to that golden opportunity. It is a golden opportunity not only because you can get a job but because you can connect with so many other people with whom otherwise you will only have differences,” said Adrian Pratt, director, American Center, and acting consul general of the US Consulate in Kolkata.
“That’s what we try at the American Center to connect different people from different walks of life from different parts of India to different parts of the world,” he added.
The director spent about an hour at St Stephen’s School in Phears Lane in central Kolkata on Tuesday afternoon.
He interacted with the girls and boys there, most of whom are first-generation learners but are aspirational and want to go places.
“How would an Indian student get an opportunity to study in an American college?” asked a Class IX student whose father sells fruit juice in Park Circus.
She was possibly voicing the concern of many others like her who aspire big but the reality of their economic condition acts as a deterrant. “My father cannot afford to send me to a university in America,” the girl later told The Telegraph.
Pratt told these children about some of the scholarships that are available. The colleges in the US look at what students do not just in the classroom but outside, he added.
“Community work, helping people who are less fortunate than you...a hobby that you are great at. All these sorts of things tell colleges what sort of person you are. …It's not just the classroom it's about what you do outside the classroom. How you want to change the world and how you see your role…?” he said.
The honorary secretary of the school, Imran Zaki, highlighted the importance of learning English at the elementary level so the children can “connect with the world” and get “better job opportunities”.
“Whatever their field in the future, English will help them. That is why we are developing a curriculum with special emphasis on English for the age group of eight to 10 years of age,” said Zaki, who is also part of an NGO — Face, which works in the field of education.