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Bihar gets a pat for education

New Delhi, July 16: It is not often that the Bihar government gets a pat on its back for doing good work in education. But last month it received praise from the human resources development ministry for appointing 40,000-odd teachers under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (programme for universalisation of primary education).

The ministry’s project approval board “appreciated the steps taken by the state government” in appointing 40,000 panchayat shiksha mitras (literacy aides) against the planned 47,000 teachers, a ministry note said. Shiksha mitras are para-teachers who are appointed on a monthly wage of Rs 1,500.

But the praise ends there and the rest is a catalogue of the government’s failings. The approval board notes the “overall implementation of the abhiyan in Bihar has not been satisfactory enough this year”.

The government has failed to keep its promise to upgrade primary schools to upper primary and start education guarantee scheme centres in inaccessible villages.

The abhiyan, launched by human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, aims to have all children in the 6-14 age group in schools by the end of this year. But the goal seems out of reach going by how the programme has been implemented in different states.

Bihar has 42 lakh out-of-school children in this age group. The Rabri Devi government plans to enrol 24 lakh children from this group into regular schools and education scheme centres by the end of this year, with the rest to be admitted by the end of next year.

Until now, Bihar has had a dismal record in literacy and primary education. In June last year, the World Bank stopped funding the primary education programme because Bihar had not appointed teachers.

Like Bengal, Bihar has been substituting trained teachers with para-teachers — students who have studied till Classes VIII to X and are willing to work for a low salary. Such teachers have come in handy for Bihar, which has been in the eye of a storm for not paying its teachers wages.

There are 37,348 primary schools and 9,764 middle schools in Bihar and these have 31,000 teaching posts vacant. The average pupil teacher ratio stands at 100:1. The drop-out rate among students remains high. Nearly 59 per cent of students study only till Class V. Over 31 per cent drop out by Class VIII, with only 13 per cent making it that far.

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