The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt apologetic on Madhyamik, board to be ‘liberal’
(From top) Biswas and Hota: Question hour

Calcutta, March 11: Faced with a second day of uproar in the Assembly over the “tough” Madhyamik English paper and the mistakes in it, the government today regretted “the unfortunate incident”.

The regret, however, could not have reached 16-year-old Susmita Biswas who poured kerosene and burnt herself to death in Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas, 70 km from the city. Susmita, police said, was upset since she returned home after the English examination on Tuesday.

“This morning, she was preparing for the Geography paper. She went for bath and family members saw smoke billowing out of the bathroom,” additional superintendent of police (rural) Dilip Banerjee said.

A badly burnt Susmita was declared dead at Kakdwip Subdivisional Hospital.

Samir Mondal of Chandrakona Road in East Midnapore, an examinee, had killed himself on Tuesday.

In a veiled criticism of the paper-setters, school education minister Kanti Biswas said: “Care should be taken by all concerned not to put pressure on the candidates’ nerve. I am not an expert in English, but have taught the subject in higher classes for a pretty long period. I, too, felt a section of examinees would be facing problems this year over the questions’ pattern.”

The students are said to have faced difficulties particularly with questions 6, 7 and 9.

• Question 6 asks candidates to pick the right words from a passage to substitute “violent protest by a crowd of people” and “playful”. But there were no such words in the passage.

• Question 7 asks candidates to write a “newspaper report” on Mars coming close to Earth. The guidelines in the question paper used expressions such as “polar caps” and “ rare celestial event”. The students found these difficult as they were unfamiliar with the topic.

• Question 9 asks candidates to write a notice “supposing themselves to be the secretary of the eco club of your school”. The students were confused because their schools did not have such clubs. The mention of a “Unicef programme taken for safe water for all”, too, baffled candidates as they had no idea of such a programme.

West Bengal Board of Secondary Education president Dibyendu Hota, however, refused to accept that the the paper was “tough”, in contrast to his apologetic stand yesterday.

“Only the media, some members in the Assembly and the minister (Biswas) are talking about difficulties in the English question paper. But not a single student or headmaster has so far complained about it to us,” he said.

Yesterday, Hota had regretted the “errors, which are due to careless printing”, and said: “We feel sorry for the inconvenience caused to the examinees”.

The board, however, has decided to be “liberal” in evaluating the English answer scripts. A decision on the “possible measures to compensate the students” would be taken at a meeting of head examiners on March 16, Hota said today.

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