At the outset, I recall an observation; “the most effective way to destroy a people without invading it, is to destroy the credibility of its educational framework.”
Of late the media had been excited about the so-called toppers’ scam in Bihar school exam board. Discussions and analyses are still going on in newspapers. They are centred on the reported case of the particular V.R. College, Bihar exam Board office bearers and the present political leadership of the state. I think the roots of the malady go much deeper. The distortion in the education scenario of the state was inherent in the model of development that was preferred and adopted in the dawn of independence in 1947.
In Bihar, the electoral value of the Department of Education was underlined by the genius of Shree K.K. Singh, who was deputy minister in the department of the Government of Bihar during 1957-61. Though only a juniorminister he was virtually the boss of the department. He saw to it that key positions in the bureaucracy of the department were held by officers who were his caste men. Nepotism was not a dirty word to him. Potentiality of the department to serve the partisan interests in electoral battles of the state became the decisive goal. This policy was pursued by successive regimes, who belonged to different castes. Educational institutions were politicised completely and served the vested interests of the political masters of the day. Every section of the society became involved in this unfair practice. Thus there was a sort of legitimisation of nepotism and unfair practices. Schools and colleges were tagged with specific castes.
Hindi was declared to be the medium of instructions in schools and English was relegated to a secondary status. Paradox was that English still remained a defining symbol. the hallmark of an educated person in popular perception. The schools no longer were able to cater to the aspirations of the people. This resulted in proliferation of so called English medium schools. The teachers of these schools were mostly themselves deficient in proficiency of the language and other subjects. Teachers employed in these schools would receive a nominal salary. The students wore prescribed uniforms with ties and shoes as in standard and conventional convents. Some of these schools employed keralite teachers, which seemed to provide them legitimacy and glamour. These schools grew like mushrooms across small towns and villages unregulated and the enrolled students were allowed to appear in the final High school exam of Bihar school exam board as private students by arrangement with and connivance of the board officials.
Under such circumstances, education served as a tool for upward social and individual mobility only by default. The policy had a domino effect as it was pursued unabashedly by the subsequent bosses of the department.
Patna University used to be the only organization in the state to take care of teaching and examination from the school to university levels till 1951. On the 1st January 1952, it was replaced by three organizations. Bihar school exam Board was created to conduct and supervise secondary education. Patna and Bihar Universities were created to take care of higher education. The jurisdiction of Patna University was limited to the municipal corporation area and it was accorded teaching university status. Bihar University was an affiliating University which covered the entire state of Bihar excluding Patna municipal corporation area. The headquarters of the Bihar University was later on transferred to Muzzafarpur in North Bihar. A speech of Babu Shyamnandan Sahay M.P. the first vice chancellor of Bihar University, delivered in Marwari College Bhagalpur, very well illustrates the policy of the establishment. He said, “The colonial government did not want Indians to be educated. Therefore strict conditions were set for the establishment of educational institutions. I shall see to it that the bar for affiliation and recognition of colleges is lowered and colleges come up in remote villages.” This policy paved the way to opening of schools and colleges without meeting the optimum requirements of infrastructure, teachers, library and laboratory etc. There was a mushrooming of new schools and colleges in remote regions of the state.
For example, in the sixties, a number of colleges were established; Science college by and for Bhumhars, Rameshwar Singh College, by and for Rajputs, Tirhut Mahavidyalaya by and for Brahmins and Ram Manohar Lohia College by and for backward castes respectively. These institutions were to serve as facilitators for manipulating desired results in university exams. Wards of ambitious and resourceful persons enrolled in constituent colleges would shift to these colleges where they were assured of access to unfair means in university exams. In no time a syndicate evolved comprising of, guardians, politicians and teachers throughout the state . Thiswould take care of evaluation of answer books at all the stages. The syndicate took the entire system in its firm grip. Emphasis on taching and learning waned.
An honest effort to bring sanity to the system was attempted in early seventies by the Kedar Pandey government. An ordinance was promulgated by which Indian administrative officers were appointed as Vice chancellors and registrars of universities and senates and syndicates were disbanded. There was a sharp fall in the number of successful candidates across all the University and Board exams. Unfair means could not be practised at any level. Complete sanity was brought in the conduct of exams and declaration of results. As a cascading effect, students returned to class rooms, and teachers began to teach.
Obviously, it was too good to be stable. Stress was palpable. The erstwhile beneficiaries began to complain the lack of democracy in the conduct of educational institutes. After two years there was a political stir in the state prompted by various factors such as scarcity of items of common use, profiteering etc, Students were called upon to join it. They were called to boycott the university exams. It was proclaimed that the educational system needed a total recast. So the students should boycott exams and classes. A total revolution is the need of the hour. In order to defeat the designs of the agitationists and lure the examinees to the exam halls, the authorities relaxed supervision inside exam halls. The Bihar agitation, popularly known as J.P. agitation was followed with Emergency of 1975 and general elections of 1977. A new government took charge in the state. The case of total revolution was forgotten. The promise of a total recast of the system was no longer valid.This government tried to conduct fair exams as the last government prior to agitation.. But the examinees resisted. They had a case. After all they had actively participated in rigging the assembly elections in favour of the now ruling dispensation. They raised slogans, “Chori se sarkar bani hai, chori se hum pass karenge.” So the status quo ante was assured.
This is the genesis of toppers’ scam. It did not begin with V.R. College, Vaishali. Bachcha Rai and Ruby Rai are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is the cumulative effect of their predecessors.