Chief minister Nitish Kumar called on Governor Ram Nath Kovind and summoned education minister Ashok Choudhary to the CM’s residence, fuelling speculation about the government’s response to the Intermediate exam result shock.
Choudhary and Nitish were closeted at 1 Aney Marg for almost 45 minutes, and sources said they discussed remedial measures after more than 65 per cent students flunked in the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) Plus-Two exam.
“Our chief minister is thinking over all aspects of the issue,” said a source close to Nitish. “He may announce some drastic measures to allay doubts over the Intermediate results and ensure that the educational career of genuine students do not come to any harm. A cabinet meeting is scheduled at 11.30am on Friday morning and some new decision could be taken.”
The Bihar State Examination Board (BSEB) came under fire last year over the ‘toppers’ scam’. So it took a series of steps to crack down on cheating: it cancelled the affiliation of 200 ambiguous institutions churning out “first divisions” for years in the Intermediate exams; tightened security at exam centres by carrying out intensive frisking of examinees; banned mobile phones in the test centres and made it mandatory for District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police to send a daily reporton examination centres. It also introduced the coding system to ensure nobody knows where the answer sheets go for evaluation.
The obvious result? The percentage of sucessful students dropped from about 90 in 2016 to 35 this year! Which implies that one in about three examinees in Bihar depended upon their wits and sheer luck!
Government sources said the chief minister is peeved at controversy over the education scenario in the state.
“The education minister also sought the chief minister’s directions on the roadmap to improve the quality of education in the state,” a source said.
Nitish on Thursday had promised re-evaluation of answer sheets, but BSEB officials asserted that answer sheets would only be scrutinised to ascertain whether marks have been properly counted and the answers would not be re-checked or re-examined.
Though the official communiqué about the Nitish-Kovind meeting described it as a “courtesy visit”, sources said the Intermediate results were discussed.
Coming out of the chief minister’s official residence, the education minister said the merit list was genuine and the BSEB expert group had validated it.
“Some people search only for negative things and want to raise only negative aspects,” Choudhary said.
When reporters pointed out that the arts topper Ganesh Kumar’s school lacked basic infrastructure, he asserted that merit of a student did not depend on infrastructure at school.
The minister lost his cool as journalists continued to pepper him with questions on Ganesh’s bona fides.
“Those (journalists) who questioned him (Ganesh) are neither subject experts nor musicians,” Choudhary said.
Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi demanded complete re-evaluation of answer sheets and investigation into the entire episode.
“The government punished education secretary Jitendra Srivastava by transferring him after the results fiasco, but why did it not transfer BSEB chairman Anand Kishor? There is no full-time principal secretary for an important and huge department connected with the future of our younger generation,” Modi said.
He also pointed out that the BSEB said full marks would be given to students for 12 wrong questions in the physics paper, but thousands scored just 3.