The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New school sticks to back-to-roots book

Another year, another school, once again off the EM Bypass.

Calcutta seems to be bursting at the seams with potential students, and schools are mushrooming with increasing regularity to fill the need gap. This time, it’s the turn of the Gopal Chakrabortti Charitable Trust, beginning April 2004, set up by son A.C. Chakrabortti.

With a governing body comprising eminent educationists and industrialists, 1.4 acres of land behind the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and the promise of “wholesome education”, the Gopal Chakr-abortti Public School (GCPS) is all set to start from Poila Baisakh next year. Initially, it will kick off with kindergarten to Class V, and the aim is to go up to Class XII. The CBSE school’s limit is about 35-40 students per class and a total of 850 to 900, girls and boys.

Set up in 1985, the trust has been running a school for underprivileged children for the past six years in Sodepur. Begun with 60 pupils, it now has 170. Plans are also afoot for a vocational training centre.

GCPS, however, is targeted at “middle-class families”, with a monthly fee of around Rs 800 to 900. Recruitment for the posts of 40 teachers is on, as are admissions for students.

A library, laboratory and auditorium will be part of the approximately 48,000-sq-ft, Rs 3-crore building under construction. Music, dance, drama, art, craft, computers and languages will be included in the lesson plan. Transportation will be provided, and medical check-ups made compulsory. A playground “is a must”.

“We did a lot of research before opening the school,” says Chakrabortti, chairman of the governing body and founder of GCPS. “People in government service, doctors, and even engineers, move a lot. So, the children are usually put into CBSE schools to help them fit in wherever they go. There are roughly 84,000 such institutions, as opposed to around 27,000 ICSE ones. Hence, we chose CBSE,” adds the chartered accountant.

The stress, however, is on “Indian culture and traditional values”. Says governing-body member Tarun Dutt, ex-chief secretary of the state government and former election commissioner in West Bengal: “We want to stem the tide of western culture seeping into society, and strike a balance by going back to our own roots.”

Bharati Roy, former pro vice-chancellor, Calcutta University, and ex-Rajya Sabha member, also in the governing body, feels that although the curriculum should be adhered to, “there is enough scope to develop the imagination and encourage creativity. It’s not what, but how, one teaches or learns that matters.”

Adds Chakrabortti: “It is very expensive to start a school in Calcutta these days, what with property prices sky-rocketing and the huge Corporation drainage and sanction fees. But, we want to run our school on a minimum-profit basis.”

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