'Aptitude for English' has made Calcutta and Bengal the biggest market for ICSE and ISC, reveals an analysis by the Delhi-based Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE).
While Calcutta ' where state-board schools have for decades neglected the language of globalisation ' has at least 100 schools following the ICSE and ISC syllabi, Mumbai has 48, Chennai eight and Delhi only five.
The council has found that aptitude in English among students in Calcutta is higher than that of their counterparts in many other states.
This is identified as one of the major factors responsible for the steady growth in the number of CISCE-affiliated schools in town.
'The CISCE is one of the oldest education boards in the country engaged in offering English education. The standard of English ' literature and language ' in both Class X (ICSE) and Class XII (ISC) courses is very high,' explained G. Arathoon, deputy secretary CISCE and head of the council's Calcutta branch.
If the popularity of the national board in the state is being attributed to a flair for English, that it is the only first language offered by CISCE is seen as one of its strengths.
In the CBSE system ' more prevalent in other metros ' students can also select regional tongues as their first language.
The analysis also shows that the no-English teaching policy at the primary level, adhered to by the Left Front government, has also been a major factor behind the spurt in the CISCE numbers, which has grown to its present strength from less than 70 even a decade ago.
There are at least 96 ICSE and ISC schools in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation area alone, the highest concentration across the country.
In the adjoining areas of Howrah, North and South 24-Parganas and Hooghly, there are 100 more CISCE institutions, with a large number in the hill districts of north Bengal.
According to figures released by the council, Bangalore follows Calcutta's lead, with nearly 83 ICSE and ISC schools in the southern city.
'English is taught as first language in every ICSE and ISC school across the country. Calcutta's parents provide all support to the their wards to cope with the high standard of English teaching, even if they are from middle-class backgrounds,' observed Kenneth Ward, a senior English teacher at the CISCE-affiliated St James' School.
And with many students not speaking English at home, it can be quite a challenge for both students and parents, stressed another teacher.
In Calcutta and Bengal, English skills are further improved by an inclination for reading, pointed out Ward, and encouragement to pursue activities like debates, quizzing and essay-writing competitions.