In an attempt to check the mushrooming of English-medium schools in and around Calcutta ' not all of which have adequate infrastructure ' the state government has decided to tighten rules for opening ICSE or CBSE institutions.
As part of the move, the government will not readily issue a no-objection to an organisation willing to set up a CBSE or ICSE school in the city or its surroundings.
The certificate is indispensable for the school authorities to seek affiliation from the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations or the Central Board of Secondary Education.
'All these years, we had been lenient in issuing the no-objection certificates for opening ICSE or CBSE schools in Calcutta because there had been an acute shortage of good schools in the city. The situation has totally changed now,' said an official in the school education department.
Taking advantage of the policy, several schools have come up without adequate infrastructure, like playgrounds, sufficient space, well-stocked libraries or properly-equipped laboratories.
Some even lack qualified teachers.
The decision to make the rules for issuing no-objection certificates more stringent follows a review of the existing English-medium schools.
The review revealed that 'there are an adequate number of ICSE and CBSE schools in Calcutta and its adjoining areas, like Howrah and North and South 24-Parganas', the official said.
'The city does not need any more ICSE or CBSE schools,' said Sukumar Mahapatra, a senior school education department official, who looks after English-medium institutions in the state.
The 'stringent rules', however, will not apply to proposals for opening schools at places far away from Calcutta. The review has revealed that there is a scarcity of ICSE and CBSE schools in the faraway districts.
'In the changed situation, we will be lenient to an organisation willing to open an ICSE or CBSE school in a district town,' the official added.
Of the 35 proposals pending with the government for opening ICSE or CBSE schools, at least 20 are Calcutta-centric. 'We will be strict in dealing with the 20 proposals,' Mahapatra asserted.
The government's move has come as a shock to several organisations, including the Christian missionaries who are planning to open more schools in and around the city. The Calcutta diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), for instance, plans to open branches of many of its reputed schools, like St James, Pratt Memorial and St Thomas.
'We have not seen any government order in this regard,' said Bishop P.S.P. Raju, head of the Calcutta diocese of CNI.
'We want to open a chain of ICSE schools in places like Rajarhat, on the eastern fringes of the city, and in Dankuni, Hooghly. The children of a large number of people who are planning to move to Rajarhat or on the southern fringes will be deprived of quality education if we are denied permission to open new schools,' he added.