English teaching from Class I in Bengal to resume

KOLKATA Nov. 1. The West Bengal Government is to resume after over two decades the teaching of English in Class I on the basis of support from the major Left Front constituents.

The opposition to the move almost collapsed last week when the CPI(M) leader and former Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, supported it.

Last Monday, Mr. Basu told a Left Front meeting that it was "a mistake'' not settling the issue earlier. The Forward Bloc and a section of the CPI(M) are believed to be opposed to the idea.

"It was a mistake not to introduce English in Class I,'' he said. "I personally was in favour of the introduction but I had to comply with the majority decision.''

The Leftists had abolished English as the language was considered to be a cause for alarming dropouts of pupils at the primary stage. Later, the Basu Government, on the recommendation of the Ashok Mitra committee, introduced English in Class V. Now a child is formally introduced to English in Class III and informally in Class II, going by the recommendation of the one-man Pabitra Sarkar Commission appointed a few years ago to review the Government's earlier decision. The CPI(M)-led front is keen on revising its earlier position by introducing English from Class I as otherwise the reforms initiated by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Government would appear insincere.

The front's education cell, failed to reach a consensus on English from Class I as some of the participants favoured the present system of teaching it from Class II. They would rather wait for the recommendation of the Pabitra Sarkar Commission which is slated to offer its views on the subject in 2004.Mr. Basu said there was no point in delaying the introduction of English. Senior CPI(M) leaders agree with Mr. Basu about the practicality of acquainting the children with English at an early age.

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