The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Topper falls victim to no-English policy

Calcutta, Sept. 2: A Madhyamik topper has become the latest example of how an education policy, followed by the Left Front government for 25 of the 26 years of its rule, can cripple a generation.

Unable to follow lectures in English in one of the best schools in the state, where he always dreamt of studying, a 16-year-old boy has packed his bags and left for a lesser-known institution in Bankura where the medium of instruction is Bengali.

The forced decision of Satyarup Banerjee, who stood ninth in this year’s Madhyamik examination, is a pointer to a system that still continues, despite official realisation of its basic flaw of shutting students off English till class V until recently.

Satyarup received “letter” marks in English. If he failed to follow the lectures in English, it only showed the daunting task less brilliant students face.

“We are reaping the fruits of what the authorities sowed all these years,” said Sunanda Sanyal, educationist and a member of the Ashok Mitra Commission set up in the 1980s to suggest the right English policy for schools.

“The system followed all these years is coming back to haunt our children and this will recur again and again.”

Satyarup, of the Ramharipur Ramakrishna Mission High School, finished with 95.75 per cent marks. Science was his strong point but he did well in languages as well — scoring 82 out of 100 in English.

After the results came out, he applied for a place in the school of his dreams: the Ramakrishna Mission-run institution at Narendrapur. “As far as I was concerned, nothing could beat Narendrapur,” Satyarup said today.

But he had the rudest shock of his life when he reached the classroom. “I had immense difficulty following the lectures, which were in English,” he said.

“I tried and tried for several weeks but found the problem insurmountable.”

The school switches from a Bengali-English mix to fully English as the medium of instruction in classes XI and XII because it wants students to do well in the competitive exams, explained headmaster Swami Satyatmananda.

Satyarup finally decided to leave the school of his dreams. “Going on with a language I could not follow was taking too much of a risk in these two make-or-break years,” he said.

He has now enrolled in Bankura Christian Collegiate School where the medium of instruction is Bengali. “This, too, is a good school but the Narendrapur experience would have been something worth cherishing,” Satyarup said.

“But I have realised that it is reserved for the privileged few,” he added.

Pabitra Sarkar, the last one-member commission set up to suggest in which class English should be introduced, said: “Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur, should also have Bengali as one of the media of instruction at the Higher Secondary level.”

Swami Satyatmananda’s explanation for teaching in English in the last two years of school — to prepare students to face the world outside — does not wash with academics like Sarkar.

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