Deprive at age six, dole out a dose at age 18. Bowing to the power of the spoken English word, the Bengal government has decided to do its bit to help under-graduate students improve their communication skills in the far-from-foreign tongue. The mind-your-language plan is to make it compulsory for college teachers to deliver at least one lecture every day in English. At present, almost all teachers in the state-aided colleges of Calcutta and elsewhere in the districts address their students in Bengali.
This apart, colleges will be asked to regularly organise question-answer sessions in the classroom, to help students develop their spoken English skills.
The proposed twin moves come in the wake of the government’s “realisation” that young graduates from here, despite good academic records, are unable to land good jobs because of their lack of fluency in English.
“The government has found that the academic standard of students in the universities and colleges in Bengal is far superior to those graduating from institutions in other states. The only thing our students lack is good communication skills in English and that is why many high-performing students are not able to secure jobs in large companies,” said state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty. The government orders will be sent to the 400 colleges soon, the minister added.
Officials in the state higher education department said the language thrust at the under-graduate level was intended to benefit students whose base had been weakened by the government’s no-English policy at the primary level. “This is proving to be a real handicap for even meritorious students during job interviews,” admitted an official.
Officials in the education department said the government also plans to introduce spoken English at the under-graduate level. This apart, the government has plans to maintain strict vigil in the colleges to ensure proper evaluation of the answer-scripts of students in additional English, conducted by the respective colleges on their own. The answer-scripts of the other subjects are evaluated by the university.
Sources in the department said the government had earlier taken a similar step to improve English-speaking skills among engineering graduates when it found that many students passing out of reputed tech institutions were failing to score in the group discussion sessions, now a vital aspect of recruitment. But little progress was made on that count. The present move is, however, significant as the government has already indicated that it could re-introduce English from Class I. A final decision to this effect is to be taken by 2004.