Over eight lakh Bihar students, who have failed their Bihar School Examination Board’s Class XII examinations, would have been somewhere blaming 2016 toppers, who had not been able to answer basic media questions post their results. The then Arts topper had gone on to call political science as “prodigal science” causing much embarrassment to the state.
What the toppers scam did, was expose people like Bachcha Rai, a Vaishali Inter college principal, who would ensure toppers and first divisions for a price. Patna Police’s Special Investigation Team has named 30 people including Bachcha Rai and then BSEB chairperson Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh in the toppers scam. An embarrassed CM Nitish Kumar sought to convert education chaos into an opportunity to effect a clean-up in the higher education system. The rot had set in long back with most students and their guardians taking use of unfair means in examination as their birthright.
The image of guardians scaling walls and opening windows to deliver chits to their wards from a Vaishali school examination centre had gone viral in 2015. That one image caused more damage to Bihar board’s credobility than anything else.
So how would one describe the sharp dip in Class XII examination results from 62.19 per cent last year to 35.25 per cent this year? It is surely a host of measures introduced by the state board – right from putting CCTV cameras and conducting a thorough frisking at exam centres to introducing bar coding for answersheets to hide the identity of a candidate during evaluation, which ensured images of people scaling walls and opening windows did not repeat.
While due credit must go to the state government for effecting transparency in examination and evaluation, the state government has a lot of explaining to do on the poor quality of education at government schools. Education has been among the top three priorities of the Nitish Kumar government since 2006. The government has failed to provide good quality teachers at plus two schools. There still is about 40 per cent vacancies. Several teachers still play truant in practice but manage their attendance later.
The mushrooming of private schools and inter colleges with affiliations from the state board have sprung up over the last 15 years with the state government having a very limited number of plus two schools. This is where the ‘education mafia’ has been at work to just enrol students at any makeshift structure with little infrastructure bearing signboards of inter colleges and plus two schools. Students do not have to attend classes. Their attendance is made on registers and they would turn up only when they have to appear for their examinations. The entire business is that of getting a fixed money (Rs 10,000 – Rs 20,000) from a student to get him or her a degree.
What strict vigil at exam centres has done is not allow students to have their way with cheating at will unlike in past years. The year 2017 would come to be known as the year when the state board had done some soul-searching, a rare exercise which was done during the tenure of Kedar Pandey (in the early 1970s) and Bindeshwari Dubey (in the mid 1980s) as a matter of a clean-up operation that resulted in a sharp dip in results. The state government has cancelled affiliation of 212 schools but that may not be enough. The challenge before the state board is to get both teachers and students at schools, more so at private schools.
Bihar education minister Ashok Kumar Choudhary said this year’s result would pave the way for quality education. He said pass percentage would improve with time. But the minister might not announce the deadline of the clean-up exercise. He may also not answer who has failed senior secondary education in Bihar – government, students, teachers and guardians or all of them.