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Volume 20 Number 1, Spring 2023, Pages 1-214   

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Promises of English and English Language Learners in Rural Bangladesh

    Mohammed Shamsul Hoque, M Monjurul Islam & M. Obaidul Hamid

English has been promoted as a language of hope, desire, and mobility in Bangladesh, as elsewhere in the world. In this article, we investigate how rural students in Bangladesh may relate to these promises of English in seeking escape from rural poverty and disadvantage. We draw on findings and insights from three doctoral studies that were conducted in a disadvantaged region in the north of the country. The three studies engaged with students, teachers, and parents, and captured life, experiences, and struggles of poor students attending poor schools and learning poor English. Bringing the studies together enables a holistic understanding of English learning experiences and outcomes taking into account curricular, non-curricular, familial, and social factors shaping English language pedagogy in the region. We contrast key findings from the studies with the many promises of English that have been articulated by national and global education policies and policy actors. Urban-rural divides in academic achievement in general and English learning in particular have been reported in Bangladesh, as elsewhere. These outcomes challenge us to reflect for whom English works as a linguistic capital and for whom it may be otherwise. We argue for focused policy thinking about English teaching and learning in rural communities in Bangladesh and other developing societies.

Keywords: Promises of English; English as a human capital; sociology of language learning; urban-rural divide in English learning