In May 2016, an examination scandal rocked the very structure of Bihar’s school education system. A year on the Patna District Magistrate and his officials have in the first few months of a new move, tried to change the perception about education in the state and clean its tarnished image.
With an aim to revamp the inspection culture and facilitate direct communication between students and education officers, the DM has asked top government officials, including those from the district and police administration, to mandatorily visit these schools once a week. While this might seem a lot like the old school inspector model, the idea here is to interact with students and not the teachers.
District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agrawal, who conceived the idea, said the interaction with officers will be a morale booster for students, while the regular visits will prompt school administration to keep the premises clean. “The Patna district administration came up with this novel way to boost the morale of government school students and instill confidence in them to compete with private school students,” Agrawal told indianexpress.com.
“The idea came during an interaction with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sometime back. We had observed that old but tested system of inspections at schools had virtually ended. We reworked it and decided to interface with students and get firsthand idea of their problems and areas of improvement,” the DM added.
As per the plan, about 300 officers will cover the 2,000 schools in Patna within 10 months. The officials have also been asked to educate the students about world affairs and make them aware of the importance of extra-curricular activities.
The meetings will also transform to career counselling sessions at times during which the students will be told to punch above their weight and to not let the fact that they study in a government school stop them from dreaming big.
The DM thinks the interactions will allow students to open up on lack of infrastructure and paucity of teachers. The public participation in the project will go a long way in making it a success, he added.
In fact, some positive results are already pouring in for the plan implemented on January 27. “The impact has been huge. People are appreciating it and moreover parents and teachers are very happy with this move,” Agrawal said.
The sentiment resonates among both the initiators and the benefactors.
District Arms Magistrate Murali Prasad Sinha, who is also a part of the scheme, said the entire school system has become alert since the exercise came into practice. “When the school knows that an officer would come, the entire staff becomes active and it helps the students. Toilets are clean, mid-day meal is of better quality, school premises are cleaner, teachers are present, classrooms are equipped with all basic amenities and above all everybody associated with the system has become accountable,” said Sinha.
“Besides teaching, we also educate them about different competitive exams, their relevance, and how to prepare for it,” he said after taking a class at the Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya at Ramjichak.
Praising the exercise, acting principal Vidyanand Singh said the move is helping teachers as well. “It’s human nature that we always pay attention to our guests and whatever they teach, students pay more attention to them,” said Singh.
One of the primary aims of the move was to cut the number of dropouts in schools. “It is so heartening to see a full attendance in government schools. We also need to continue with the year-round classes to ensure attendance goes up even more,” the DM said. Vidyanand Singh corroborated: “Since the start of the new session, students are getting back to government schools and we are facing the problem of accommodating them all in school premises.”
Bihar has about 75,000 schools and about three crore students. Out of these, 88 per cent attend government schools.