The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Teachers cut across party lines to oppose education report

Calcutta, July 31: A day after the state government placed the report of the school education committee headed by Ranjugopal Mukherjee, teachers belonging to both anti- and pro-Left lobbies were up in arms today against some of the findings.

They threatened to start a movement soon if the government “accepts the committee’s recommendations on those issues and executes them”.

One of the recommendations that has aggrieved the teachers most is a suggestion on beginning school sessions on June 1. This apart, the teachers are also opposed to the panel’s views against beginning early teaching of English, abolishing the practice of observing vacations during Christmas and doing away with the system of reviewing Madhyamik and Higher Secondary answer scripts.

“What we have received are only recommendations and the government has not taken any decision on them. We will discuss the recommendations, including those on commencement of school session and doing away with review system, with all the teachers’ bodies in the state and consider their opinions seriously before we take any decision,” said Kanti Biswas, school education minister.

A difference of opinion between Mukherjee — a former Vice-Chancellor of North Bengal University — and the teachers over revising the existing time of commencement of sessions was noticed from the very beginning ever since the committee had started its interactions with the teachers at the time of preparing the report.

While Mukherjee had insisted that June 1 is the ideal time for beginning school sessions, the teachers’ bodies had put forward proposals to commence school sessions from July 1 or January 1 every year.

“The committee’s view that school sessions should begin on June 1 every year is an absurd proposition. This is purely a brain child of Ranjugopal Mukherjee and none in teachers’ circles would support this. We cannot understand how the government could allow Mukherjee — a college and university teacher by profession having no idea about school education system — to head a committee that aims to revamp school education policies of the state,” said Amiya Basu, general secretary of a teachers’ organisation affiliated with the CPI.

Basu said this is the time when teachers are busy with correcting the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary answerscripts. Besides, it is too hot for schools to remain open in June.

Teachers’ owing allegiance to the CPI, a major partner of the Left Front, are not only those among the Leftist lobbies who have reservations on Mukherjee’s opinion on these issues.

Amal Banerjee, general secretary of the CPM’s All Bengal Teachers’ Association (ABTA), says they too are opposed to Mukherjee’s recommendation that school session should start from June 1.

“The committee should not have made this recommendation as most of the teachers had repeatedly pointed out to its members during the investigations that this time of the year can in no way be a suitable one to begin school sessions,” said Banerjee.

According to him, the ABTA — believed to be having largest number of members — has already spoken to the government and requested it to ensure that none of the recommendations is executed without consulting them.

“We may have to think of a harder stand if we find the government not paying heed to our demand,” said Banerjee.

The committee’s observation that English should be taught from Class V onwards, however, has irked the teachers’ bodies belonging to the anti-CPM camp.

The Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association of the SUCI — the organisation that had sponsored a statewide bandh in February 1998 demanding re-introduction of English from Class I, which evoked tremendous response — threatened to repeat its movement if the government accepted Mukherjee’s opinion.

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