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Higher education in Bihar: Young voters, but under most heads, a poor report card

Lowest in country in youth in higher education, number of colleges, highest student-faculty ratio.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: October 23, 2020 12:28:59 pm
For every hundred youngsters in the age group of 18 to 23 years, only 13 are pursuing higher education in Bihar, as per the survey. This is much lower than the national average of 26.3%.

For a state that has had a predominantly young electorate for at least the last two election cycles (31% in the 2015 Assembly, and 24.61% in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were under the age of 30), and where jobs have emerged as one of the major poll issues, higher education in Bihar remains neglected. According to the latest edition of the All India Higher Education Survey (AISHE), released in 2019, Bihar’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) stands at 13.6%, the lowest in the country.

AISHE is the only national survey on the status of higher education in the country, conducted by the Ministry of Education.

For every hundred youngsters in the age group of 18 to 23 years, only 13 are pursuing higher education in Bihar, as per the survey. This is much lower than the national average of 26.3%. Even neighbouring Jharkhand has a higher GER, of 19%.

The numbers are even worse for women as their enrolment ratio stands at 12% as against 15% for men. The poor access to higher education amongst women in Bihar is also reflected in its Gender Parity Index (female:male ratio in higher education), which stands at 0.79, the lowest in the country.

Higher education in Bihar: Young voters, but under most heads, a poor report card

Of the roughly 16 lakh students enrolled in higher education in the state, 6.8 lakh are female and 9.2 lakh are male.

The low enrolment stems from another problem — too few higher education institutions in the state. There are just seven colleges in Bihar per lakh eligible population (youngsters in the 18 to 23 year age group), which is also the lowest in the country.

What makes matters worse is that this figure has remained unchanged for the last six years. Bihar has figured at the bottom since 2011.

For comparison, the college density in the entire poll-bound state is less than that of Delhi, a city-state, which has eight colleges per lakh eligible population. The national average is 28 and Karnataka has the highest number of colleges (53) per lakh eligible population.

Also, the boom in the private education sector, which has contributed to improving the country’s GER, seems to have bypassed the state. Bihar, which has 33 universities, doesn’t have a single private state university or private deemed university.

Few institutions of higher education mean overcrowding of the existing colleges and universities. There are roughly 1,600 students enrolled per college in Bihar.

Its neighbour Jharkhand is the only state that ranks lower on this front in the country with an average enrolment per college of 1,875 students.

The student-faculty ratio (calculated as total number of students divided by total teachers in the state) is yet another front in higher education where Bihar ranks last in the national tally. It has a student-teacher ratio of 61 for higher education pursued in the distance and regular mode. The national average is 26.

This is a parameter on which the state’s performance has deteriorated over the last eight years, according to the AISHE data. In 2012-13, the ratio stood at 53.

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