High-scoring students look at cities outside Bengal for higher studies

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee with now-expelled State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee. File

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee with now-expelled State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Koyel Ghosh is a happy as well as a sad mother these days. Happy that her son Sagnik, a humanities student, scored 93.8% in Class 12; and sad that the boy, her only child, would soon be leaving home — for Christ University in Bengaluru — to pursue higher studies. The family believes that the reputed institution will equip the teenager better for a career in psychology.

“Out there, we expect better guidance, assistance and career counselling compared to what he would have got in Kolkata. Bengaluru has firms that help students go to universities abroad. Here, not only are the number of good colleges is limited, even seats for new non-traditional subjects such as earth sciences, photography, wildlife, etc. are not available at the graduation level,” said Ms. Ghosh, a resident of Salt Lake City.

Then, speaking on behalf of her son, she added: “Out here, one sees a laidback attitude and a politicised atmosphere. Not only that, there are very few colleges offering a course in psychology for male students. Also, there is a lack of confidence regarding [West Bengal’s] economic future. On the whole, the conditions here are not very inspiring.”

Ms. Ghosh is among the large and growing number of parents in Kolkata to send their high-scoring children out of Bengal for college education — to cities like Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, and even Bhubaneswar. Given the current turn of events overshadowing the State at the moment — the arrest of one-time Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, accused of taking bribes for recruitment of school teachers — their lack of faith in the system in their home state, is understandable.

Hardly any teaching

This, in spite of institutions like Jadavpur University and Calcutta University, consistently ranking very high in most national assessment surveys like the NIRF, and a large number of their students doing well in job markets and going abroad for higher studies. Popular writer Parimal Bhattacharya, who also teaches at Kolkata’s Maulana Azad College, attributes the brain drain to the popular perception that “ okhane porashona kichchhu hoy na” (hardly any teaching happens in Kolkata’s colleges).”

“A growing number of aspiring middle-class parents have been sending their children to other states for higher studies, many to private institutions, some even of dubious standards. Underlying reasons are many. One, unlike most other Indian metros, Kolkata is not considered ‘happening’. Two, after liberalisation kicked in during the 1990s and privatization came to higher education, Kolkata was late to catch up. Even smaller cities like Bhubaneswar have more private institutions with good infrastructure and attractive-looking courses. Three, there has been a paradigm shift in the Bengali middle class’ perception of education and what they expect from it — the attitude today is more of a consumer than a stake holder, whereas the curricula and delivery in most reputed institutions in our State still cling to an old, rather unfashionable, value system,” explained Mr. Bhattacharya.

Averi Dutta, a student of G.D. Birla Centre for Education, is headed to Bhubaneswar for a course in mass communication. “Being a mediocre student, I could not see myself qualifying for the limited seats available in the premium institutions in West Bengal, so I applied in other states and got selected in Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology. The fees is much lower than what private colleges in Bengal demand,” Ms. Dutta said

No choice

Anupama Maitra, who teaches English in a college, and whose daughter Ahona scored 98.8% in Class 10 ICSE exam and earned a congratulatory letter from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, she would like the girl to study in a premier institution which would offer her a state-of-the-art education and job opportunities — things she is not very hopeful of in the State. “Unfortunately, in West Bengal, employment opportunities are dismal. So, we have no choice but to think of colleges outside the State,” Ms. Maitra said.

Interestingly, those familiar with Bengal’s education system — such as teachers — are keener about their children studying outside the State. “Here, the infrastructure is missing, the academic environment is missing. All colleges are understaffed. We have fewer classrooms, most colleges in the city have no outdoor space, say playgrounds and such. Since departments are understaffed, co-curricular activities are also affected. There’s less money here for colleges to spend, so they work under tremendous constraints,” said an assistant professor who did not wish to be named.

“On the whole, the conditions here are not very inspiring”Koyel GhoshParent

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2022 10:05:42 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/high-scoring-students-look-at-cities-outside-bengal-for-higher-studies/article65698411.ece