Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bihar education system in dire straights

Bihar education system in dire straights  
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The amusing picture of mass copying done in a high school b oard exam conducted in Bihar has attracted eyeballs all over the world.  The picture graphically shows, the relatives of the students writing the exam, climb to the window of the exam halls and provide them hand written answer chits to copy in the answer sheets.

The image that went viral in media has triggered a debate the way examination is conducted in the state. Bihar’s Education Minister P.K Sahi, reacting to the media reports expressed his government’s helplessness in controlling the situation. He said ‘freeing board examination of cheating was impossible in the state without the support of the society.’

His comments attracted the wrath of Patna High Court. The Court observed that Minister’s comment was ‘unfortunate and shameful’. The High Court converted the report of malpractices in the media as public interest litigation.     

The red faced Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in a damage control exercise, has directed the top officials to take steps to ensure fair examination in the state. He said, ‘action will be taken against policemen and magistrates on examination duty if they were found abetting cheating.’

Nonetheless the damage has been done. The graphic picture pulls the state back to the jungle raj of the RJD regime. The adage that Bihar remains in the news all the time for wrong reasons keeps on haunting its image.
The education system in Bihar has collapsed long time ago. In fact the decline was sent in since the late 70s soon after the national emergency of 1975. The students who came out of the class room in protest of the emergency never were tamed back into the classrooms again.

The mushrooming of private tuition and coaching centers became the order of the days since then. It continues even today. The teachers went to schools not to teach but only for the attendance sake. They took to coaching and started making pots of money. Commercialization of education began on massive scale. 

This resulted in mass exodus of the students from Bihar.  The tide started in 80s continues till date. Add to it was the reason of perennial power shortage in the state. Student had to burn the proverbial midnight lamp that was lit on kerosene to prepare for the exam. 

In fact, I was moved to New Delhi to pursue my education precisely for these reasons.  It was an irony of sorts in my family; my father had to go to Calcutta, just for the opposite reasons. In those days education system in Bihar was very tough. Only few can pass the high school exams.  Getting First division was a rare feat. Those who got second rank were seen with awe, third division was the general rank. Many students went to Bengal to clear high school exam because of lenient marking and no one failed there.

Even during the 70s, the high school was tough nut to crack in Bihar.  I know someone who right now works as manager in Punjab Bank failed a record seven times in the high school exam and only in his eighth attempt managed third division.

Ever since then, continuous decline in education system was witnessed in Bihar. Whatever, that was left in the system was finally pulled down during the 15 years of the RJD rule. Mass cheating became the order of high school exam in Bihar.

Quite a few parables were in circulation about cheating during exams. One such was the answer chits were passed on to the student by writing on backside of the doctor’s prescription. Instead of copying the answer, the dumb student actually copied the names of the medicines prescribed by the doctor! 
Another story is, once a person standing on the window started dictating the student to write ‘I know.' The student asked him back, whether it is 'no' or ‘kannoow’!

In fact, the joke during rounds was soon Bihar will be short of educated people and in that case parents have to import them from outside the state for copying in the  high school exam. 
The silver lining to the development of Bihar came only when Nitish Kumar took over the reins of Bihar in 2005. He put the state on the recovery curve and in the first five years of his rule his government did exceptionally well to rebuild the state from ground zero.

In fact, Nitish Kumar almost streamlined the decrepit education system in Bihar. There was rule 144 promulgated on all the examination centers during the board exams in the state. No one was allowed venture near the exam premises except the student. With the deployment of huge contingent of police force, the exam centers were highly guarded place. 

The answer sheets were sent to a centralized location for correction. The results were published on time. Education department functioned like well oiled machine. There were frequent inspections of the schools. The negligent teachers were taken to task.
It was after long time the education system was put back on track and malpractices in the exam were completely checked.

Even as all this was sinking and appeared that Bihar is marching ahead to catch up with the rest of the states of India, the damaging image of malpractice at high school exam has come to limelight. After seeing the picture, the joke that there will no more be educated people left in Bihar certainly seems to become a reality. 
The picture gives a sorry account of the state of affair of education system in Bihar.

It pains and angers seeing such a shameful thing happening once again in Bihar.  It appears, Bihar is going back to the jungle raj of the RJD rule. The uneasy feeling is while Nitish Kumar reigns, Lalu rules.

Checking malpractices in examination is an administrative job. There has to be zero tolerance shown towards such unethical practices. The government has to tighten the nuts and bolts of the education department to get rid of malpractices in the conduct of examination in Bihar.   The passing of the buck has to stop at the Chief Minister’s table.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He belongs to Bihar. He can be contacted at

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