Even English medium schools affiliated to boards other than the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education will have to make provisions for teaching Bengali as a second or third language.
In a major decision that may have far reaching political and social implications, the West Bengal government has made Bengali compulsory in all schools, including private English medium schools of the State.
The announcement was made by Education Minister Partha Chatterjee late on Monday evening at a hurriedly called press conference.
“From now on, it will be compulsory for students to learn Bengali in schools. English medium schools will have to make Bengali an optional subject from Class I so that the students can study it either as a second or third language,” Mr. Chatterjee said.
The Minister made it clear that even English medium schools affiliated to boards other than the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education will have to make provisions for teaching Bengali as a second or third language.
Even though there are provisions for teaching language in schools, it was not mandatory that Bengali would be one of three languages for students.
Other than Bengali, English and Hindi there are provisions for opting for Urdu, Gurumukhi, Nepali and Ol-chiki among other languages as the medium of instruction in schools of the State.
The decision by the Mamata Banerjee government comes after a similar decision was taken by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)- led government in Kerala.
In April last, the Kerala government promulgated an ordinance making the teaching of Malayalam compulsory in all schools of the State.
During the Left Front regime, the West Bengal government abolished English in the primary sections of State run schools in 1984 only to bring it back in a phased manner – English returned to Class V in 1992, Class III in 1998 and finally in 2003, it was decided that the subject will be taught from Class I onwards.