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Bihar: Centre red flags school dropout rate, vacant seats in Bihar girls schools

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New Delhi: While the Nitish Kumar government earned full marks in its previous avatars for its game-changing bicycle scheme for school-going girls, this election the state has some worrying school data to handle.

In its August 2020 assessment of schooling—for the 2019-20 academic session-—the Centre has red flagged ‘low retention rate at the secondary level’, the ‘high dropout rate in aspirational districts’ and a significant decrease in proportion of students moving from elementary school to secondary school, especially the minorities and scheduled castes.

In June 12 meeting of the Union education ministry’s Project Approval Board for ‘Samagra Shiksha’—the overarching umbrella for all schooling-related schemes and projects—the state was asked to “focus on difference between minorities and general category’s transition rate from upper primary to secondary level; and difference between SCs and general category’s transition rate from upper primary to secondary level”.

The PAB noted that the retention rate is low at secondary level at 40.18 %, the dropout rate at secondary level is more than 25% in as many as nine aspirational district and exceeds 35% in Muzaffurpur, Katihar and Khagaria districts.

In aspirational districts–transition rate from primary to upper primary is lowest in Katihar (57.98%) and Jamui at 63.25%. Even other districts Banka (80.75%), Begusarai (84.35%), Gaya (78.98%), Nawada when the forces were leaving (84.52%) and Purnia (87.19%) are below the national average of 89.72%.

The Centre has also pointed out that the “elementary-to-secondary transition for Muslim children is only 52%.”. ln the four special focus districts (Kishangani, Purnia, Sitamarhi, West Champaran), this transition of minorities from elementary to secondary is less than 57%.

The Centre has also asked Bihar government to ensure that all children of migrants are enrolled in schools. The girl student specific scheme – Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalyas- fully residential girls schools, also needs work.

The PAB noted that out of total targeted enrollment of 62,600 in 584 fully residential Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, there are as many 8,055 seats lying vacant. Also, construction of 281 approved KGBV buildings is yet to start.

There is in fact, considerable surrender of school infrastructure work in the state—work that is yet to start despite approval being given.

Then there is the question of teachers.

Only 29.2% secondary schools have a teacher for all core subjects. So, the Pupil Teacher Ratio stands at 351 for language, 570 for Mathematics, 715 for Science and 424 for Social Studies.

While the state government has sought a salary increment for teachers, the Centre pointed out that there are 86555 and 16156 vacant posts of teachers in primary and secondary schools respectively. Posts of 4540 head teachers at Upper Primary and of 2680 head teachers in Secondary schools are also vacant.

The PAB 2020-21 notes that “Huge vacancies at Head Teacher level is an area of concern” and has said that the state should prioritize filling up of vacant posts of head teachers at Upper Primary and Secondary level.

The PAB approved central share of Rs. 382755.00 lakh for allocation to the state for the 2020-21 academic session.

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