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In failure, Left thinks English

Calcutta, July 28: Jolted by widespread failures in the Higher Secondary English paper, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has decided to overhaul the syllabus and enhance the skills of teachers.

“We are extremely disturbed by the high number of failures,” said school education minister Kanti Biswas, a day after the HS results were announced.

In the past 24 hours, four girls have committed suicide in the districts. All had failed in English.

“We have to improve the standards. When the average student is pitted against huge competition, it is essential for them to develop sound knowledge of English by the time they cross the Class XII hurdle,” Biswas said.

Unexposed to the language in the formative stage, thanks to the ruling Left’s no-English policy till Class VI that ruled for decades, students have been flunking the school-leaving exam over the past several years.

Education officials agree that poor performance in English has been the single largest cause of decline in the success rate in the HS exam from about 66 per cent in 2001 to 62.6 per cent in 2004.

The English syllabus will be overhauled for Classes VII to XII, the officials said, adding that there is a proposal to increase the qualifying marks for English and other subjects in the language group at the Madhyamik level. In the current system, the subject-wise pass mark is 30 out of 100, but a student is declared passed if he or she scores a minimum of 20 in any one subject but gets 30 per cent in the language group as a whole.

“The bulk of those failing in English are the ones who pass Madhyamik scoring the bare minimum 20,” Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, the president of the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education, said.

The rate of failure may have jumped in recent years because students are being taught by teachers who are a product of the two decades till 1999 during which English was in exile from Bengal’s primary schools.

Acknowledging the problem, the government has initiated a teach-the-teachers programme in collaboration with the British Council.

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