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Buddha primary English pledge

Nov. 1: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today announced that the government is determined to re-introduce English at the primary level.

At the moment, English is being taught from Class III.

Although Bhattacharjee had initiated a move to re-introduce English from Class I after assuming office in May 2001, it was delayed due to resistance from a section within the CPM.

The matter was discussed threadbare in last week’s Left Front meeting, where former chief minister and politburo member Jyoti Basu spoke in favour of re-introduction of English from Class I.

“We have taken lessons from the past and realised that children should learn English at the initial stage,” Bhattacharjee said at a programme of state government employees at Mahajati Sadan this morning.

He, however, made it clear that the government had not taken the decision under any pressure.

“To learn English is the need of the hour. We have already started to train our primary teachers with the help of British Council so that they can learn the modern method of teaching English,” he said.

“We have not yet decided whether to introduce it from Class I or Class II. That would be decided later,” the chief minister pointed out.

Political observers viewed the chief minister’s statements as indicative of re-introducing English from Class I from the next academic session. They felt that the move initiated by Bhattacharjee two years ago would bear fruit in the days to come.

However, school education minister Kanti Biswas today said in Kalyani that the government would take a decision on re-introducing English in January next year.

“I know that the matter was discussed at the Left Front meeting. We will have to sit once again in January to review the whole thing afresh before sending the proposal to the cabinet,” Biswas said.

Speaking at a seminar at the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya on the New Paradigm of Policy Planning in Higher Education across the country, the minister said the government could not take a hasty decision on “such an important issue”. “We have to prepare our groundwork before undertaking the scheme,” Biswas said.

Echoing Bhattacharjee, he said that the government has tied up with the British Council, Calcutta, where some selective persons will train primary teachers on teaching English.

“Those trained persons will later train 1.80 lakh primary school teachers in the state,” the school education minister added.

“We have enough time in our hand as the Pabitra Sarkar committee set up for this purpose had earlier fixed 2004 as the deadline for re-introduction of English at the primary level,” Biswas said.

According to observers, the Left Front government has been dithering on re-introducing English for the last two years. Although the chief minister took a personal initiative to re-introduce English from Class 1, opposition came from his party as well as from some Front constituents, they said.The Front’s education cell had met several times earlier to iron out differences on the issue.

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