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Kolkata calling intellectuals

With its 17 institutions, which include public universities and autonomous bodies, Kolkata is one of India’s leading learning centres

education Updated: May 25, 2011 09:23 IST
Pranab Ghosh

The city of Joy is in love with learning and knowledge. “People of Bengal love education and love those who love education,” says Dr Debasish Banerjee, principal, Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, Kolkata. The capital of West Bengal with a population of around 4.48 million people, as per the 2011 Census, has a lot to offer to students - not just the home-grown ones but also those who flock to the city from other parts of the country.

Kolkata has 17 institutions, which include public universities and autonomous bodies that award their own degrees or diplomas.

“There are many facilities here. Where else will you find an establishment like the National Library, and the other good libraries of the city,” asks Banerjee. “If one intends to study s/he can really take advantage of the facilities here.”

Professor Suranjan Das, vice-chancellor, University of Calcutta, more than agrees. There has been an expansion in the field of education in Kolkata in the past few years, he says. “The number of universities, colleges, schools has gone up. The door to education has been opened wider,” he adds. According to Professor Karunasindhu Das, VC, Rabindra Bharati University, “The scope of studies has widened. The number of subjects (that one can choose from) has gone up. Earlier students invariably used to go to other states. There has been a drop in that number,” he says.

There are those detractors, however, who feel that the quality of education has deteriorated. Kolkata, which once enjoyed the prized status of being the leading seat of learning in the country, has slipped several notches. Dr Siuli Sarkar, principal, Lady Brabourne College, attributes the reason behind the slip to “the mindless interference of the erstwhile ruling party in every sphere of education, which in turn led to the rise of mediocrity among the teaching staff.”

Dr J Abraham, principal and secretary, Scottish Church College, feels that failure to strictly implement English as the only medium of instruction at college level has seriously impacted the communicative skill of the students, thereby “bringing down their employability”.

Dr Banerjee, however, did not endorse this viewpoint. “I don’t think we have lost our glory. We may not be in the first position but we are not at the lower rung as well.” The city and its university may not have been promoted well, he feels, adding, “the quality of education is excellent but there is no publicity.”

Professor Das rolls out statistics to counter what he considers “an unfortunate tirade against Calcutta University” in particular and Kolkata in general.

“It's not based on facts,” he says. “The statistical parameters that we have show that CU was in the frontline of higher education, is still in the frontline and will continue to be so.” “The UGC,” he goes on to add, “has identified nine universities in the country as universities with potential for excellence and CU is one of them.”

And CU alone is not hogging all the credit for excellence. Jadavpur University is a leading educational institute of the city and the country. Apart from having semester-based exams, a boon to the students of all faculties of the university, “we have excellent library facility and an army of efficient teaching staff,” says Dr Subir Chandra Chakraborty, joint registrar, Jadavpur University.

“Five disciplines are taught in our Salt Lake campus, where even undergraduate students get single room hostel accommodation with Wi-Fi connectivity,” he says.

And facilities like this (all the colleges, however, may not have equally good hostel accommodation) draws the students to Kolkata from all over the city and other states of the country. While 10% of the students of Goenka and Scottish come from states like Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Tripura, Rajasthan, UP, MP, Assam and other north-eastern states, Rabindra Bharati University, the only cultural university of the city, gets approximately 100 of possible 8000 students from countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Indonesia etc. JU and CU get students from abroad, with “Most of our students come from the SAARC and African countries,” says Dr Chakraborty of JU.

Everything said, “Kolkata,” says professor Das, “will always remain a sought-after destination for the
students.” And the net, he says, will widen if “we get more infrastructural support from the federal government.”

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