June 30, 2024

Education for the Few: Tripura's Shift Away from Inclusivity

Haripada Das

THE coalition government in Tripura, led by the BJP, is gradually shifting away from the much appreciated 'universal education' policy of the Left Front government. This policy, which aims to provide primary education to children from all backgrounds, including marginalised communities, is being replaced with a focus on 'education for the wealthy' which disregards the untapped talents of poor people.




In 2021, the government of Tripura selected 150 reputable schools known for their outstanding academic records in Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations to introduce the 'Vidyajyoti' (Ray of Knowledge) plan. The plan aimed to provide high-quality English medium education using the CBSE syllabus, as opposed to the TBSE (Tripura Board of Secondary Education) syllabus. The government introduced 'Vidyajyoti' with much fanfare and assured that the students would receive a sophisticated teaching method. To fund this initiative, the guardians of these schools were required to pay Rs 1400 per student for various fees such as development fee, examination fee, cultural fee, and lab fee. These fees were imposed to cover the costs associated with providing special category lessons.

From the very beginning, this education plan has sparked controversy. There were concerns about whether the first group of Class IX students would be able to adapt to the CBSE syllabus, which is quite different from the TBSE syllabus they have been following since primary school. Additionally, there were doubts about whether the Tripura government would be able to provide a sufficient number of qualified teachers to conduct lessons in English medium across so many schools. Lastly, there was a moral question regarding whether it is fair for a rational government to implement a different method of primary education for children from wealthy families who can afford it, compared to those from impoverished backgrounds who cannot.

Despite the controversies and protests from various groups, such as SFI, TSU, other Left parties, and students' unions, the education minister at that time introduced the new 'Vidyajyoti scheme' in 150 schools across the state. However, after the introduction of 'Vidyajyoti', teaching in these schools continued as usual with Bengali medium teachers, without the appointment of any additional English medium teaching staff. Furthermore, no infrastructure development work was undertaken in any of the 'Vidyajyoti' schools.

In mid-May of this year, the results of the Madhyamik and H. S. stage CBSE exams were announced. As anticipated, the results revealed that 40 per cent of students from these 'A' class schools had not passed, and the majority had performed below expectations, barely meeting the qualifying marks. A total of 1400 students have qualified for compartmental examinations. This discouraging outcome has had a negative impact on the state's academic landscape. Currently, the government is striving to salvage its reputation by offering special lessons for the compartmental students. Furthermore, in light of the dismal performance at the 'Vidyajyoti' schools, parents are now desperately seeking to transfer their children to general schools.



The government of Tripura has made the decision to merge several hundred primary schools with neighbouring schools on the plea that these schools have an inadequate student enrollment. The government's notification specifies that 160 such schools in West Tripura District have been chosen for the merger. These schools are situated in both urban and rural areas, including tribal communities. Consequently, students from the closed schools will need to travel a distance of 4 to 8 km in order to attend the new schools. Furthermore, several Madrasa schools have also been merged with general schools, despite variations in curriculum and teaching methods. Several Bengali medium general schools have been selected for merger with 'Vidyajyoti' schools, which are intended to be English medium institutions.

This school merger plan will have significant implications for employment in the state. The teaching staff, which includes the Headmasters of each school, will lose their positions. Additionally, the Group 'D' workers who are involved in the preparation of mid-day meals will be dismissed. The school buildings and other associated properties will be demolished. Most importantly, due to the increased distance required to reach the schools, there will likely be a higher rate of school dropouts.

The Left Front government implemented the "education to the doorstep" policy with the objective of establishing schools within a one-kilometre radius of every child's residence. The government conducted annual campaigns to promote and encourage families to enroll their children in school, while also making dedicated efforts to reintegrate students who had previously dropped out. Notably, the selected schools for merger experienced no shortage of student enrollment during the tenure of the Left Front regime. This unwavering commitment from the government had a significant and positive influence on the national literacy rate, resulting in Tripura achieving the highest rate of 94.65 per cent in 2013.

Instead of continuing the proactive initiative of the Left Front government to ensure that children from every hamlet have access to education, the BJP government decided to shut down these schools, claiming it was a waste of public funds. This decision will likely result in the premature ceding of many promising young minds.



The previous Left Front government used to offer textbooks to students from Class I to Class VIII free of cost. During their tenure, the textbooks were prepared in advance and distributed to students within the first week of the academic year. However, since the BJP assumed power, there has been a persistent delay in the delivery of textbooks. Presently, despite the commencement of the academic year in April 2024, nearly half of the required textbooks have yet to be provided to students. This has resulted in significant challenges for both students and teachers in adhering to the year-long academic schedule. Ultimately, it is the students who bear the brunt of this governmental failure.

The manner in which the BJP-led coalition government in Tripura has been dealing with education is in stark contrast to the alternative approach of the Left Front.