PATNA: Vowing to scale up efforts to clean up Bihar's school examination system, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday held a sharp drop in pass percentage of Class 12 students this year as evidence that the state was on the right track but conceded he had "miles to go to plug all loopholes". Not that the government hadn't tried in the past but the "wrongdoers find ways somehow". But the Chief Minister insisted that Bihar got more than its share of criticism and exam arrangements weren't perfect in any part of the country.
Ganesh Kumar, the 42-year-old who beat the examination system to top the class 12 board exam in humanities, is the face of the "wrongdoers" that Mr Kumar referred to. A father of two children, Ganesh Kumar fudged documents to take the exam and topped the state in music. But like last year's topper Ruby Rai, who drew national infamy after she said "political science" is about cooking, Ganesh Kumar too couldn't correctly answer basic questions about his subjects.
"Some people of Bihar are attempting to damage Bihar's image... They are repeatedly trying to damage the state's image)", the Chief Minister said, adding that he had ordered strict action every time an irregularity in the exams came to light over the last three years. The first was in 2015 when Bihar made international headlines after parents and friends were seen scaling the walls of examination centres to pass cheat sheets to students taking their board exam.
This didn't mean that problems didn't exist elsewhere. He pointed at a recruitment test for Tamil Nadu postal employees where a large number of candidates from Haryana scored high, identical marks in Tamil language.
The Chief Minister said the state education board had taken the toppers scam for the second consecutive year as a challenge. Last year, he said, the government had focussed on checking question paper leaks and bungling in evaluation process. It was due to this strict conduct of the examination that "the pass percentage has dropped to about 35 per cent".
That Ganesh Kumar was able to top the exam, however, demonstrated that there were still loopholes. "We have miles to go to plug all loopholes and conduct the exam in a free and fair manner," he said.
But fixing gaps in the examination system is only one part of Chief Minister Kumar's challenge.
The Bihar government also has to ensure that the lakhs of students attending schools do learn something at the end of the day. A state-wide 35 per cent pass percentage suggests that this may not be happening.
A quick analysis by the Bihar government indicates there were over 600 schools in the state where not a single student who appeared for the board exam passed the exam. The Chief Minister said teachers and education department officials will be held accountable for non-performance of such schools.
Simultaneously, the education department has also been ordered to prepare an "action plan" for improving school infrastructure.
(With inputs from IANS)