Calcutta, Jan. 23: The government has rejected a sizeable portion of the report prepared by a committee on revamping school education and sent it back to the strategy room with the brief to develop an “unambiguous and clear-cut” policy on teaching English at the primary level.
Education officials said the Ranju Gopal Mukherjee committee was directed last week to develop “firm recommendations” on a number of issues that appeared to have been inadequately dealt with in the 125-page report it submitted on December 31 after 15 months of toil.
The directive to the 13-member committee is believed to have been prompted by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expressing dissatisfaction at the absence of “clear-cut policy directions”.
The committee, which skirted the contentious issue of early teaching of English by deftly offering only an opinion in place of a recommendation and generated a controversy by recommending mandatory learning of certain languages, will have to come up with fresh recommendations by April.
“We (in the government) realise that we have a report that does not contain any immediately implementable recommendation on some key issues,” said an official. “We expected a fuller report, seen to be addressing the issues in question firmly.”
It seems Bhattacharjee now wants the committee to focus on:
n Advisability of exposing children to English at the primary level;
n Framing a language policy (covering Bengali, Nepali, Hindi and English) that can be readily implemented; and
n Incorporating a vocational stream into school education.
Mukherjee said: “They (the government) have informed us that some of our recommendations need to be expanded, for which we would have to further conduct surveys and workshops. There are certain areas that will have to be worked on. But I am not in a position to discuss the specific areas in which the follow-up surveys would be required,” he said.
The Mukherjee committee invited controversy with its head expressing the “personal opinion” that English is best learnt if taught from Class V. The opinion went against the current practice where it is taught formally from Class III and informally from Class II. It also ran against the official line in the ruling party, which reverted to teaching English at the primary level after having banished it until Class VI.
Bhattacharjee is believed to be put off also by the committee’s inadequate appreciation of the need for a strong vocational stream from Class VIII. The report reached Bhattacharjee at a time when the Centre had sought his opinion on expanding vocational training. It had also promised to provide substantial funds, which the government had hoped to tap by using the committee’s recommendations to prepare a report for the Centre.