Bihar, a state that is home to premier universities and centers of learning such as Nalanda and Vikramshila has been witnessing a steady downfall in its educational system. This state of affairs could be directly attributed lack of proper infrastructure as well as lack of interest among high-end government officials to change things. This problem of inadequate educational infrastructure, creating a huge demand-supply gap is being aided by the ever-increasing population.
From the results of 2017 secondary and higher secondary board exams, it is seen that around 60% of students have failed to qualify the examinations owing to the corrupt education system that is prevalent in the state of Bihar. This constitutes approximately 16.9 lakh students. Upon being questioned about this drastic downfall in the ‘qualified students’ percentage, the concerned authorities in Bihar have the audacity to blame it all on the ‘anti-cheating’ norm that has been implemented. This bluff is evident from the fact that these same ‘anti-cheating’ norms are being followed in most Indian states and by recognized boards such as ICSE, CBSE, etc. and yet the students are seen passing the examinations with flying colors.
As per the data from District Information System for Education (DISE), the enrolment rate at the primary education level has gone up considerably and is now higher than the median rate of that of the 20 large states of India, starting in the years 2006-2007. However, the concern stands with the enrolment rate of the upper primary level which has gone down drastically with less than half of the eligible children of Bihar’s vast population attending school.
In order to assess the overall educational progress, if we look into the condition of what is being provided to the schools as the basic ‘schooling inputs’ we will find that Bihar is at the bottom of the list in both absolute terms as well as in comparison with the other Indian states. Besides absolutely poor provisions of schooling inputs, Bihar is also found to have the highest teacher-student ratio in the country and the same goes with the classroom-student ratio as compared to the other Indian states. Bihar’s teacher-student ratio stands at 1:53, whereas the national median ratio is 1:26. It is found that over almost 80 students are crammed into one single classroom, which is again way above the national median.
Although in the 1960s various important educational reforms were introduced and implemented into Bihar’s education system by the then State Education Minister, Late Mr. Satender Narain yet all the reforms and goodwill proved to be short-lived due to the successive governments’ unfathomable failure in continuing to implement those phenomenal changes and reforms. Modern Bihar’s inadequate and ailing educational system has led to a massive ‘brain drain’ as students from are migrating to the other Indian states such as Karnataka, Delhi, etc. in order to seek proper educational opportunities and facilities even for the basic levels of education such as the higher secondary and graduation level college education.
Right from the time of the British Raj, Bihar has had this tradition of district schools in addition to private and semi aided school which were then run by the local village communities. They were well known for the high-quality education that was provided by them. However, when the state government took over the management of most privately run schools in the late 1970s and the early 1980s; this had an adverse effect on the education system as a whole. The main reason behind this is the state government being ill-equipped to manage the educational front.
According to the surveys conducted, it has been found that approximately 37.8% of Bihar’s teachers from the various school all across Bihar could not be found or were found to be absent during the unannounced school visits and inspections. Presently Bihar stands with the worst ‘Teacher absence rate’ in India as well as ranks among the worst in the world.
The state government has failed to provide sufficient teachers in the various schools throughout Bihar. There are about 37.7% fewer teachers than that is required in the elementary schools, which clearly is a major reason for the ailing condition of Bihar’s education system. Furthermore, among those that are available or are appointed as teachers in these schools, about 28% of them remain absent constantly.
About over 1.5 lakh para-teachers were employed over the past few years on the basis of the consent and conscience of the head of the Panchayat or the Panchayat Mukhiya. In a state where everyone, from a police constable to a peon, is being employed through written examinations, employing teachers merely with the consent of the Panchayat Mukhiya makes no sense. It is also a fact that about 10% of the primary schools in Bihar lack access to clean and proper drinking water facilities and only about 20% of the schools have provisions for separate girl’s toilet, despite Bihar focusing on hiring more female teachers for its primary schools. These are a few very important facts that create a major blockage in Bihar’s education system as these essential schooling inputs are directly connected to the transmission of various diseases within and across the schools.
This not only hinders the quality of schooling but also the amount of schooling received because of course, absence due to illness is definitely a major issue. Although the Bihar State Education Committee has taken certain steps such as implementing a deworming programme that was conducted in the year 2011, followed by a follow-up yet the main concerns of provisions of clean drinking water and separate toilets for girls still remain unfulfilled.
The surveys have brought up another massively important factor behind this ailing condition of the education system in Bihar and that is the overall mentality of the population regarding education. It is found that many parents, as well as students, believe it is better to start working earlier in life rather than spending much of that time in receiving the formal education that is being provided in schools. This is resulting in the people choosing to ‘under-educated’ themselves. Given the current lack of information in Bihar, launching campaigns which aim at educating the people about the importance of education is the only way out, in order to increase school enrolments.
There have been various improvements in policies in the past few years such as lowering the cost of schooling by providing textbooks, uniforms, meals, bicycles, cash-transfers, etc. in a hope that there will be an increase in the number of children attending school. Understanding the people’s decision whether or not to invest in education should be an important area of focus to be able to turn around the current educational scenario in Bihar besides focusing on improving both the quality and quantity of educational inputs.