The video of a Bihar education board topper struggling to define Political Science and finally coming with the answer that it is related to cooking has made many laugh, but it has also shown how the debilitating effect politics has had on the education of that state during the era of popular leader Nitish Kumar.
A lot has been done as populist measures; what about the quality?
Apparently, the JD(U) leader did much for the student community of the state---be it in terms of providing the mid-day meal in schools, distributing cycles, uniforms and even sanitary napkins, among the girl students, creating an environment where teachers were regularly attending classes and taking food with the students in the school painting the school buildings afresh etc etc.
But whatever was seen at the elementary and mid-school levels was far from making a real qualitative difference.
Indiscriminate hiring of underqualified para teachers has boomeranged
The Nitish Kumar government also allowed indiscriminate hiring of unqualified and underqualified men and women as teachers, many of whom could not even spell their own names. These para teachers got the job just on the basis of the recommendation of the local politicians and the state gave them enough largesse in form of stipends. And all this, as veteran journalist Sankarshan Thakur, an expert on Bihar, called it in his book Single Man: The Life & Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar---was a "captive vote-bank building".
Populist leaders don't compromise with Modi but they do so with quality
The problem with leaders like Nitish Kumar is that they only know populism as the means to secure their politics. This also holds true for Nitish's chief minister friends like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal. The danger of their brand of politics is that it compromises on quality, if not on ideology (all of the three are against the "communal Narendra Modi") and puts their very constituencies in danger.
Nitish Kumar's populist education policy has done enough damage to the students of the state by handing them over to teachers most of whom have zero capacity. By making school teachers a vote bank which will only become more assertive if not given regular patronage, the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has ensured that quality education remains a distant dream in the state.
Bihar had a shocking teacher-student ratio if 1:300 when Nitish had first taken over as the CM following the Lalu era and his government hired almost 3 lakh para teachers to make up for the imbalance. Just to prove the CM's populist credentials, the new government allowed the quality factor to perish.
As Delhi University teacher from Bihar said, Nitish Kumar destroyed the state's education in the name of building it. Ask Ruby Ray, the topper who left her interviewer clueless.