Last year, a huge scam in the Education Department in Bihar was unearthed when it was detected that there were 3,36,000 ghost students—out of a total of 10,00,000—in the nine district of Bihar. These ghost students were largely enrolled to avail Government freebies, like bicycle, uniform, mid-day meal, etc. If the figure is extrapolated to the whole State, it may cross even two-million mark and the money siphoned off could be in thousand crores. It dented the Government’s claim of attaining 97 per cent enrolment rate in 2011, against 88 per cent in 2005. But, the Government never came out with the exact number of ghost students in the State as demanded by the Opposition. Rather, Biahr’s HRD minister, PK Shahi had a different take: “Discrepancies of such kind must not be called scams. I do not consider it a scam.”
Similarly, a Government report prepared on the basis of Global Positioning System (GPS) found that at least 1,875 Government-run schools in Bihar do not exist; and 3000 schools are running under the trees. Most of them exist only on paper. And these findings are not comforting the Nitish Government. “Certainly, the Government has taken many IT-based initiatives. But transparency can become hard to swallow,” said Prof. Ajay Kumar Jha. Surely, Nitish Kumar is learning about the double effects of technology. E-governance improves governance, but it can hurt too.
“Going by the report, most of these schools are running on papers only; they don’t exist,” a senior Government official of the State Education Department said on condition of anonymity. The GPS survey report has not only pointed that there are more than 3,000 schools running without buildings — most of them run under the open sky (mostly under the shade of a tree) but some are also being run at temples and in graveyards. According to the GPS report, 90 schools in Patna are also untraceable. As per official records, there are more than 73,000 Government schools in the State. Interestingly, officials of the education department are not ready to go on record about it. However, it is also a fact that in Araria district, villagers have come forward to donate land for construction of buildings of 129 landless primary schools. A district official in Araria said that at present there are 296 landless primary schools that are running under trees or on the doorstep of some villagers. “It was revealed recently during a review of the functioning of the primary schools in the district that hundreds of the school buildings are not being constructed because lack of land, and the schemes for constructing school building are gathering dust for years,” the official said.
The district administration has appealed to the people to donate land for the construction of primary schools in their respective villages. But the story does not end in Araria; similar poor condition of schools is reported from all 38 districts of the State. For instance, one school in Patna is run in a single rented room, and three other schools are being run in two-room buildings.
No lesson learnt, 50 per cent Class 5 students can’t read Class 2 books
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, “India’s school education success story has a flip-side – more than half of the students in class V in rural India cannot read the text taught in class II in 2011, – even though around 97 per cent of children in 6 to 14 age group are now enrolled in schools.
These startling facts are the findings of NGO Pratham’s annual education survey of 6.3 lakh children across India in over 16,000 villages, who under the Right To Education Act are supposed to get quality education. A non-Government report, an annual feature since 2005, evaluates the learning ability of students through a simple test based on what students are taught in their classrooms.
A Government report prepared on the basis of Global Positioning System (GPS) found that at least 1,875 Government-run schools in Bihar do not exist. “Going by the report, most of these schools are running on papers only; they don’t exist,” a senior Government official of the State Education Department said on condition of anonymity. The GPS survey report has not only pointed that there are more than 3,000 schools running without buildings most of them run under the open sky (mostly under the shade of a tree) but some are also being run at temples and in graveyards. According to the GPS report, 90 schools in Patna are also untraceable.
A survey conducted 18 months after watershed RTE law was implemented found that there is a decline of 5 per cent in learning ability of students in schools even though the parents are employing more private tutors than ever before. Around 52 per cent in Bihar had age appropriate learning level in Pratham’s first survey in 2006. Five years down the drain, the number has fallen to 29.9 per cent. Those in class V student, who can read a class II textbook, have the basic ability to learn.
Bihar is not alone. Similar decline in reading and mathematics was also reported from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Haryana even though many of the students surveyed were taking private tuitions. “The tutor is a complementary factor and if the school functioning declines, the effectiveness of the tutor is lower too,” the survey report of 6.3 lakh children released by HRD minister Kapil Sibal said.
The survey found that falling attendance in rural Government schools in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan was a clear reason for declining learning levels. Average attendance of students in Bihar has declined from 59 per cent classes in 2007 to 50 per cent whereas in Uttar Pradesh it fell from 67 per cent to 57 per cent. Another reason was increase in multi-grade classrooms in these States, which Prathan chairperson Madhav Chavan termed as a “quiet disaster”
The drop in learning levels among children in Government schools despite the Government pumping thousands of crore of rupees for implementation of the Right To Education Act, is a reason for parents opting for private schools even in rural India, the report said. Enrolment of number of children in 6-14 age group in private schools has increased from 18.7 per cent in 2006 to 25.6 per cent in 2011. The learning level in private schools in most States has either remained same or has improved.
Sibal, however, blamed the State Governments for poor showing of the Government schools. “Central Government can bring a law, facilitate the process but implementation is with the State Governments. In Hindi speaking States there is not involvement of the State Governments,” he said. On the positive, the report said the learning levels in Punjab and Tamil Nadu witnessed maximum improvement, where the State Governments ran special programme to improve reading ability and numeracy under the Government’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA).
To measure student abilities, Chavan suggested a learning evaluation test at class VIII level which Sibal termed unviable unless entire education system is changed. He also ruled out accepting another suggestion of giving money under SSA for three years and termed school education problem as “political” rather than administrative.
- Private schools enrolment increased from 18.7 per cent in 2006 to 25.6 per cent in 2011.
- Between 30-50 per cent of children in rural areas of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland are enrolled in private schools.
- About 44 per cent of students in schools take private tuitions.
- All India level 73.4 per cent in 2007 to 70.9 per cent in 2011.
- Bihar attendance fell from 59 per cent to 50 per cent. In Madhya Pradesh, 67 per cent to 54.5 per cent and in Uttar Pradesh from 64.4 per cent to 57.3 per cent.
- 48.2 per cent of students in class V can read text taught in class II, a fall of about 5 per cent since 2010.
- In Bihar, it dropped from 51.7 per cent in 2006 to 29.9 per cent. In UP, from 23.5 per cent to 18 per cent, in Rajasthan 31.6 per cent to 22.6 per cent.
- In Gujarat, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, the learning level in 2011 was better than 2010 with not much change observed in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Over 96.7 per cent of children in 6-14 age group enrolled in primary schools.