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Basu clears English air

Calcutta, Jan. 29: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government favours the idea of schoolchildren having an early grounding in English as it believes the exposure can help address reports that students from the state fail to crack competitive examinations at the national level because of inadequate language skills.

Jyoti Basu, a key backer of Bhattacharjee’s initiative to reintroduce English in Class I against opposition from a section of the party, today said the government had given the Ranju Gopal Mukherjee Committee three more months to formulate a clear-cut line of action on the issue.

After The Telegraph reported last week the government’s “unhappiness” over the committee’s skirting the key point and that it had been given a three-month extension to make a clear recommendation, Basu’s was the first official confirmation of the government’s stand.

“We want our children to learn English well. And to be able to teach the language well, our government has asked them (the committee) to specify in the report from which class a child should start learning it, how it should be taught and what should be the content,” said Basu.

Ironically, Basu made the CPM’s, and the government’s, stand on the issue clear in front of two men known for their resistance to English — school education minister Kanti Biswas and former finance minister Ashok Mitra.

In its first report, the committee constituted to “recommend” ways to revamp the school education system sought to side-step the issue of introducing English from Class I by offering a “personal opinion”.

In his reaction to the report, Bhattacharjee had asked for clear-cut direction, and not personal opinion, from the panel on from which stage of primary school a child could be taught English.

The language is now taught informally from Class II and formally from Class III, in tune with the recommendations of the Pabitra Sarkar committee, which was instituted by Jyoti Basu in 1998, when he was chief minister. The Sarkar committee recommendations, implemented in 1999, will be in effect till 2004.

CPM politburo member and Left Front chairman Biman Bose said “selfless” private initiative was required to bring the fruits of education to every segment of the society. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the government to shoulder the entire responsibility to develop the sector, he added.

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