Lost in translation: Darjeeling’s primary schools get English textbooks but teach in Nepali

Even Nepali school textbooks going to other parts of the GTA need translation

These children study English text books, write exam in English but are taught in Nepali ( Image: Pexel)These children study English text books, write exam in English but are taught in Nepali ( Image: Pexel)

Pritha Roy Choudhury | February 24, 2024 | 04:15 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Students of government schools in the hills of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) get their books in English but the medium of instruction is Nepali. The students of this region appear for board exams, which are Madhyamik and Uchcha Madhyamik, in English language.

“In the hills of Darjeeling, the students study books in English. This is unique only to Darjeeling,” said a teacher of a government-aided school in Darjeeling, asking not to be named.

The books that reach the schools of the hills are in English, barring a few chapters which are in Bengali. With the integrated text-cum-notebooks for Classes 1 and 2, which the West Bengal government has implemented to reduce the weight of school bags, the parents demand books in English.

Talking to Careers360, an official of the education department in Kalimpong subdivision of Darjeeling district said, “It was a long-standing demand from the parents of the hills that textbooks should be in English, so that it is easier to understand. They also feel that their children will have an education like that of a private school if the textbooks are in English”.

In higher classes like Class 11 and 12, Nepali books are not available for subjects like biology or economics. Certain technical terms of these subjects can’t be properly translated in Nepali and hence, there are no Nepali books for reference, they said.

Mixed media

Students in the hills are comfortable writing board exams in English; those appearing from the plains write in Nepali, but for technical terms, the terms used are in English, said the official.

The schools in the plain areas of the GTA – Kalimpong, for example – get books in Nepali.

Nepalese use the Devanagari script.

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Confused teachers

The mix of languages and the all-subject textbooks are a problem for primary teachers as well.

The pattern of teaching has changed a lot; the teachers also need to be given separate training to adapt to the new format and teach the students, said the official. Plus, even in Nepali textbooks, there are words and expressions that are not in Nepali.

Members of the GTA Darjeeling have been compelled to translate them, the official said. “We are getting complaints from parents because of the few pages in Bengali in the textbooks,” the official added.

“We are training the teachers in Nepali medium only. Although the textbooks that go to the hills are in English, we don’t know how and when the teachers will be recruited. What if they get a posting in one of the plain areas where the books the students get are in Nepali language?” said the principal of a teacher’s training institute in the region.

Shortage of teachers

Meanwhile, the government announced on January 25, 2024, that it will revive the separate regional School Service Commission for the hilly areas of the GTA region.

In 1999, when the School Service Commission (SSC) first started in the hills, only one SSC exam was conducted and in 2023, it was stopped. “There has been no teacher recruitment since 2000,” said the official.

There are many students from the hills who appeared for the Teachers Eligibility Test, cleared it but have not been appointed, said an official.

Now that the commission has been revived, confusion persists. “We are yet to understand who will conduct the exam, the GTA or the West Bengal Government. People are hopeful that SSC will be conducted in the hills,” said another official.

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