The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Old school in glossy bottle

Calcutta, July 30: After two years of toil, the school education committee headed by Ranjugopal Mukherjee has produced a glossy-paper tome that worships shibboleths the Left Front government itself has rejected and is full of noble goals but does not show the way to get there.

Take the teaching of English, for instance. It has come up with the suggestion that English should not be touched till class V.

“Preparation should be made for result-oriented teaching of English as the compulsory second language from class V,” the report said.

English is already being taught informally from class II and formally from class III.

Still, reiterating the CPM hardliners’ stand, Mukherjee has opposed the early teaching of English on the ground that nowhere in the world is a second language taught below class IV.

“This logic does not work in our country. The government, like us, understands how important it is to introduce teaching of English at the primary level,” said Sunanda Sanyal, an education expert.

A key component of the government’s scheme for revamping school education is to establish parity between the curricula followed by the Bengal primary, secondary and higher secondary boards and those of other examination systems. This parity is necessary in the interest of the large number of students who pass ICSE, ISC and CBSE exams and seek admission to colleges under Calcutta and other universities in the state.

The 116-page report tabled in the Assembly today says: “… there is no point in comparing curricula followed by them (the ICSE, ISC and CBSE boards) since they have no commitment to mass education.”

It does speak of a difference in the various examination systems, though. Going against increasing demands for reducing the load on students, the committee supports the Bengal method. Under other boards, the final examination is held on the syllabus for class X in secondary and class XII in higher secondary. In Bengal, the secondary exam is on the syllabus for classes IX and X and higher secondary for XI and XII.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had wanted the committee to concentrate on vocational education.

Its task was to “prepare a well-designed proposal for making vocational education fruitful and attractive at different stages of education, especially from class VIII, X and XII”.

But the committee’s suggestions appear general in nature. An example: “Vocational courses should be designed after making systematic survey in the districts for identifying the actual needs.”

“This is not what the government wanted. It is seriously considering popularising vocational education at the secondary level,” said Sparshamani Chatterjee, former vice-chancellor of Shibpur Bengal Engineering College who had prepared a report on the subject.

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