A look at education statistics shows poll-bound Bihar has remained below the national average on key parameters under the Right to Education Act, unable to meet some of the crucial norms mandated by the flagship legislation.
A comparison of data between 2009-10 (the financial year before the RTE was introduced) and 2013-14 (the latest available data with the Ministry of HRD as part of a review of the fourth year of the Act) shows that while the state did improve its performance marginally on some counts, it performed worse than the national average on most.
The RTE, which came into effect on April 1, 2010, provides for free and compulsory education for all children in the age group 6-14 and lays out norms and standards for pupil-teacher ratios, school infrastructure, teacher availability and other related areas in elementary education.
As per available data, while Bihar shows an improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio between 2009-10 and 2013-014 from 57 to 51, it remained far below the national average which changed from 32 to 26 in the same period. The Act mandates an optimal student teacher ratio of 30:1 in primary schools and 35:1 in upper primary schools. In case of primary schools with students above 200, the Act says, the ratio should not exceed 40:1.
In Bihar, the proportion of primary schools (government) with a PTR higher than the mandated 30:1 was as high as 84 per cent in 2013-14, down from 86 per cent in 2009-10. The national average for this statistic was 33 per cent in 2013-14, a significant improvement from 46 per cent in 2009-10.
As high as 86 per cent upper primary schools (government) in Bihar had a PTR higher than 35:1 in 2013-14, as against the national average of 31 per cent. In terms of student-classroom ratio, too, Bihar has remained below national figures. However, the state has performed at par with the national average in aspects like proportion of girls, SC/STs and Muslims in the total enrollment.
Under infrastructure, the RTE also calls for separate toilets for boys and girls. Bihar nearly doubled the percentage of schools with separate girls’ toilets between 2009-10 and 2013-14 from 38 to 70 but remained lower than the all India figures at 59 per cent and 85 per cent in the corresponding years.
In 2013-14, only 44 per cent of teachers in Bihar had the requisite professional qualification, almost half the national average of 80 per cent.
The Act had given three years for attaining various norms it specified, and five years for professional qualification of teachers.