Patna: Bihar, acculturated to a failing grade in education, is not breaking from tradition this year. Just over a third of its Class 12 students have passed their board exam. The pass percentage this year is 35%; last year it was 62%.
Education Minister Ashok Choudhary, who is from the Congress, found a reason to celebrate, claiming that this year’s lower pass rate establishes that cheating, an established practice in Bihar, has been successfully curbed through the use of answer sheets that have bar codes on them as a new security feature.
Last year, the Science stream reported a 66% pass rate; it’s crashed by more than half to 30 per cent this year. A similar downturn has hit the Arts, which saw its success rate slump from 57 per cent last year to 37 per cent this year. The only field that has remained relatively stable is Commerce which delivered a 74% pass rate compared to 80 per cent last year.
Bihar made international headlines in 2015 when parents and friends were seen scaling the walls of examination centres to pass cheat sheets to students taking their board exam.
Then, last year, the state was reduced to splotchy blushes after it turned out that toppers in Class 12 had in fact hired others to impersonate them. The headline of this controversy was Ruby Rai, who was declared the highest-scoring Arts student, but said in a TV interview that political science teaches cooking. The interview yanked a thread that unravelled a large conspiracy which, upon investigation, led to the jailing of Ms Rai as also education officials.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered a massive exercise to weigh not just how to prevent cheating but improve the performance of Bihar’s students. The exercise has not dispersed the desired effect.