Bengal has produced some of the best brains that India can boast of. Famous educationists have come from the state in the past, and continue to do so. Professors and researchers from the state have done commendable work both in India and outside.
However, the use of talent, hailing from the state, has been on a decline for quite some time. The golden days of Bengal in terms of education are no more. There is a lack of good teachers and institutes of high standards. Many students now go out of the state to pursue higher studies.
To bring about a change of fortune, the new government, immediately after coming to power, had initiated a series of initiatives in the education sector. From revision of syllabi to payment of salaries on the first day of the month to teachers, the initiatives have touched all aspects of education. The latest is the formation of an education commission, whose terms of reference and names of members were made public recently.
Commission for a full revamp
The basic mandate of the Education Commission of West Bengal, as it is formally called, is, in the words of the notification issued by the state government on October 1, to ‘prepare a Road Map / Vision Document for 2020 and 2030 for the State’s education sector.’
The all-encompassing commission is to provide solutions for improving the quality and infrastructure of education in the state at all levels, from primary education to mass education to madrasa education.
Objectives of the commission
The nine-point terms of mandate issued by the state government to the commission is as follows:
• To prepare a roadmap or vision document for 2020 and 2030 for all types of education in West Bengal.
• To suggest improvements in the existing system, with due stress on character-building of the youth.
• To review the courses and curricula at all levels of education, and suggest modifications, in tune with the latest international and national trends, ‘with the objective of making education more enjoyable and tension-free’.
• To make education more industry-friendly, and harness the full potential of e-learning.
• To suggest measures to attract private investments in the education sector, so as to make the state a major educational hub.
• To study and suggest modifications to the existing Acts, rules and regulations in the education sector.
• To review functioning of statutory and other bodies in order to prevent jurisdictional overlaps.
• To make the existing administrative practices more dynamic, accountable and result-oriented, through a system of incentives and disincentives.
• Any other matter the commission may want to deliberate upon.
A fresh approach
The commission has to submit its full set of recommendations within a year, as well as a preliminary report after six months.
The commission has been given full powers to formulate its own rules of functioning. The chairman has the rank and powers of a minister of state in the state government.
It is important to note that unlike the commissions set up by the Left Front governments, there is no one in the commission with any political links. Eminent academicians like Prof Samir Brahmachari, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr. Amitava Bose, former director of IIM Calcutta, Dr. John Felix Raj, principal of St. Xavier’s College, Dr. Kalyan Rudra, educationist and river expert, and several other eminent educationists make up the twelve-person commission, with the secretary of the department of higher education being the only government representative. The Commission is headed by Prof. Samir Brahmachari.
The choice of people to man the commission proves the earnest efforts of the government to make it different from the earlier ones and to try to bring about real changes in the education sector.
This commission has included prominent people from non-governmental and minority educational institutions. The inclusion of Swami Shubhakarananda (Shantanu Maharaj) of Ram Krishna Mission, Belur Math, and Dr. John Felix Raj, principal of St. Xavier’s College, prove the point.
To create a synergy between education and industry, to make education industry-friendly, prominent people associated with institutions like IIM Calcutta and IIT Guwahati have been included.
The other members of the commission are also all experts in some field or the other. Hence the choice of experts has been entirely merit-based.
New initiatives in education
A few months back, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the state government had made the decision to release the payments of the teachers of all government schools within the first day of the month instead of the stipulated tenth day, as practised in the past.
Immediately after coming to power, the present government had constituted a committee to review and suggest changes to the syllabi of primary, secondary and higher secondary courses, for schools that are affiliated to the state boards. Experts from various schools and other institutes constituted the members of the committee.
New books for students of classes I to VIII have already been released, and the rest are underway.
According to education minister Bratya Basu, "Last year, we have upgraded 509 schools to higher secondary level. This year, the target is 499 schools and till date, 326 have already been upgraded The scholarships for students have been increased from 5737 in 2010-2011 to 21,831 in 2012-2013."
The government has constituted Shiksha Ratna, an award for hardworking teachers of the state. It is given to 100 teachers every year on Teachers’ Day.
No parting thoughts... a new beginning!
These proposals and initiatives would go a long way in bringing back the glorious days of Bengal. Some of the initiatives have already started to bear fruit. It is hoped that many such new ideas would create educational infrastructure of high standards as well as create a healthy atmosphere for the best brains to flourish.
The state of education in the state is going in for some real good change.
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