Home to the surviving relics of education in ancient India, Bihar hosts education institutes like Takshasheela and Nalanda. Bodhgaya in Bihar is considered to be the site where Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Vriksha. Let’s take a look at the status of education in the state at present.
With a literacy rate of 70.9%, Bihar has the third-lowest literacy rate in India which is 6.8% lower than the national average of 77.7%. The female literacy rate is lower than the male literacy rate in alignment with the divide in other aspects like employment and digital access.
The Central Bureau of Investigation recently booked four former CBSE officers for an illegal recruitment scam in Bihar. One of the four officers, Ruchin Tomar, was terminated from the job after he failed to provide the original mark sheets for his Bachelor of Engineering degree which was suspected to be forged.
Bihar School Examination Board came into headlines in 2016 as well. The Bihar school examination scandal is popularly known as toppers scam where toppers of the science and arts streams were unable to answer basic questions about the subject on national TV.
The board suspended the affiliation of at least 88 schools and colleges affiliated to it that didn’t meet his guidelines. A 3 member team was formed to look into the fraud. Toppers were made to take a retest and their result cancelled after they didn’t pass the retest. The BSEB chairman resigned after being served a show-cause notice.
The scam brought Bihar under the radar which prompted the government to take immediate action to rectify the rotten system. The Aadhaaar card of the candidates began to be linked to their applications to prevent duplication scams. Photographs of the candidates were added to the admit card to prevent impersonation. CCTVs were added to the exam centres for extra surveillance.
After stringent measures to minimise the scope of fraud were implemented in examinations, 64% Class XII students from the Bihar Education Board didn’t pass. This was the worst result of a Board across the nation. This brought to light the silver lining that the digitisation of the Board had borne fruits and tested the students fairly.
Just previous year (2016) the pass percentage was 67.06%. While the scams in the examination had reduced considerably, the education system had not improved by the same proportions. Bihar recorded the highest percentage (37.8%) of absent teachers during an unannounced check conducted by researchers.
A survey conducted by NITI Aayog in 2019 ranked Bihar the second-lowest in School Education Quality Index Report. At present, there is a 40% vacancy of staff in government schools in Bihar. Only 11% of students in Bihar could access educational telecasts sponsored by the state according to a report released by RTE. With education shifting to a completely virtual medium across the country during the pandemic, Bihar loses out with its low rate digital access and digital literacy.
A recent survey by National University of Educational Planning & Administration (NUEPA) revealed that a mere 21% of all primary school teachers in the state had passed the 10th grade.
In spite of the irregularities in the school education system, Bihar has performed quite well in the highly coveted UPSC examination. During 2011-2015, Bihar gave the fourth-highest number of officers to Indian Administrative Service with a total of 68. Pratham, an NGO stated that the absorption rate of children from Bihar was the highest. The performance of BSEB has also improved over the years.
In 2020, 80.44% of students who had appeared for class 12 BSEB examination were declared passed. National institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, IISER and NISER have a considerable number of students from Bihar.
The Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya have made a significant improvement in the primary level education in the state. The Nalanda Open University located in the state is the second-largest open university in the country. It provides long-distance and open-door admission ease for over 1.25 lakh students. It recently adopted the Varsity Management Information System, making it the first university in the state to do so.
The Bihar Education Project Council launched in 1991, has been working to achieve Universal Elementary Education across the state. The project works for increasing accessibility to education especially for the underprivileged sections and the minorities of the state.
Stories of hope are being written in Bihar as you read this. A school in Bihar has two teachers and a cook for the education of a single student. The Mansabigha Government Primary School, located 25 km south of the Gaya district, shines for its high student-teacher ratio compared to the dismal ratio in the rest of the state.
A higher rate of enrollment of children in education stands the potential of becoming the solution to many other issues in the state. An educated public is a force to be reckoned with. Bihar’s progress can very well advance with a focus on strong education infrastructure. This election, Bihar would be wise to demand a focus on effective education policies and projects in the state.