West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that students in the state would be encouraged to learn different languages but stressed that Bengali, being the regional language, should also be studied in parallel.
“For several years, generations were not allowed to learn English here. I want students to learn English. We will back them up to learn English. They will learn English, Bengali and any other language they wish to learn. Nepali… Maithili… Aichiki… any language they want…,” Banerjee said here at the Shiksha Ratna Samman awards ceremony to honour outstanding teachers of Bengal on the occasion of Teachers’ Day on Tuesday.
Noting that choice of language is the student’s prerogative, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo stressed the need to be versed in Bengali.
“…. that is their prerogative but as far as regional language is concerned… residing in Bengal… one needs to learn the mother language. Where there is need to stress on mother tongue, we will do that, when there is need to stress on English, we will do that, where there is need to stress on Hindi, we will do that… similar for others as well…,” she added.
Recently, the state government said it plans to introduce English medium education in state-run schools from the primary level. Teaching in Bengali would also continue side by side.
The West Bengal government’s flip flop on making Bengali compulsory in schools seemingly played a major role in igniting fresh trouble in the Darjeeling hills.
Soon after Banerjee’s announcement in May that Bengali would be compulsory till class X, including in schools affiliated to the ICSE and CBSE as part of a three-language formula (TLF), the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) renewed its movement for a separate state, citing “imposition of Bengali language”.
Banerjee then countered that knowledge of Bengali would make it easier for the residents of the hills to land jobs elsewhere in the state.
But as passions continued to mount in the mountains, Banerjee subsequently diluted her stand saying schools in the Darjeeling hills and in certain areas of the Dooars (foothills of the Himalayas) and the Terai (plains close to the hills) would be exempt from teaching Bengali as the compulsory language.