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Studying the City of Joy!
Fr. John Felix Raj. S.J.

Published in Indian Currents, Delhi, 8 July, 2001

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Kolkata is more heard of and talked about in other countries than India. This is a “City of Joy”, a city of great culture and of intellectuals. It is rightly said that Kolkata is West Bengal and West Bengal is Kolkata. It is not just a city. It is a phenomenon of people belonging to every religion, culture, language, trade and so on. It is a city with a spirit of harmony.

It is a community with a human and an intellectual face represented by such exemplary Kolkatans as Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Guru Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray and Amartya Sen. It is its human face, often expressed in deep respect for human life and culture that distinguishes this from other metropolitan cities. It is common experience that when you live in Kolkata, you don’t like to leave it. And if you happen to leave the city, you feel “Kolkata-sick” and want to return.

In spite of its glorious past, one of Kolkata’s worst affected areas is Education. The “City of Joy” has been neglected in this respect.

There are 1343 Primary Schools, 574 High Schools, and 173 H.Sec. Schools. there are three Universities: Calcutta University with 173 colleges and 20 Eng. & Tech. Colleges; Jadvapur University with two Colleges, and Rabindrabarathi University. The literacy rate in Kolkata is around 76%, but the female literacy rate is alarmingly low with only 38 per cent. For schooling facility available per 1000 population in West Bengal, Kolkata is the lowest with 0.37. (e.g. Bankura – 1.16; Burdwan – 0.52).

In West Bengal, the literacy rate in 1951 was 24.5 per cent (male-35% and female 13%). Today, it is 66 per cent (male 75% and female 56%). In 1951 there were 20,000 primary schools with 20 lakh students. Today there are 51,021 primary schools with 1,23,50931 students. In 1951 there were 2000 H. Schools, 1400 H. Sec. Schools with 11 lakh students. Today there are 8000 H. Schools and 1644 H .Sec. Schools with 39 lakh students.

There were three Universities with 109 colleges and one-lakh students in 1951. Today, according to the Annual Report of the Department of Higher Education of West Bengal Government – 2000, there are 9 Universities with 402 colleges with 6.12 lakh students. Of the 402 colleges, 340 (86%) are General degree colleges, 20 (5%) are Engineering and Technical Colleges, 30 (7.5%) are Teacher Training colleges, 5(1.2%) are Medical Colleges, 4 (1%) are Law colleges and 2 (O.5%) are Management Institutes.

Of the 402 colleges, 37 are Government colleges and the remaining 365 are private colleges. The growth in this century has been as follows: In 1900 – 29 colleges; 1951 – 109 colleges; 1990 – 341 colleges and 2000 – 402 colleges.

The total allocation to education for the year 1999-2000 was only 19.99 per cent (Rs.5003.64 crores) of the total budget estimate of Rs.25034.42 crores of the West Bengal Government. Of this, 10 per cent (Rs.500.80 crores) is meant for Higher education. In the last five years, the pattern of budget estimate for education and higher education shows that though there have been increases every year in the actual amounts set aside; proportionately less has been allocated for education in the budget. For example, in 1994-95 it was 22.64 per cent (Rs.2123.07 crores) of the total budget expenditure; in 1995-96 it was 20.84 per cent (Rs.2293.24 cr). In 1996-97 it was 18.52 per cent ( Rs.2373.45cr); in 1997-98 it was 17.75 (2647.65cr), and in 1998-99, it was 17.67 per cent (Rs.2926.56 crores).

There is not an adequate number of schools, colleges and professional institutions in the city. We see the frustration of parents and guardians to admit their wards in particular institutions during the time of admission so that they can gain some social status. It has been the routine business of parents and their wards to make a beeline for the offices of schools and colleges for admission.

There is a steady influx of students into the city from all directions, from other districts of Bengal and from the neighbouring states like Bihar, Orissa and the Northeast for admissions in educational institutions and for employment. For lack of good schools and colleges in the city, students are leaving Kolkata and going to other cities, even to other countries.

Existing schools, colleges and Universities must improve the quality of their education. New initiatives in this direction must be encouraged and supported. New schools and colleges need to be opened. Government and private organisations must come forward and join hands to build a better, harmonious and educationally vibrant Kolkata.




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