Right after the Indian Independence (1947), the standard of education in Bihar was at par with what the Britishers had set out during their regime. Passing matriculation exam, with its emphasis on math and English, was tough. There used to be a category of dropouts called “Matric Fail” and just for making through the high school to the Matric Board exam, the candidates were regarded in the society as educated people. They would get lower level but respectable jobs.
The successful “Matric Pass” students would go in for higher education. The high schools were a mix of government and private ones, the latter being run with the endowment funds of individuals or certain castes. They had not lowered their standards and admissions into these schools were also competitive.
In about 15-20 years, the landscape of education system in Bihar changed drastically. The schools and colleges became largely the recruitment grounds for those who would be political (musclemen-activist) supporters of mostly the Congress party leaders. Experience, merit and qualification in the administration of education were compromised. Universities, faculty, schools and colleges gradually came to be identified with either castes or political leaders. Exchange of money was still not that naked. Favors based on relationship, caste and politics became rampant.
With the dethronement of the Congress party in 1967, the pernicious correlation between the politics of Bihar and the education system became more pronounced. The deterioration of both became much faster.
Karpoori Thakur was the Education minister of the new coalition government of non-Congress parties called Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD). In order to expand his vote base, Karpoori Thakur lowered the standard of education by introducing PWE (Pass Without English), popularly known as "Karpoori Division."
1967 was, thus, the watershed year also in the history of the Bihar Secondary School Examination Board (BSSEB) with its head office in Patna.
Karpoori Thakur advanced the broad facile argument that English, the language of the colonialists, was an obstacle in the development of the students coming from the rural-poor families of Bihar -- exactly those who are identified today as the OBCs, the EBCs, or the Dalits. That policy resulted in a huge number of "matric-pass" students coming out of schools; and, there were not enough colleges to take them. So, overnight, colleges started mushrooming.
Already, the BSSEB, like any other government department, was sinking in corruption as the political appointments of its high officials were based on bribe, caste and political considerations. (In the appointment of Lalkeshwar, Nitish only continued that tradition).
Politicians/bureaucrats of all castes and persuasions started making fast money on setting up colleges, on appointments of so called "professors," and on securing affiliation with the Universities. Over a short period of time, there would be no distinction between a genuine professor who came through the selection process and the ones who got into the colleges established by caste leaders and politicians. (The Hajipur Vishun Roy College of which Bachcha Rai is the owner/principal is exactly one of those).
The mounting number of colleges and the industry of dispensing degrees with incomplete and broken education demanded a constant flow of students (inputs) from the schools, like raw-materials in a factory. The entry level classes in the colleges had to be filled up for everyone to make money.
There was no way students could have been promoted out of the schools to fill in those colleges without "mass-copying." From mass-copying, the art was perfected, and now you may have someone in the exam hall writing for you; the answer sheets can be changed or the highest official of the Board can be bribed to alter results.
The ToppersGate that we see unfolding today is the result of a random leak of the disease Bihar governments have been hiding for so long. The malaise is a lot deeper.
The media (social included) have often been criticized from different political angles, but they should be commended for highlighting the cancer. The flutter they have created is entirely new. Year before the last, media outlets had published the picture of an exam center where the mass cheating facilitators were perched on the windows of every floor. It had made into international news.
Again, last year, the media circulated the open confession of the Education Minister of Bihar admitting that it wasn’t within the capacity of the government to stop mass copying. The CM had to issue statements to restore some respectability to the system.
Sadly, the education system in Bihar -- under the influence of corrupt and ambitious politicians backed up by their sycophantic followers and servile bureaucrats -- has been going down the gutter all these decades. Those who could afford by any means got out of Bihar and built up their career. The migration of brain and bodies continue apace.
Equally sadly, the politicians, their henchmen and bureaucrats have successfully prevented the Biharis from growing out of their narrow caste or other biases. As a result, the Biharis haven’t been able to unitedly come to a consensus on certain common purposes and do something about their home land.
In modern times if anyone has to demonstrate how "Divide and Rule" works, Bihar can present a fitting case.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.