Bihar’s novel initiative to recycle old books for timely availability | patna | Hindustan Times
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Bihar’s novel initiative to recycle old books for timely availability

The Bihar government provides free books to students from class 1 to 8, but they invariably reach students in October-November due to a very tardy rate of publication of the Bihar State Text Book Corporation, making the entire expenditure and exercise meaningless.

patna Updated: May 07, 2017 18:59 IST
Arun Kumar
One out of four children in Bihar leave class 8  without even basic reading skills according to a report.
One out of four children in Bihar leave class 8 without even basic reading skills according to a report. (HT representative image)

In its quest for much-needed improvement in school education, the Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC) has initiated a novel initiative to do the basics first — to ensure timely availability of books to students — to make its plan for monthly assessment of students meaningful. 

Although the Bihar government provides free books to students from class 1 to 8, they invariably reach students in October-November due to a very tardy rate of publication of the Bihar State Text Book Corporation (BSTBC), making the entire expenditure and exercise meaningless. 

Now, the council has initiated a move to supply old books to students after collecting it from the students passing out. And in the first year itself, it has been able to collect around 70% of the required books, though all of them are not in good shape. The BEPC hopes to make it better from next year with prior information about it to teachers as well as parents. 

“It will at least serve the main purpose of providing books to students on time. The session begins from April 1 and we have just completed the first assessment. Without books, it cannot be made possible,” said BEPC state programme officer Ravi Ranjan. 

Though such a practice is quite common in several countries, which not only helps needy students, but also saves environment and expenditure, it is a significant move for Bihar, which has over 2.25 crore schoolgoing children up to class 8 itself. 

However, while the council needs to be appreciated for the out-of-box thinking in the interest of students, this is also a sad commentary on affairs of the Bihar State Text Book Corporation Limited entrusted with the task of providing books to schoolchildren.

While the school session in Bihar begins in April, the BSTBC issued modifications in the tender process as late as on April 5 this year. No wonder, books get published late. The issue was earlier also raised in the state legislative assembly, but the problem continues on one pretext or the other. 

“As things stand now, the tender process for publication of books this year has not been completed yet and distribution may again stretch up to October-November,” said a BSTBC officer, adding though books are available online they are not accessed by students in the interiors. 

WHAT IS PERIODICAL ASSESSMENT?

Following a regular fall in the learning outcome of students, as reflected through various surveys, the Bihar government last year decided to hold periodical internal assessment of students in schools right from class 1 without the frills of examination, which is not mandated under the Right to Education Act. 

Learning outcome of children continues to be a big concern in Bihar, with one out of four children leaving class 8 without even basic reading skills and with barely 38% government school children in class 5 able to read class 2 text, said the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2016 by Pratham. 

“The assessment is basically to give teachers a fair idea about their students’ requirements so that they can adequately work upon them. There will be no marking for assessment, but just a general appraisal. It will also improve students’ intake of schools in the secondary stage. But for all these to happen, the first requirement is timely availability of books,” said Ranjan. 

Lack of classroom teaching is often attributed as the main reason behind rampant use of unfair means in examinations. With regular assessment, teachers will also get serious and have the opportunity to propose remedial plans for weak students. Besides, students will also develop a sense of competitiveness. 

Education minister Ashok Choudhary had earlier said regular assessment would also give students a feel of the examination without actually appearing at it and develop a mindset for cleaner exam system. “Parents will also be involved in the process to have a fair idea about their wards. They can consult teachers, as it happens in posh schools,” he added.