| Viren Shah and Kanti Biswas: Maiden duel
Bolpur, Jan. 18: Governor Viren J. Shah today chose a platform he was sharing with the school education minister to deplore the state of education in the country and Bengal in general and in the rural areas in particular, drawing a sharp retort from Kanti Biswas.
Speaking on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Bolpur High School, Shah said the dropout rate among the weaker sections of society, especially girls, was a cause for concern.
But the minister said Bengal’s record in education, especially that of females in the rural belt, was the best in India. “No other state has achieved what we have done,” Biswas said.
The Governor then pointed at another lacuna: the quality of teaching in Bengal’s districts. “There is a great need for updating and improving our teachers’ training institutions so as to make training and education more relevant to the realities of our contemporary society,” he said.
Shah also hauled up the state’s education system and emphasised on the need for a rural outlook. “Since 80 per cent of our population resides in the countryside, it is important that the syllabi and the methodology of teaching be rural oriented. It is essential to impart vocational education that can be of meaningful value,” he said and urged the state to use education as a tool to improve standard of living in the rural areas.
“We have to keep pace with modern developments and use them to address (the) problems of malnutrition, ill health and illiteracy effectively,” the Governor said. Shah pointed out that there was still a shortage of space, equipment and textbooks.
He, however, stated that despite the limitation in resources, a sizeable percentage of the state’s annual expenditure goes to education. In a more positive note, he said the terms and conditions of service of teachers at all levels have significantly improved. “This is a reflection of the state government’s concern for the teachers and their welfare and recognition of the pivotal role they play in society,” Shah observed.
Speaking in his turn, Biswas said the overall picture of education in the country had not undergone a drastic change since Independence. “We still have 34 per cent illiteracy and among the rural population, only 5 per cent of the students are girls,” the school education minister said.
Biswas did not fail to praise Bengal’s role in history as a major hub of education and social reform. “I still believe that the rest of the country looks at us for inspiration in the field of education.” At the same time, however, the state was facing hurdles in developing culturally and improving social conditions, he added.