In line with the federal spirit of the Constitution and to avoid centralisation in education, the West Bengal government has come up with the State Education Policy, 2023, which recommends a three-language formula for Classes 5 to 8, with emphasis on Bengali.
“The committee also recommends that Bangla [Bengali] as a subject may be introduced from Class 1 to Class 10 for students of other mediums of instruction. A suitable curriculum and syllabus may be formulated accordingly,” one of the recommendations of the policy document states.
The education policy, released on September 5, has been envisaged for the next 13 years.
The document highlights that in preparing the education policy, the committee consulted various available education policies, including the reports on NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 and the recently published Report of the Task Force for Implementation of NEP 2020 in Maharashtra and the Report on the NEP 2020 from Kerala.
Focus on mother tongue
The three-language formula for students of Classes 5 to 8 lays stress on the mother tongue of the students. “Three-language formula to be introduced in schools for the students of classes 5 to 8 depending upon the availability of infrastructure and resources. It is suggested that the first language (mother tongue) would be the medium of instruction of the school e.g. Nepali in Nepali medium school, Santhali in Santhali medium school, Rajbanshi in Rajbanshi medium school, Bengali in Bangla medium school…” the policy document states.
Prior to this, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had emphasised on the three-language formula and stressed on students across the State learning Bengali. On September 7, the Assembly passed a resolution announcing ‘Poila Baishak’, the first day of the Bengali New Year, as the State’s foundation day, and the Rabindranath Tagore song ‘Banglar Maati Banglar Jol’ as the State’s anthem.
The State’s Education Policy has rejected changing the school structure to a 5+3+3+4 system from the existing model because it advocates abolishing the Class 10 board examination. “The present structure of school education in West Bengal follows a 5+4+2+2 pattern.. It is proposed that the same structure be continued in the State,” the policy document states.
Another key recommendation in the State Education Policy is that semester system be introduced for a better assessment from Class 8 and onwards in a phased manner over the next three years. At the higher secondary level, the new policy lays emphasis on introducing challenging coursework, participating in extracurricular activities, exploring different career options, along with a semester system in Classes 11 and 12 to ease the transition from school to university in a phased manner.
In the area of higher education, the new policy recommends increasing gross enrolment ratio (GER), reviewing existing policy of expansion of higher education, sharing of resources between universities and colleges as well as increasing employability of students. On the financing of education, the document points out that from the Kothari Commission to the National Education Policy 2020, there has been a consistent recommendation for earmarking 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education.
“The Central government requires to take necessary steps and help the State governments to allocate a relative share of State GDP for education since education is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution,” the policy document states.
Apart from funding by the State, private financing should be encouraged in a systematic manner, it says.