In Bihar, collapse of a school system

There is a renewed excitement about Bihar in the media.It has caught Bihar on the wrong foot again. Again, the topper of the intermediate examinations has been found to be a fraud. He had to be arrested after the media exposed him. The principal and her husband have also bean arrested for helping him fudge his age and take the examination. More than that, the news of 65% students failing the class 12 examination presents a scene of massive disaster.

What makes it even worse is that students who are said to have cleared the entrance tests of the IITs and other technical institutions have not been able to pass their intermediate examination.How is that a student who is so brilliant that he cracks  a difficult test as the IIT entrance, fails his Bihar board examinations, a poor cousin of the prestigious test!

The media should have paused here to see what is it doing: looking at the school in the light of the professional education,be it engineering or medicine. Here schools become secondary. They are to judged by their ability to respond to the demands and expectations of the professional education. Schooling loses its autonomous nature, all it has to do is to prepare the youth for these technical or professional educational institutions. But this is something which requires a longer discussion as it is not limited to the state of Bihar only. Let us not deviate from Bihar.

The government of Bihar treats it as a PR disaster. It says that media and opposition are creating an  undue hype about the whole thing.It smells in it ,like any good ruling party, a conspiracy against the    the state with an intention to malign its image. In this scheme, anything critical of the government becomes anti state or anti-nation!

Opposition, on the other hand has found in the results yet another evidence of the misrule in Bihar resulting out of the decision of Nitish Kumar to associate with Lalu Prasad Yadav. It does not tell us how the two things are related.

Apart from these two interested parties, disinterested intellectuals, sitting away from the scene, are bewildered by the results: shocking they are. Could it be that this time the answer scripts were checked more strictly and if this were to be done in other states, results would be the same there too? There is some lead in this enquiry.

Media can be forgiven for its momentary interest in education, waking up in the times of results and admissions but what about the policy makers and educators themselves!

Behind this accident which is no less than a mayhem is a story of callous and criminal neglect of the institution of the school in Bihar. There was no protest when the government of Bihar abolished the post of assistant teacher. Bihar became the second state after Madhya Pradesh to do away with the post of regular teacher. Replacing them with para teachers is a pan India story.The appointment of more than 1.5 lakh para teachers on fixed pay in different slabs was seen as an innovation in governance by the Bihar government. Those were the rosy days of the Nitish Kumar and he was beyond criticism. The BJP was part of that government then.Naturally, it did not see as a problem. Educationists too, barring a few did not raise alarm.

I remember asking Kedar Babu, leader of the secondary school teachers’ federation as to why there was no protest against this move by the Bihar government, he told me that the move was like givinf unemployment dole to the ever waiting youth and any opposition to it would draw  their ire. It was a populist move for which the students the government schools were to pay in the coming years. Apart from absence of regular teachers, the schools of Bihar lack funds for laboratories and libraries.  You would hear from the teachers that in work culture suffers as two types of teachers, one regular and the other, para, are in constant tussle with each other. Two salaries for the same work creates tension in the school which remains invisible to the outsiders and policy makers.

The institution of the teacher has been eroded in the last decades in all the states and Bihar is no exception. They are treated as government workers who can be used for any job for which it does not want to spend money. The teachers lack self-esteem and are ready to bribe officers to be posted in the offices of the education department at various levels than to remain in schools to teach.

Schools, themselves have lost to coaching institutes. Wandering on the streets of Patna, I saw banners saying that Patna has to be turned into Kota!A city like Patna aspires to be hub of coaching institutes! If this is the understanding of education in popular mind ,who would lament the down fall of schooling!

The only positive educational story the media manages to get from Bihar is the success of the ‘Super Thirty. It has never bothered to examine this so called success story!

Is this a malady afflicting only Bihar? We know it well that in class 11 when students decide about their streams, they choose either medical or engineering and not  Biology or Mathematics! It is also a common knowledge that students when in class 11 leave those very   prestigious schools their parents had toiled to get them in at the nursery level for schools which are liberal in terms of attendance because they spend their days in coaching centres. It is very clear then that the school has lost its primacy to the coaching institutes.

We also need to talk about the sad story of teacher education. Many teachers, who would be held responsible for the tragedy in Bihar may have secured their B Ed degrees from spurious teacher education institutes thriving in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and other states. Who would hold them accountable?

Abdication of responsibility by the governments in the field of education, policies leading to more privatisation, existence of the ‘elite’ CBSE affiliated schools and the poor state board affiliated schools and other layers of schools has created a situation where is no commonness in aspiration in the same state. The agony and pain and humiliation of the lakhs of students fails to touch other thousands and lakhs of youth who live in the same state and share with them the same roads and the same air.

If we do not move away from the excitement of the moment and donot give a long look at the dull, dreary  background that is called schooling,we would be destined to repeat this annual ritual year after year. Ignoring the fact that the youth of Bihar donot deserve this humiliation.

 

 

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