Since the earliest times, Bihar has had much to teach to the world. The fifth century witnessed the establishment of one of the world’s first Universities at Nalanda, in Bihar, the birthplace of Buddhism. It taught philosophy, comparative medicine, literature, architecture, astronomy and other sciences. By the time Oxford University opened in 1096, Nalanda had been educating students from Korea, Japan and other parts of Asia for more than 600 years.
According to Amartya Sen, an Indian Nobel prizewinning economist, Nalanda University was the only foreign institution to which Chinese students in the ancient world would go for education outside China. It was Arybhatta of Bihar who gave ‘zero’ and without his contribution, the world would not have moved forward. The state has fortunately been the birthplace of messenger of peace Mahavir. Gautam Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment in Bihar. The state has been continuously producing a number of bureaucrats, scientists, academicians and leaders in all walks of life. The current Deplorable State of Affairs is extremely unfortunate.
The status of Education at present:
The majority of the population in the state is dependent on agriculture for survival. Considering the absence of industries and private sector jobs in the state, most of the people in Bihar are either forced to migrate in search of jobs or get involved in farming. The poverty has forced the people to send their children to government schools. Most of the government schools in the state are affiliated to Bihar School Examination Board(BSEB).
The condition of these government schools remains pathetic even after years of Independence. Unfortunately, teachers of these schools are arguably not very competent. Also, the teachers are consistently assigned duty in elections and other administrative work. Government schools were wilfully allowed to crumble due to vested interests over the years, to pave the way for the emergence of the ‘education mafia’. The political parties have started the blame game and mudslinging competition among themselves. The previous RJD government in the state is considered as one of the reasons for this situation by the public at large. Even almost 13 years of rule by one of the most development oriented politicians Mr Nitish Kumar with BJP as its ally for more than 8 years could not change the fortunes of the state board.
The education mafias were successful in dictating their terms and manipulating the results. The parents and relatives of the students who desperately want their children to have a secured future have been playing a major role in promoting the unethical means in the examinations conducted by the state board. Even before the reprehensible image of Bihar’s cheating scandal, in which parents climbed walls of an institute to help their children cheat in 10th Boards examinations and the toppers struggling to name their subjects in the exams, let alone the content faded from world’s recounting, here is result published by the state board wherein surprisingly, 64 percent of the total students appeared failed to clear the class 12th examination.
The last few days have been marred by protests organised by students in Patna against irregularities in the evaluation of papers, among the harried students, Anuj sat in one corner, silently weeping. Holding on to his result sheet, which declared him as having failed in Physics and Chemistry. The teenager told News18 that he had recently cleared the coveted IIT-JEE Mains exam, one of the toughest entrance tests in the world.
“I dare the Board to prove that I failed. I was not even worried about my Board results. Now, with this result, I stand no chance at IIT,” said Anuj.
Anuj wasn’t the only one. Rohit, a resident of Sheikhpura, scored 52 marks in Physics in IIT-JEE but scored only 1 in Bihar Board Class 12 exam.
“Please tell me how this is remotely possible. I score 52 in an exam which is tougher than the Class 12 exams all over the country, but I score 1 in Bihar Board. I am not in a position to wait for another year. My family can’t afford it. I will challenge the result,” he said.
There are a number of similar stories being reported from all over the state. The shocking results prima facie seem to be an outcome of an attempt to make people believe that stringent measures were taken by the Bihar government to ensure cheating-fee exams in view of the toppers scam last year. Even if the state government’s version is considered to be true, a whopping 7,94,622 students failing to clear the examination is indicative of the fact that all is not well with state education board. The state authorities have been trying to shrug off their responsibilities. This is, unfortunately, resulting in the brutal murder of almost a million dreams every year.
The Role of Media
While the nation is thankful to the media for bringing the irregularities in the affairs of Bihar School Examination Board(BSEB) in public domain, the media seems to have lost the track in a TRP-driven market. The stories can be viewed as expose of sorts about the education system in Bihar, but it is the tone that needs to be condemned. And the question that no one seems to be asking is why the national media is hell bent on embarrassing a couple of students? Are Rubi Rai and Ganesh the only responsible people for this pathetic situation? We need not punish pupils for they are the representatives of a hollow design of education which we have built for our children. Children like Rubi occasionally expose what exactly is wrong with the way in which we educate our children.
The larger issue here is the hollowness of the education system, which, most of the media houses chose to ignore. Media attacking Ganesh, BSEB Humanities topper over his poor knowledge of Music is disturbing. Has the media ever taken the pain of asking these questions to CBSE students who are able to secure more than 95 percent in Boards due to full marks awarded in subjects like Physical Education, Painting and Music among others? Most of the CBSE schools don’t conduct regular classes for these subjects. It would be extremely unfair to say that the irregularities in the education system are only limited to the state-run board in Bihar. Private schools affiliated to are not immune to irregularities and malpractices.
We have also witnessed the number of scams discovered in the state of Madhya Pradesh and the bloodbath, as its aftermath. People holding high public offices have been accused of possessing fake degrees. The powerful and mighty has the capability of abusing the system at his whims anywhere in India. 90% of India’s engineers are unemployable – a professional degree holder cannot be put to duty without another 12 months of retraining. Pratham reports that 2/3rd of India’s children in the 5th standard cannot divide a two-digit number by a one digit number. The focus needs to be on the overall education system of the country. The media has always been accused of only asking only comfortable questions to the people in power. Speaking truth to the power is important and media should realise this before it’s too late.
The Road Ahead
Having been born and brought up in remote areas of Bihar, I have felt an undercurrent of change in the state. Poorest of the poor tries to make his children educated. A farmer in Bihar usually doesn’t sell his land even in great distress. The agricultural land is considered no less than Mother. But it is only the Education of Children that makes a farmer sell his land happily. Any lingering stigma over the legitimacy of results of the students from the state would be doing gross injustice to the honest and hard-working students.
It would be unfair to deny the students from poor families their Right to quality Education just because they can’t afford. While the world is busy mocking the education system of Bihar, Patna gears up for Dexterity School of Leadership and Entrepreneurship – Class of 2017. The world class summer school organised by Dexterity Global brings together with some of the brightest students from across South Asia and grooms them into “21st-century” leaders. Some of the past mentors at DexSchool include Forbes-listed CEOs, Harvard and MIT alums, World Bank Innovation awardees, Padma awardees, NASA scientists and leaders.
The efforts made by likes of Super 30 founder Anand Kumar and former IPS officer Abhyanand make us believe that Bihar which was once the seat of education and learning shall restore its lost glory once again. It is the duty of the people of Bihar and the country to make the governments accountable and force them to deliver. The answer-sheets of the students appeared in the Intermediate examination conducted by BSEB should be re-evaluated so that not even a single student is made to suffer for the mistakes committed by others. The government of Bihar and all the other stakeholders must take measures on a war footing in the interest of the future of the country. Investments in children are one of the best and most valuable long-term investments we can possibly make.
About the Author: Kumar Shanu – He is a lawyer, social activist and Co-founder of Whistle for Public Interest-WHIP. He had won a legal battle against CBSE in 2016 for not providing evaluated answer-sheets to the students under Right to Information (RTI)