The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Old habits die hard. Parents of students from government-aided schools in Burdwan district are obviously in a state of automatic panic at the thought of their children having to make do without private tutors. More than forty teachers from these schools have been taken to court for their duplicity. They had declared to the government that they were not going to be providing private tuition, but have been found out to be doing so even while drawing a salary from the schools. These teachers admit that they have knowingly broken the rules, but feel that bringing criminal charges against them is excessive. But more than this reaction, what is particularly significant is that some parents have formed a forum in active support of these teachers. They have submitted a petition to the governor and the chief minister in condemnation of the education departmentís firmness. There is some pragmatic pedagogy in this document as well. This parent body is convinced that students suffer in the absence of private tuition.

The extent to which private tuition is deeply embedded in Bengalís commonsensical assumptions regarding primary education is clearly illustrated by the behaviour of these parents. What is also evident is the difficulty of pushing through immediate reforms when the benefits of these reforms can only be observed in the longer run. On the part of the government, then, the promptness must lie not only in the implementation of the ban on private tuition, but also in carrying out the radical improvements in the overall infrastructure of education in the state which are a must for the students and their parents to feel secure about the teaching offered in the schools. Unless the latter is urgently taken up, it will remain impossible to convince parents about the demoralizing effects of private tuition. Meanwhile, the older system, with all its assumptions and ingrained ills, remains part of the natural make-up of almost all sections of literate society in the state. Merely punitive measures against these ills will not help. Moreover, the education of parents is as important as that of their children.

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