The promotion of English as the language of instruction is becoming an increasing problem for children and teachers in many countries around the world. A recent blog on the Global Monitoring Report website, points out problems in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, where the government has decided to make English the language used in public schools, despite research showing, not surprisingly, that most parents and teachers wish children to be educated in their mother tongues – Urdu or Pashto.

In Malawi, the government has decided to make English the language of instruction instead of local languages. This is ostensibly to bring public schools in line with elite private schools, which produce the overwhelming number of children who are able to go on to higher education. Meanwhile in the Balearic Islands district of Spain there has been a long running dispute about the elevation of English as one of the three languages of instruction, downgrading the local language Catalan.

This promotion of English militates against the preservation of the rich variety of languages globally: In the 47 countries of Africa for example there are more than 2100 living languages. It is also an injustice to children who are having to learn in what is effectively a foreign language, difficult enough in a well-resourced education service – well-nigh impossible in many of the under-resourced schools of the global South. As this writer has witnessed in a low income English language school in Mumbai, teaching in English seriously hampers children and teachers, cuts off opportunities for creativity and promotes rote learning.

Most importantly, as Barbara Trudell puts it: 'Literacy instruction in a language not understood by the learner, serves the population poorly, and increases their vulnerability to global agendas.' It also of course serves the interests of global educorporations, who produce their materials overwhelmingly in English. Outfits like Bridge International Academies, for example, running chains of low fee private schools in the global South, use English almost exclusively as the language of instruction. It is no coincidence that it is actively promoted by the Teach For franchise – Teach for India, for example, only uses English as the medium of instruction despite the fact that there are 22 official regional languages as well as the lingua franca, Hindi.

The promotion of English and the suppression of local languages is a continuation of the colonial project in its new form – the global neoliberal education reform project. It is unjust to children and seriously hampers the development of truly democratic and critical education.