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24 Jun 2018

100 schools to increase English reach

TT, Behala: The state government will set up 100 English-medium schools across Bengal to ensure that parents who can't afford private schools can also provide an English education to their children, education minister Partha Chatterjee said on Saturday.

"Even parents who are extremely poor want to educate their children in English-medium schools. Giving more importance to teaching in English is one of the focal points of the government's school education policy. The proposed English-medium schools aim to address the aspirations of a larger section of parents to provide an English-medium education to their children," Chatterjee said on the sidelines of a programme in Behala to felicitate academic achievers.

The government has yet to finalise whether all 100 English-medium schools will be within the campuses of existing state-aided Bengali-medium schools or as independent institutes.

An earlier attempt to introduce English-medium sections in vernacular schools had failed allegedly because of a shortage of teachers capable of teaching in English. The government had sanctioned 104 teaching posts for these English-medium sections. The schools that opened these sections at the Plus-II level had been allotted four additional teachers each. As of now, none of these schools has more than two additional teachers for the English-medium section.

Two years ago, the government had also announced that schools opening English-medium sections at the primary level would have at least one additional teacher with the skills to impart education in English. But none of these additional sanctioned posts has been filled yet.

The erstwhile Left Front government had abolished teaching in English till Class V in 1981, four years after coming to power. The objective was to ostensibly reduce the dropout rate in rural areas, which a section of CPM leaders had attributed to fear of English, especially among first-generation learners.

The then government revised its decision and introduced English in Class V in 1992 and the subject returned to Class I in 2004 after sustained pressure from various quarters. The overarching argument was that lack of English at the primary level was putting students at a disadvantage when compared with their counterparts in schools governed by the other boards.

In 2013, the Trinamul government announced its decision to put more emphasis on English following complaints that a large section of engineers graduating from institutions in Bengal were unable to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the country because of their inability to communicate in English.

The Mamata Banerjee government is apparently concerned about students from Bengal also not doing as well as expected in national competitive examinations. "Lack of proficiency in English is one of the reasons why students from Bengal are lagging behind their counterparts in other states. The plan to set up English-medium schools will address the problem to an extent," an official of the education department said.

Minister Chatterjee said the government was determined to improve the standard of education offered to students in Bengal at all levels. More stress on English is one such measure and the decision to have state-run English-medium schools is a part of the long-term policy.

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