Arun Srivastava presents the situation in Bihar where ‘reform’ and structural changes are not happening in tandem.
Priyanka, a brilliant student from Saharsa, lost one precious academic year for no fault of hers. The culprit was the scam-tainted Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) chaired by a pampered bureaucrat Anand Kishore. Having received 4 marks in Sanskrit and 29 in science, Priyanka was declared failed in the 2017 matriculation examination. She approached the board with a request to reevaluate her answer papers. But it fell on the deaf ears of the board. Eventually, she approached the Patna High Court, which ordered a re-evaluation of her papers and it turned out that she had got 61 in Sanskrit and 80 out of 80 in Science. But that could not save her from losing a precious year.
The extreme recklessness of the Board could be gauged from the fact that it further reduced the marks she had scored once she applied for re-evaluation. The marks for Sanskrit were cut to 2 from 4 and for Science to 7 from 29. Disillusioned with the callous attitude of the Board officials and its clerks, the girl approached the High Court. The court agreed to listen to her pleas but cautioned her about the consequences should the allegation be found false. It also directed her to deposit Rs 40,000 as caution money. Once the hearing started, the Board officials came out with the clarification that somebody at her native place had played mischief. But they could not clarify why the Board reduced her marks during the review. Shockingly, the Board produced a fabricated answer sheet presenting it to be that of Priyanka. When challenged, they withdrew it. Obviously, the question arises as to why Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did not direct his education minister to penalise the Board officials, although he claims to be a crusader against corruption and committed to providing quality education.
The BSEB has the dubious reputation of being an ivory tower of scams. In the last five years, a number of scams, such as the examination scam, admission scam, result scam, affiliation scam, topper scam, evaluation scams, have taken place. The former Chairman of the Board and also the secretary are in jail for being involved in scams. A girl who could not even write properly and spell out the words was awarded the coveted honour of topping the board examination, courtesy these people. She also topped the intermediate examination with 97 per cent marks!
To salvage the situation and reclaim the image of the board, the government entrusted the task to the Commissioner of Patna, Anand Kishore. But unfortunately, he also could not succeed in weeding out the corrupt and officials with shady character. That they continue to be in charge is evident from the miseries Priyanka had to suffer.
It is not only money, but other factors also play a major role. The topper scam was investigated by an SIT team and some arrests were made, but now in the backdrop of the Priyanka episode, it is explicit that these elements continue to rule the roost notwithstanding the Chief Minister's oft-repeated vow of zero tolerance towards crime.
One thing is absolutely clear that soft actions have failed to yield results. The government measures have failed to make any impact the on thick--skinned Board officials. The plight of Priyanka is a telltale example.
Though lakhs of Bihar students, particularly from the rural areas, take the matric exam, unfortunately, the Board's certificate does not merit attention in other states. The marks and certificates issued by the BSEB are looked at with utter contempt. Education officials in other states nurse the view that examinations in Bihar are not fair.
Nitish Kumar had come to power in 2005 with the promise to provide quality education. But even after 12 years of being in leadership, he has miserably failed to clean the stable and provide a direction. On the contrary, the scenario has hit the rock bottom. It is a known fact that corruption is endemic in Bihar. Merely penalising a chairman or head of the department is not enough. The government has to initiate reforms and give marching orders wherever required. As it has not happened over the years, the officials and babus have become daredevil. They boast that no Chief Minister has got the power to touch them.
While celebrating the birthday of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad as Education Day, Nitish confessed that no sincere effort has been made to bring education on the right track. A lot remains to be done. While Nitish has prepared a roadmap for agriculture, which the experts decry as skewed, he has not bothered to evolve a plan for improving education in the state.
In fact, ad hocism dictates the functioning of the education department. The state government has decided to introduce objective examination for the matric examinees, reducing the number of subjective questions and giving equal weightage to objective questions from 2018 onwards.
The board has also decided to introduce a series of changes which will alter the Class X and XII examination question papers from 2018. The Board is hell bent to introduce this system, but has not carried out structural reforms. Past records of the Board show it is incompetent and ill-equipped to the handle new systems. The schools have not introduced new method of teaching either.
In 2016, the Board had introduced strict measures, which led to very poor pass percentages. More than 57 per cent of the students failed. The schools do not have quality teachers, the classes are not held regularly, and even the teachers do not come to the schools regularly. The condition in the rural Bihar is pathetic. In this backdrop, the introduction of objective examination is nothing but an eyewash. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)