The West Bengal government has made the Bengali language compulsory in all schools, including private English medium schools of the State. The announcement was made by the State’s Education Minister, Partha Chatterjee on 15 May 2017 during a press meet. He said that from now on it will be compulsory for students to learn Bengali in all schools. The Minister clearly stated that even English medium schools affiliated to boards other than the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education 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.
Till now, even though there were provisions for teaching language in schools, it was not mandatory to include Bengali as one of the three languages for students. Besides Bengali, Hindi and English there are provisions for opting for languages such as Urdu, Gurmukhi, Nepali and Ol Chiki as the medium of instruction in schools of the State. The students who select any of the other languages as their first language would need to pick up two other languages, among which one would have to be Bengali. The decision follows a feedback that Bengali was not being offered as an option in many schools.
This decision by the Mamata Banerjee-led government comes shortly after a similar decision was taken by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)- led government in Kerala. The Kerala government in April 2017 passed an ordinance making the teaching of Malayalam compulsory in all the state’s schools. The government will be taking account the legal aspect on the matter as to whether it would require a separate legislation or that a state cabinet decision would be enough.