Education in Bihar has been improving faster than in the rest of the country. But for real gains, the state needs to provide drinking water facilities to everyone, separate toilets for girls in schools, and more teachers and classrooms per student.
One thing that development economists agree on is the importance of education. Put simply, if development is to be sustainable, people need to be better educated. Just looking at economic output, education contributes to growth by increasing the level of human capital of the workforce—as India has discovered in the IT sector. Looking beyond the statistics, education can equip people with the tools for a more fulfilling and enjoyable life.
The government of Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, has recently undertaken several policy initiatives to make education more affordable and accessible to children. These initiatives have focused on ...view middle of the document...
However, the enrolment rate at the upper primary level is right at the bottom of the 20 major states in India with less than half of eligible children attending school. Since the DISE enrolment data for primary grades are not available for Bihar after 2007, we use an alternative measure from Assessment Survey Evaluation Research (ASER) called the “out-of-school rate” which is the percentage of school age children not attending school. This measure is far less impressive for Bihar. We find that Bihar has a higher out-of-school rate than the median state in India, though the percentage has been declining over time. In line with the enrolment numbers, the out-of-school rate is higher among older children.
We use ASER scores for reading and maths as our measures of quality of education. While Bihar’s performance in these areas is close to median average among Indian states, there is still a lot of scope for raising the quality of education. To cite a couple of stark statistics—one-third of students in Class VI (average age 11-12) cannot read a paragraph taken from a Class II textbook (for ages 6-8), and half of Class V (age 9-10) students cannot solve a simple division problem.
One way of assessing school performance is by looking at “schooling inputs”—that is, what is being provided in the schools. We find that Bihar performs very poorly in the provision of basic schooling inputs, both in absolute terms and in relation to other states in India. Bihar has the highest student-teacher ratio as well as the student-classroom ratio among Indian states. In 2009-2010, which is the last year for which data is available, Bihar had 53 students to every one teacher, while the national median was 26. The student-classroom ratio is also very poor, with over 80 students per classroom in all years surveyed, far above the national median. We also find that the proportion of classrooms in good condition is 60%, which in addition to being below the national median is 20 percentage points below the best performing state in India.