Amartya Sen to public his report on Bihar

PATNA: Nobel laureate Professor Amartya K Sen, Lamont university professor at the Harvard University, USA, will release the much-awaited report on “Elementary Education in Bihar: Progress and Challenges” here on Tuesday. The report has been jointly prepared by the Pratichi (India) Trust and the Centre for Economic Policy and Public Finance (CEPPF), Patna.

These two organizations, which have been engaged in contributing to enhancement of elementary education through meaningful research works, carried out a study in Bihar during July-September, 2010 with the main objective of preparing an operational profile of primary and upper primary schools in Bihar in terms of their resource base as well as reach and quality of their services. The study identified the organisational, social and infrastructural constraints plaguing the elementary education system.

The 88-page report would be released at a function which will be presided over by former JNU professor Anjan Mukherji. Sen could not release the draft report in February due to his indisposition. During his three-day stay in Bihar, Sen will also hold a meeting with the mentor group of the proposed new Nalanda International University.

The study was conducted in five districts of Bihar – Bhojpur, Bhagalpur, Gopalganj, Madhubani and Katihar. In each district, six villages were chosen for collecting data on village characteristics, schools (primary and upper primary) and household educational practices. In all, the study is based on data in 30 villages, 31 schools and 900 households.

It recommends, among other things, that gram panchayats should also be instructed to monitor the functioning of local schools. Another important and urgent policy intervention could be a committed move towards enhancing adult literacy, particularly adult female literacy, which could certainly give a boost to translating the parental aspiration into actual achievements.

The report notes that the NDA government in Bihar was re-elected for another term in 2010. Its performance in the previous term has paid them valuable political benefits and one, therefore, hopes they will make further efforts to strengthen the elementary schooling system in Bihar and free the state of the evils of illiteracy, the report says.

It is hoped that this report will be useful for generating the much required public discussion and debate on the issue of elementary education in the state.

According to its findings, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), which was operational since 1995 by way of distribution of dry ration, was converted in 2005 to a real Mid-Day Meal Scheme to serve cooked food in primary schools. The MDMS was later extended to upper primary schools in April, 2008. However, implementation of this programme is yet to be fully satisfactory, the report says.

According to the study, to promote elementary education further, the state government has introduced yet another scheme in 2005-06. It provides for free uniform to all the students in standards III-V (by way of cash payment of Rs. 500 per student per year) and to only girl students in standards VI-VIII (Rs. 750 per girl student per year). This scheme has become extremely popular.

The attendance of students is very irregular and their learning achievements are also low. The most important constraint faced by elementary schools is the shortage of teachers, followed by their inadequate infrastructure, the report says.