Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday stressed the need for English to be taught in government-run schools, and also advocated the learning of other languages, especially mother tongues.
Speaking at Shiksha Ratna Samman awards ceremony in Nazrul Mancha on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, Mamata said: “In West Bengal, students were not allowed to learn English for several years. I want English to be taught in schools. Students in schools will learn English, Bengali and any other language they choose. Nepali, Maithili, Ol Chiki and others… they can learn any language they want.” The chief minister said special emphasis would be laid on Bengali and other mother tongues in state-run schools.
“Language is one’s prerogative. As students are staying in Bengal, they must learn the regional language. However, they can learn other languages if they want to. If there is a need to stress on mother tongue, we will do that. If there is a need to stress on English, we will do that as well,” she said.
Earlier this year, the state government’s decision to make Bengali compulsory in state-run schools till Class X had fuelled anger among people in the Darjeeling hills. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) had subsequently launched a movement for separate statehood, accusing the state government of imposing Bengali language on the Hill people. Mamata had then softened her stand, saying Bengali would not be made compulsory in Hill schools and certain areas of Dooars and Terai.
Recently, the state government had announced its plans to introduce a separate English medium section in state-run schools, which would run side by side with the Bengali medium section. Meanwhile, Mamata announced that the state’s medical insurance scheme ‘Swasthya Sathi’ will cover teachers from now onwards, taking the number of beneficiaries from 47 lakh to 55.5 lakh.
“I am proud to declare that after we started the Kanyashree Scheme, the school dropout rate among girls has come down by 16.5 per cent. This is a big achievement. We have even extended the Kanyashree Scheme to university students. Now, we have decided to extend the Swasthya Sathi scheme to teachers. Para-teachers, contract teachers and others will be covered under this scheme,” she said.
The chief minister also said there are plans to lower the annual fee of students till Class VIII in state-run schools. “Students have to pay development fee of Rs 240 annually till Class VIII in state-run schools. We are planning to give them more relief, and I have told my education minister to look into matter,” Mamata said.