Monday, November 29, 1999

Enroll in English medium in Bengal`s govt schools

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It took 26 years for the West Bengal government's policy on English education in schools to come a full circle.From abolishing English in primary sections in 1984, the state has finally taken the significant step of opening English medium sections in government schools — albeit in the higher secondary section.From the academic year 2010, 15 government and government sponsored schools will have a separate English medium section in science and commerce streams.Of these 15 institutions, 10 are government schools and five are government affiliated institutions. The state is inspecting over 40 other schools to start similar facilities soon.In the current phase, the chosen schools include Ballygunje Government School, Multipurpose Government Girls School, Alipore, Sakhawat Memorial Girls School and Bethune Collegiate School.According to school education minister Partha De, there is a strong demand among students to study in English medium. The listed schools already have adequate infrastructure and draws the best students of the city.The teachers' associations welcome the decision, but insist on an upgrade of infrastructure and faculty. "We want the vacant posts be filled up quickly by the PSC," said Dipak Das, general secretary of West Bengal Government School Teachers Association."There are many other schools like Hindu School and Hare School, in which an English medium section can be set up, but infrastructure and number of teachers is an issue."With the same bottlenecks in mind, the government decided to have the separate section at the higher secondary level instead of the primary and secondary levels.Back in 1984, in a controversial move, the government had abolished English from the primary section in all Bengali-medium government and government-aided schools.Following vehement protests from all quarters, English returned to Class V in 1992, Class III in 1998 and finally in 2003, it was decided that the subject will be taught Class I onwards.Thereafter, the government decided on a vocabulary-based approach instead of a grammar-based approach. It also came up with a set of specially designed books to help teachers to teach in class and converse in English.The proposal to start an English medium section in government schools had to face stiff opposition from the Left Front's constituent parties.But the government finally decided to take the plunge this year.

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