Bihar’s education system is on test again.
Fourteen students who topped Class 12 (science and arts) will on Friday sit a re-exam after one of them, Roby Rai , struggled with basic queries about her subject, once again shining the spotlight on an exam process plagued by mass-cheating and rigging.
Senior officials of the Bihar board, responsible for Class 10 and 12 exams, admit the malaise runs deep. Unaided private institutes, patronised by the powerful, are flourishing unchecked – “guaranteeing success” and making toppers of mediocre students.
“I have no problems admitting that there is a big racket in education involving the high and mighty. There are unaided institutions walking away with results by influencing the system at various stages… They know they can get away with anything,” a board official told HT on Wednesday.
Roby’s is a case in point. As his daughter made headlines, no one was more surprised than Avadhesh Rai, a former soldier. He didn’t see it coming. Roby scraped through Class 10, barley managing a second division. “I had asked the principal of the college to take care of my daughter. Never expected he would make her top,” he told HT.
Her “success” is credited to the little-known VR College in Vaishali, one of the many promising “miraculous” results in the state that stepped up vigil this year to ensure smooth conduct of exams.
These colleges have mastered the process -- “managing” exam and evaluation centres and even handing out “tailor-made” answer books that ensured high scores, even top ranks, sources said.
VR College has a reputation for spinning miracles. Last year, performance of its students in the intermediate (science) examination caused a huge uproar. The board was forced to review the result after around 200 copies had identical content.
For instance, assumed was misspelt as allumed in an answer book, only for the mistake to be repeated by several students. Many such errors were spotted, indicating either the answers were dictated or photo-copies shared with candidates.
“An inquiry was also ordered but ultimately the college was let off after scaling down some marks,” a board official said. “The inquiry committee reported that there was no irregularity though it hinted at copying.”
College secretary Bachcha Rai was not available on the phone. The principal’s cellphone was switched off.
Six years ago, the board penalised the college following an uproar in the assembly. “I remember the result of the institution was held up after the results raised suspicion. We called a full board meeting after questions were raised in the assembly and invoked the provision to deduct 10% marks,” former board chairman Prof AKP Yadav said.
Another former chairman, Rajmani Prasad Sinha, remembered calling a few toppers, including those from VR College, for a test. They were told to write an application and then asked to pick their answer books -- the handwriting did not match.
“Use of unfair means is not reported. If there is content in answer books, not much can be done,” the board official said.
VR College is not alone. In 2015, all 127 students of Iraki Girs’ inter school in Nawada and 63 students of St Teresa Balika High School (Bettiah) got first division. So did, the 459 of the 463 students of SNNR College, Begusarai and 582 of 601 Samastipur’s BRS Mahila College, to name a few.
Making of the racket
These topper-manufacturing units have gone top speed since 2008 when the state government linked students’ performance to funding. It is an incentive for schools to help students do better but is being widely misused.
For every candidate scoring first division (60% marks and above), these institutes get Rs 4,000 annually, Rs 3,500 for second divisions and Rs 3,000 for third divisions.
Those scoring above 80% in intermediate (science) are also eligible for Inspire scholarships, which entitles a student to Rs 80,000 annually.
“Some colleges even take a cut from scholarships students,” the board official said.