The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court issues English policy order

Calcutta, Jan. 8: Calcutta High Court has asked the government and the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education to come up with an education policy — spelling out their plan about English as a subject — after hearing a flurry of petitions from students who have failed in English.

Delivering the verdict recently, Justice Barin Ghosh gave the government and the council time till March to file their responses as another batch of examinees would appear for the Higher Secondary examination in April.

Ghosh had heard more than 200 such cases last year, most of them against the council and the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, which conducts the Madhyamik (Class X) examinations. They were filed by students who felt that there was some mistake in the evaluation of their answer scripts.

In many of these cases, the judge has given landmark rulings which have embarrassed the board and the council — and, in effect, the state government — no end.

Clubbing nine cases from the bevy of petitions, Ghosh delivered this “frame education policy” verdict recently while the lawyers’ ceasework held the state’s attention.

The judgment — a 56-page affair — has, evidently, been given after a lot of thought and focuses on English as a subject as the nine cases he chose for special attention revolves around this subject.

One of the nine petitioners is Parna Chatterjee, who has failed in the Higher Secondary examinations in three consecutive years from 2000. Every time, she cleared all subjects, but was unable to muster the required marks in English.

The girl then approached the court and submitted that it was the state government — and not she — who was to blame for her inability to crack the English question paper.

Arguing that she could not be expected to master a subject that the powers-that-be decided to keep away from her till she was in Class VI, she pleaded that the government be penalised for her apparent lack of success.

All the other eight petitioners supported her submission, arguing that they must not be made to pay for the sins of the government and its faulty education policy. Parna and the eight others represent at least six million students in Bengal who grew up without learning the language which still opens doors to careers in the country.

Ghosh then delivered the verdict that, coming after many individually embarrassing judgments for the government, addresses the frailty of the entire system and is expected to renew the government’s education blues.

But, in setting a timeframe that gets over by March 31 (a few days before the 2003 Higher Secondary exam gets underway), the court seems to have tried its best to prevent another season of examination blushes for the government as a firm policy before the next batch of papers is evaluated will make it unnecessary for students to go to court and for the latter to deliver more embarrassments for the government.

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