Bihar board results show CM's ineptness
The nature and quality of education provided in a state define the character of that state and its educational institutions. All Chief Ministers claim credit for providing quality education and preparing batches of highly qualified youths. But Nitish Kumar, who has been ruling Bihar for the past eleven years, has been quite euphoric about his government's achievements in the educational sphere. He often boasts of raising the standard of education. But the fact remains that a deep cancerous malaise continues to inflict the state with Kumar unable to do anything about it.
Nothing could explain it better than his snappish approach to the poor performance of the intermediate students at the recent board examinations, with only 30 per cent of the students getting through. Instead of pulling up the board officials for their failure to streamline and improve the performance, he patted them for the 'achievement'. While he defended the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) and the education department, ironically he blamed Ganesh Kumar, who was declared Class XII (Arts) topper in the BSEB examination for committing forgery. He applauded the board officials for detecting the forgery committed by Ganesh, who has since been stripped of the honour.
Shockingly, Nitish blamed a "few Biharis" for ruining the state's image by fuelling such controversies. In 2016, the arrest of Arts topper Ruby Rai had taken the lid off the scam. Even the then BSEB chairman and several others top functionaries were arrested. In this backdrop, it is indeed intriguing how Ganesh Kumar could indulge in the forgery without the help of the officials.
Nitish was ebullient of this achievement of his education officials but did not speak a word about the plight of education in the state. On the contrary, he seemed to have been triumphal with the poor show. He said: "Following the irregularities last year, the BSEB took stringent measures to ensure fair examination. For instance, the answer sheets were evaluated by experts. Besides, there is an informal internal mechanism in the BSEB under which the results of top 10 students in every stream are cross-checked, followed by physical verification of the candidates". However, this argument of Nitish has been openly challenged by students. They assert that no proper evaluation has been done. Many of them said they had been given lesser marks than they actually deserved.
Nitish has adopted the innovative idea of lowering the percentage of pass marks for improving the pass rate so that it shows a higher quality of education in the state. Yes, one idea has dawned on him: "a comprehensive assessment will be done for those schools which have witnessed zero per cent results. Various factors, including the availability of teachers and infrastructure like laboratories, will be assessed." Astonishingly, the so-called CEO of Bihar did not have enough time to look into these aspects during his eleven years of rule notwithstanding his rhetoric of providing quality education. One statement of Nitish, nonetheless, underlines his inability and helplessness in checking the rot: "People have put in place such things inside the entire examination system that they manage to find ways to do something wrong".
In fact, Governor Ram Nath Kovind had long ago spoke about the sorry state of education in Bihar. Addressing an academic gathering, he cautioned that higher learning in the state was on the verge of collapse. He even went to the extent of calling the officials concerned and the minister for higher education to impress upon them to do the needful to restore higher education to the right track. Among the issues plaguing higher education in Bihar is the shortage of teachers and officials in colleges, which has adversely impacted educational activities, and the resultant migration of talented students to other states for better educational options.
In April 2013, the government announced an innovative policy called 'Mission Gunvatta' (MG) to improve learning outcomes amongst students attending elementary state schools. The programme had two components. The first focused on strengthening governance and education processes. The second component was an effort to enhance the pedagogy by re-grouping children in standards three to five according to their learning levels rather than age and provide them with remedial education for two hours. But the programme failed to work.
Evaluation is something more than the examination. It encompasses quantitative and qualitative description and value judgement, but in the examination, neither of the two happens. It is the students who are a better source of information about the communication skills of a teacher than anyone else. Evaluation offers a way to determine whether an initiative has been worthwhile in terms of delivering what was expected.
Instruction and assessment are integral elements of education. The teacher must find out whether the students have achieved their targets. Frequent examinations make students aware of the need to learn and update regularly. But unfortunately, this is not happening. After Nitish became Chief Minister, it was expected that he would initiate the process to improve the quality of education in a real sense, and not indulge in populist gimmicks. IPA
(The views expressed
are strictly personal.)