|The Prestigious Adhar Chand Higher Secondary School|
Our town Silchar is proud to have witnessed the famous ‘Bhasha Andolan’ where eleven brave hearts laid down their lives to defend the legitimate right of every Bengalee, and in lieu of which Bengali was made the official language of three districts of today’s Barak Valley.
Silchar, for that matter, Barak Valley carries the legacy of numerous literary excellences in Bengali language and has produced some celebrated authors and academicians who later emerged as the exponents of the ‘Sweetest Language in the World’ – as declared by the UN. The land had every reason to be termed as the ‘Ishaan Bangla’.
However , the irony is, the current state of Bengali medium schools in the town narrates a different story altogether. These schools, which have lost their glorious days long back, are now struggling for their bare minimum existence. Today we feel ashamed of sending our children to a Bengali medium school.
Studying in English medium schools has become the norm rather than the rule. Resultantly, we often get to hear people saying quite proudly, “my son doesn’t know how to read or write in Bengali.” Nurseries, play schools and Crèches seem to have taken over the concept of ‘Pathashala’, as kids today would relate this word more with a Shaahid Kapoor movie than an institution where most of their parents had started their academic journeys from. No wonder, 19th May has now been reduced to just an annual event.
But Why? Well, the quality of the Bengali medium schools has gone down. Moreover, it’s imperative to keep pace with the world and apparently only a convent or a missionary school can provide that education these days.
Agreed, in the era globalization, being adept in English is a necessity and is taken for granted. But, does it mean that studying in a Bengali medium school makes you any less intelligent? Or does it make you less proficient in the ‘Queen’s language’? Well, history begs to differ… best of the English teachers in the region had studied in Bengali medium schools; there are people across the globe who are doing wonders in their respective fields, had gone to Bengali medium schools. Having Studied in Durga Shankar Pathshala, Ramkumar Nandi Pathshala, Kuladasundari Pathsahala, Adhar Chand, Narsing School or the Government Schools did never play a deterrent to them.
Then why is this change in attitude? Probably we should go back to the first concern, that is, quality of education in Bengali medium schools.
While, there is no denying the fact that Bengali medium schools do lag behind in terms of infrastructure compared to that of their English medium counterparts, it is also true that today English medium schools are more professional in their approach. Traditional approach coupled with lack of accountability has pushed the Bengali medium schools to such a point that rising from this low seems to be rather too optimistic. Being in an era of consumerism where everything is judged as per ROI, we cannot really blame the parents of this generation who simply want the best for their children. Also, studying in an English medium is today is more of a status symbol.
Question here is, what would have gone wrong? Even a decade ago these schools were serious contenders for being ranked as the top performing schools in the board examinations. But the change over last few years has been a glaring one that speaks about a steep decline in their performances which is going down further with every passing year. Reason might be many – lack of funds leading to inadequate infrastructure, indifferent attitude of the stakeholders, changing preferences and so on.
Nevertheless, the other side of the story is, with due respect to the convent and missionary schools in the town, as they have done commendable job to retain, rather enhance their reputation over the years, alongside churning out quality students every year… the job for English medium schools has been relatively easy as they have been getting the cream of the society for whom in-house guidance from the social status conscious parents becomes an added advantage. Where their Bengali medium counterparts these days get to teach those who come from the families who are relatively less informed and less exposed to the outside world. And that becomes the decisive factor… and gap gets only widened.
Most of the Bengali medium schools run on Government grants. Unfortunately, there has been no effort from the government, or any other local authorities for that matter, towards modernization of these schools. There hasn’t been any concern or corrective approach from the citizens either, some of them are at influential and authoritative positions capable of making a difference, and themselves had once studied in those schools. The so called exponents of the language also seem to be quite happy with publishing one or two books a year in our ‘Matribhasaha’, being quite numb towards the seemingly under- threat existence of the Bengali medium schools of the town.
This article is not to undermine people who studied in English medium schools nor does it hold anything against these schools. This article aims to draw the attention of the concerned citizens of Silchar towards its Bengali medium schools that made great contributions to the society over the years and are now facing decay.