Here’s why 1,140 Bihar schools are facing closure
More than 1,140 primary schools may be closed in Bihar as they don’t have adequate number of students.
As many as 13 schools have recorded zero enrolment, while another 171 schools have fewer than 20 students. A total of 1,140 schools have fewer than 40 students.
These were the details furnished by the state in 2017-18 to the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE), a database about schools in India, developed at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA). According to officials, the reason for the low enrolment is parents’ preference to private schools due to lack of infrastructure, teacher absenteeism, and poor quality education in government schools, among others.
This is in addition to 1,773 schools without buildings, which the government plans to merge with nearby schools with infrastructure. The merger plan comes after the state failed to land for the 1,773 schools. Most of these schools have been merged. Of them, 190 schools in Patna district alone.
The enrolment in government schools dropped to 1.8 crore in 2017-18 from 1.99 crore in 2016-17. The number is expected to drop further when fresh data is examined, diluting the government claim of more than 99% enrolment.
The most alarming trend reflected through U-DISE is that the dropout rate from Class 9 to Class 10– almost 25% of the total enrollment in 2014-15, which jumped to 39.73% in 2016-17, the period when there was unprecedented increase in the number of students failing in Bihar class 10 and 12 board exams.
One of the reasons for the drop, authorities admitted, is parents’ preference for private schools for better education and infrastructure.
“If the incentives (such as scholarships, bicycles) attached with government schools are removed, the number will drop further. Many students get admitted to government schools to avail incentives but study in private schools. In 2011, when reports on inflated enrolments surfaced, it created a flutter,” an education department official added.
Three years ago, the then principal secretary, department of education, Amarjeet Sinha, had said the duplication of enrolment in government schools could be up to 20%.
Bihar Education Project Council (BSEPC) director Sanjay Singh, however, said that the drop in students’ number was due to government’s drive to do away with duplication in enrolment. “The number children availing mid-day meal has come down to 1.20 crore compare to previous years,” he added.
Singh said that the sanctity of data was being maintained. “Earlier, there was no data on private schools. Now, that is also being prepared. Around 12 lakh more students have joined private schools, not necessarily because they have suddenly opened, but because they are being documented,” he added.
Singh said under the Right to Education Act, there should be a school within a kilometre for Class 1-5 students provided there are a minimum of 40 students. “If that is not the case, teachers can be used elsewhere more effectively. Having 3-4 teachers for fewer than 40 children is not relevant,” he said, adding he would do another appraisal in January after studying the reasons and reports of physical verification.
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