The plethora of government initiatives to provide primary education has failed to dissipate concerns about the quality of schooling especially in rural areas but the education department is padding up to meet the challenge.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2012, has presented a dismal picture of elementary education in the state. According to the report, prepared by non-government organisation Pratham and released in January, students of government schools are poor in mathematics and languages. Only around 52.9 per cent students in Class III can read simple Hindi words.
It also stated that only 44.4 per cent students in Class V can read a text prescribed for Class II; only 43 per cent Class IV students can solve subtraction problems and only 31.4 per cent Class V students can do division problems. The report also stated that less than 10 per cent schools in Bihar complied with the teacher-student ratio prescribed by the Right to Education Act.
The department has planned to focus on mathematics and language skills by introducing mathematical tables and loud reading in classes.
R.S. Singh, deputy director, education department, said: "Mathematics has always been the forte of students in Bihar, especially in rural areas. Students of Class V are supposed to know mathematical tables of up to 20. However, for some reason, there seems to be a gap at present. We would try to address this problem."
Besides mathematics, the education department has decided to introduce loud reading of texts in class for students of standard I to III. Students would be asked to read loudly in class on a variety of subjects. Schools would have 45-minute-long to an hour-long class on mathematical tables and loud reading.
Another aspect that the department wants to look into is appointment of teachers according to their subject specialisation. Based on the results of Teacher Eligibility Test and Senior Secondary Teacher Eligibility Test conducted last year, the government would appoint teachers in primary and secondary schools for subjects such as mathematics, science, social science, Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Urdu to teach in classes VI to VIII.
There would also be more emphasis on appointment of qualified cluster co-ordinator. The education department appoints cluster co-ordinators to assess the performance of government schoolteachers. Each co-ordinator monitors four schools in an area.
Academics and experts, however, are sceptical about how helpful the new initiatives would be.
S.K. Ganguli, former teacher of Patna University, said: "The best way to improve elementary education in the state would be to introduce common school and neighbourhood school system. The government should have strict laws allowing private schools to only admit student who live nearby."
The report also focussed on other problems as well. According to it, very few students in rural Bihar are enrolled in private schools but the number of pupils taking private tuitions is very high.