The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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English test for tots in govt muzzle

Alarmed at the growing popularity of a 12-year-old scholarship test, introduced by a non-government body of anti-CPM leaders and academicians, the state government on Tuesday cautioned the primary schools that stern action would be taken against institutions if they encouraged their students to take the examination.

Academicians and leaders belonging to anti-CPM lobbies, mainly the Suci, had set up an organisation, Primary Development Board, and introduced a system of holding a state-level scholarship test for Class IV students.

The intention was to counter the ruling CPM’s main policies relating to primary education — abolishing teaching of English to pupils in the primary classes and doing away with the system of detaining students till Class V.

The scholarship tests for Class IV students — a system that was practised in the state for several decades before the Left Front took over — had to be scrapped as well by the CPM government, as it did not tally with its no-detention policy.

“We will not allow the organisation to hold the scholarship exam any longer. It is illegal, because the government has a clear-cut policy not to carry out any exercise like examinations to evaluate performance of students studying between Class I and Class IV in the 60,000 state-funded primary schools in the state,” asserted Jyoti Prakash Ghosh, president, West Bengal Board of Primary Education.

The schools have been warned because their premises are used by the NGO to hold the scholarship tests.

However, after allowing the NGO to conduct the tests for 12 years, what has apparently prompted the government to take such a measure is the increasing enthusiasm noticed among students and guardians to participate in the exam.

Twelve years ago, when the NGO had first launched the test, a total of 20,000 examinees had appeared in the exam. The figure has increased to 2.94 lakh this year, according to Kartick Saha, secretary of the NGO-run board conducting the test.

“The overwhelming response from guardians indicates their strong demand for English education,” said Saha.

Students taking the scholarship test are required to appear for papers in Bengali or Hindi, English, mathematics, history and geography. As revealed in a rough study held by the school education department, guardians found the test attractive because of the inclusion of the English paper.

“Though English is not taught in the state-funded primary schools, guardians continued to teach the subject privately at homes. The scholarship tests gave the guardians an opportunity to get an idea of their wards’ knowledge of English,” explained Saha.

Ghosh, however, said no matter how great the demand is among parents, the government had already come to the conclusion that the abilities of students should not be examined till they go up to Class V. “We have asked the inspectors of schools in the districts to keep a close vigil on each of the state-aided primary schools under their jurisdiction, so that they do not allow the organisation to use their premises for holding the tests in future,” said Ghosh.

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