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‘Opinion’ favours English in Class I

Calcutta, Dec. 31: A committee set up to suggest school education reforms has favoured teaching of English at the “primary level” — a euphemism for Class I — but shies away from making a categorical recommendation lest it causes controversy for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government.

The 13-member committee, headed by Ranju Gopal Mukherjee, a former North Bengal University vice-chancellor, submitted a 125-page report today, saying “English must be taught at the primary level” but left the stage at which it should begin to be decided by the government.

English is now taught from Class III — in itself a revolutionary change in that the Left Front had banished the language up to Class VI. If the government now chooses to begin even earlier, it will mean the Left Front’s education policy completing a full circle.

The Telegraph had reported earlier that the chief minister and his party were exploring ways to reintroduce English from Class I. Two government committees and recommendations from private entities like the consultants, McKinsey, got the authorities started on the issue.

The current committee has dealt with English elaborately in its report, but none of the 250 recommendations contained in it for revamping the entire school education system deals directly with its reintroduction at an earlier stage.

Mukherjee said that since the issue was “extremely sensitive”, the committee preferred only to give its opinion and left it to the government to decide in what class the teaching should start.

Sources said a last-minute change was made — possibly at the behest of the government — in the report this morning after it dawned on policy-makers that a direct recommendation would be “improper” at this stage. It is learnt that the chief minister had a talk with education minister Kanti Biswas, following which a “recommendation” became an “opinion”.

Mukherjee, however, said that there was “no doubt that teaching of English at the primary level is extremely important.

The report suggests vocational education at the Madhyamik level and offers a string of proposals in other areas, including measures for adopting a modern approach to teaching science and social science.

It recommends optional elective subjects in vocational education from Class IX and a separate higher secondary council to oversee the teaching of full-fledged vocational courses at the plus-two level.

The committee suggests including elementary economics, clubbed with geography, in the Madhyamik syllabus. Economics is not taught now.

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