Representatives of Calcutta schools take a selfie with Mamata Banerjee after the meeting on Wednesday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
May 31: CBSE and ICSE schools in Bengal will have to teach Bengali as one of three languages up to Class X but students do not have to write the board exam in the third language, chief minister Mamata Banerjee today told a meeting with representatives of private schools.
"Teach the language (Bengali) in schools but don't hold a test in the board exams. Then it's fine," Mamata said in response to a question from a school principal.
The comment came at the meeting held at Town Hall this afternoon to discuss how to rationalise "fees and donations". Representatives of all private schools, including minority institutions, participated in the meeting.
The chief minister also announced a regulatory commission to monitor private schools. But unlike a private hospital watchdog she had announced earlier, this one is a "self-regulatory" mechanism steered primarily by the schools themselves.
The Bengal government had earlier announced that all students in the state would have to study Bengali till Class X.
At today's meeting, Sujay Biswas, principal of Ram Mohan Mission school in Tollygunge, asked the chief minister whether the state wanted all students to sit for the Bengali paper in the board exams.
In Punjab, CBSE and ICSE students have to compulsorily write an additional language paper in the Class X board exams.
Mamata said: "Let ICSE and CBSE schools hold it (the Bengali test) in their schools. No need for a board exam. Take the test in school. Done. There won't be any test in the board exam. That's why we said the language would have to be taught up to Class X. Very tactfully, we never said Bengali has to be written in ICSE or CBSE board exams."
The audience broke into applause at this clarification.
Several principals said education minister Partha Chatterjee had told them after the meeting that the schools would have the liberty to frame their own Bengali curriculum. "We leave it to you," one principal quoted the minister as saying.
The principal of St. James' School, Terence Ireland, said: "Bengali is not an examination subject at the board level. It is good that the confusion has been cleared."
St. James' would focus on teaching Bengali in a manner so that students can communicate and converse in Bengali, Ireland said.
"We must not force students to study heavy-duty Bengali literature. Our purpose would be to help students develop a sound working knowledge."
Rita Chatterjee, the principal of Apeejay Schools, said she was relieved for the students who were worried about an extra subject in the board exams. "We welcome the decision," she said.
Across the boards - Madhyamik, ICSE and CBSE -only two languages are taught in Classes IX and X. The board exams test students only on the first and second language. A third language is taught, but for a maximum of four years -- from Classes V to VIII.
Bengali is not compulsory, with several schools offering foreign languages such as German, French and Sanskrit besides Bengali and Hindi as third language.
The chief minister did not spell out explicitly whether schools in Darjeeling would have to follow the new language policy.
She said: "Let the students of Darjeeling study Nepali, let the students of Terai study Hindi. Let them study in accordance with their capability. If I can speak Nepali, what is the harm if a Nepali speaks Hindi or Bengali?
"They also have different languages. Each community has its own language. I respect all the languages. I fail to understand what the problem is. You teach them Hindi, English. But then teach Bengali as the third language as well. Can't you teach Bengali as the optional language? Can't you teach Bengali as the third language? You study your language according to your preference, but Bengali has to be studied up to Class X."
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had earlier "condemned" the state government's decision to make Bengali compulsory in school and demanded that the Darjeeling hills, Dooars and the Terai be exempt.
It is yet to be clarified which class the third language would be taught from.
The chief minister had written on her Facebook post on May 16: "One of the three languages (taught in school) would have to be Bengali. The two other (language) choices are completely dependent on what the student chooses."