Bihar mass copying: Not just students, teachers are also to be blamed
In a way, the development has exposed the present JD(U) government's policy failure rather than the flaws in the education system.
By Manoj Kumar
Patna: Visuals of students blatantly cheating during the matriculation examination in Bihar recently invited widespread ridicule but it would not be justified to blame the student community alone. The school teachers upon whom rest the responsibility to impart regular and flawless teaching too are, perhaps, equally responsible for the present situation as many of them were found unfit to teach.
Very recently, around 25 percent teachers failed the competency test conducted by the state government to review their ability to teach following widespread complains of their poor teaching standard. The teachers were tested for their knowledge of English, Mathematics, Hindi and General Knowledge for up to class V. Yet one-fourth of them failed.
What was more disgusting, some 20 percent teachers failed to clear the second consecutive tests as they failed to solve very simple questions, such as, which part of the potato is eaten? Five plus twenty is equal to what? Which planet is closest to the sun? What metal is the filament in a bulb made of? And, how will they tackle students showing poor conduct in classrooms?
In a way, the development has exposed the present JD(U) government's policy failure rather than the flaws in the education system. Right from day one when the Nitish Kumar government assumed office about a decade back, it was never serious towards improving the quality of education in government schools where around 70 percent of total children study.
Improving the image of "sinking" Bihar was one issue over which Nitish Kumar had come to power after October-November 2005 Assembly elections. The masses were extremely fed up with the 15-year-old rule of the previous RJD government and wanted a change. The general mass hoped the new government headed by Nitish would give a new push to Bihar but this went on initiating populist measures which more appeared to be cultivating its "vote bank" in its quest for power rather than doing any real good in the state.
One of the first steps that the Nitish Kumar government initiated was to recruit some four lakh contractual teachers on a monthly salary of Rs 4,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000. But what was peculiar to this mass recruitment drive was that the teachers were not asked to go through test or interviews. They were appointed on the basis of the numbers in their marksheets or barely going through their degrees. "Degree lao, naukari pao (come with degrees and get jobs)," was how the government's initiative which was then widely publicized in the local media. Age, quality, teaching and speaking skills were simply not the criteria. Allegations are that the relatives of the JD(U) ministers, legislators, leaders, office bearers of the party and even government officers banked on the new drive.
Such was the euphoria among the common men that even daily wage labourers who had passed matriculation examination more than two decades back too made beelines outside the office of the Bihar School Examination Board to get matric certificates in a bid to apply for the teaching job available in abundance. Huge rush outside the office of the education departments was a common phenomenon then.
"The flawed recruitment policy of the Nitish Kumar government has just destroyed the primary education in Bihar as the teachers have been appointed without testing their knowledge. Some 60-70 percent teachers lack basic information and are unfit for teaching," said educationist Narendra Mohan Jha.
He said the overall situation is rather bad from middle to higher school level as the teachers have failed to impress students, resulting in low attendance in classrooms. "Right now, the government looks to be giving more focus on providing mid-day meals, school uniforms and cycles to the students rather than lifting the teaching standard. Now students come to schools only to get these facilities rather than attending classes," said Jha.
Yet the quality does not remain the focus of the government anymore. The government which once rejected the demands for a respectable salary has now announced to give them pay package at par with the permanent teachers, apparently succumbing to the demand of the striking contractual teachers. The problem for Nitish is that he does not want to annoy the teaching class and earn their ire in the election year when a huge block of some 23 percent votes of Dalits has already gone out following the revolt by Jitan Ram Manjhi.
It's not Nitish alone who created the mess. His predecessor Manjhi too can be partly blamed for the present state of affairs as is reflected in mass copying. Nitish had announced a scholarship of Rs 10,000 for only students passing the matriculation test with first division. But Manjhi declared to extend this facility to even the poor children who passed the examination in second division. The announcement has now spurred rush among the students to somehow attain second class in the test in a bid to avail the scholarship.
Earlier, the Karpoor Thakur government had done away with compulsory learning of English as a subject from matriculation examination in the 70's. Later when the RJD leader Lalu Prasad came to power in the 90's, he too appeared more interested in opening "charwaha schools" (schools for cowboys), rather than improving the general standard of teaching in government schools. The students of class VIII in government schools got more bemused when they had to go through a chapter on Lalu over his transformation as a cowboy who would once ride the back of a buffalo to being the chief minister of Bihar. But, when Nitish Kumar government came to power, it got it removed from the textbooks.
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