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October revolution in English

Calcutta, Sept. 30: Armed with a mandate from the CPM, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is set to re-introduce teaching of English from Class I in the next academic year.

Highly placed officials said tonight that the Left Front education cell would meet on October 11 to clear the proposal that will allow 53,000-odd primary schools to start teaching English from Class I.

The ruling communists shut English out of government-run primary schools in 1980, three years after they came to power. As part of a policy that came into effect in 1981, the language was introduced only in Class VI. In 1986, the policy was modified to allow teaching of English from Class V.

After the Jyoti Basu government realised that exclusion of English at the primary level was causing discontent and costing votes, in addition to creating a generation with low understanding of the vital link language, it set up the Pabitra Sarkar Committee in 1997 for a re-look. Following the committee’s recommendations, the government started teaching of English formally from Class III and informally from Class II.

The proposed re-introduction of English from Class I — after a gap of 24 years — signals Bhattacharjee’s triumph over a sizeable section of naysayers in the government and the CPM. The chief minister was backed by state CPM secretary Anil Biswas — also known as the education czar — and Left Front chairman Biman Bose, both politburo members.

“It became clear a few days ago that the chief minister would finally have his way when the CPM leadership green-lighted his plans for re-introduction of teaching of English to children in Class I. Those who were opposed to the idea had to fall in line,” an official said.

The government will make the announcement after obtaining the go-ahead from the Left Front, which seems to be a formality. “No doubt there is a great demand among people for English teaching from Class I. But I will be in a position to comment on the issue only after the matter gets discussed in the October 11 meeting of the Left Front,” said Kanti Biswas, the school education minister.

The Sarkar Committee recommendations are to come up for review around May 2004.

Bhattacharjee recently rejected the recommendation of the 13-member Ranjugopal Mukherjee committee on revamp of school education, calling for teaching of English at a higher level.

The government is expected to discuss the rest of the recommendations in the Left Front meeting, the officials said. The committee submitted the findings of a supplementary survey to Biswas today. The report of the main study was submitted on December 31 last year.

It was placed in this year’s budget session of the Assembly. Soon after, it began to work on the supplementary survey to review certain important areas at the instance of the chief minister.

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