|A Shikshak Ratna awardee greets chief minister Mamata Banerjee during the Teachers’ Day function at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee turned teacher on Teachers’ Day, telling the teaching community what not to do while shaping Bengal’s future in the classroom.
“Gada gada boi porlei boro hoye jai, ei theory aami mani na (I don’t believe in the theory that one can prosper in life by reading a lot of books),” she said at an event organised by the school education department at Netaji Indoor Stadium.
The gathering of teachers may have been eager to hear her talk about their problems but Mamata was in no mood to speak about anything other than the challenges of being a student. “Who says only too much dust in the surroundings causes pollution? An overburdening syllabus is also (mentally) polluting for a child,” Mamata said.
She announced that the government would soon set up a commission to restructure school education in Bengal and pave the way for “tension-free” learning. “We will set up an education commission with four or five educationists. They will prepare two sets of plans: Vision 2020 and Vision 2030. I want future planning for tension-free education.”
Sources in the education department said the proposed commission’s brief could be to overhaul the education system, adopting new policies in respect of science, language, social science, physical and value education.
The chief minister spoke for 20 minutes, mostly on the pressures of modern education and its impact on the students. She did not mention any of the problems faced by school and college teachers in Bengal, including attacks on heads of institutions across the state.
Mamata asked teachers to be “disciplined” and academicians to reduce the load on little children, who she said were being subjected to stress in the name of education. “Studying textbooks is not enough for our students to compete at the international level. They have to play, they have to sing, they need to dance…they need to develop the brain in all respects.”
The chief minister, whose election affidavit lists LL.B and B.Ed degrees among her educational qualifications, said scoring high marks in examinations was “important” but warned against setting 100 out of 100 as the target.
“Never mind if you cannot score 100 out 100 marks. You may not do well in studies but remember you can always excel in other areas,” she said.
J.R. Ram, consultant psychiatrist at Apollo Gleanegles Hospitals, echoed Mamata’s prescription to relieve students of stress. “Stress starts in the junior classes but students are subjected to the highest level of stress when they reach Class XI as most students set a target to appear in competitive exams after Class XII. Parity needs to be established between the various stages of education to make learning stress-free.”
Mamata conferred Shikshak Ratna awards on 100 teachers of state-aided primary and secondary schools and madrasas. “A good teacher will be remembered by his or her students today, tomorrow and forever,” she said.