The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM jab at English teachers

Calcutta, Nov. 25: The efforts to reintroduce English from Class I will be futile in the absence of adequately trained teachers, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today.

Inaugurating an administrative building of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education at Salt Lake, Bhattacharjee regretted, in the presence of school education minister Kanti Biswas, that the standard of teaching in primary schools across the state was not up to the mark.

The chief minister said all primary teachers must undergo training courses in order to improve. The courses are now compulsory for secondary school teachers only.

The standard of teaching is “satisfactory” from middle school but the quality at the primary level in the 52,000 state-aided schools has to improve, Bhattacharjee said. “Primary teaching builds the foundation,” he added.

Concerned at the poor standard of English teaching in these schools, he said lakhs of children fare badly in the higher classes as they fail to learn the language well at the lower level. “They score poor marks in the subject at the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations,” Bhattacharjee said.

The government, he said, was aware that a large section of people felt that children would do better in English if the subject was taught formally from Class I instead of Class III.

For the past two decades, the Left Front government has been mired in controversy over determining at which level in primary education English should be introduced. In the early 1980s, the government decided to introduce it from Class VI. A few years later, on the basis of recommendations made by the Ashok Mitra commission, English was introduced in Class V.

In 1998, a committee headed by Pabitra Sarkar was set up to evaluate the appropriateness of introducing the subject from a lower class. The panel said English should be taught from Class III. The recommendations are valid till 2004, when the government will have to evaluate afresh the early introduction of English.

“My government feels no matter from which class children start learning the subject, they should be taught the language well at the primary stage. We must ensure that primary teachers have adequate training so that they can teach the children how to read, write and speak English properly. It is essential for the teachers to have a sound knowledge of English,” said Bhattacharjee.

Workshops and training programmes are being organised for primary teachers in collaboration with the British Council. But the chief minister regretted that the literacy rate in Bengal was still 70 per cent. “Our target is to achieve 100 per cent literacy — elementary education for all within 2010.”

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