The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The burden of books

Students taking English as their first language under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education become scapegoats of a system where the syllabus was last revised in 2006. But loopholes abound. This is evident during the Madhyamik tests, where they have to answer questions from texts like George Eliot’s Silas Marner.

Most take up Bengali as their first language in the West Bengal board. Attention is hardly given to the first-language English syllabus.

The students suffer because of the huge disparity in the marking system. Those who take English as the second language easily score as high as 90 per cent, whereas the first-language candidates struggle to manage 70 per cent. Students of the West Bengal board are extremely weak in English and those who “bravely” take it up as their first language are pay for their “sin”.

The way English as a subject of study is treated in the state needs to be changed. English cannot be at loggerheads with Bengali as a medium of instruction, either. The world communicates in English and we have to be trained in the language if we hope to make ourselves fit for the world.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a dictum that has become the norm today. Most guardians want their children either to be doctors or engineers. Children, burdened by parental ambitions, learn the importance of rank in class and “high marks” early in life. As soon as school gives over, they rush off to private tutors. The government is also responsible for the students’ misery. The syllabi become more extensive with every revision.

The playground no longer rings with the sound of kids let out after a day of study.

I once asked a guardian why she did not allow her son to play after school. The lady answered, of course, her son played computer games every day in the afternoon. Earlier, play used to be a principal part of student life. They need nourishment to develop into complete human beings. Inundating them with study materials cannot be it.

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