Jharkhand plans to improve its education system

By Nityanand Shukla

Ranchi : Districts without colleges, schools without desks, benches and electricity, and students moving out of the state to pursue an education. It’s a grim reality but Jharkhand’s Raghubar Das government is gearing up to change this for the better, an official said.

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“In the current financial year construction of 100 colleges, including polytechnic and technical institutions, have been undertaken which will be completed in the next two to three years,” Higher and Technical Education Secretary Ajay Kumar Singh told IANS.

A case of better late then never!

Even 15 years after being carved out of Bihar, Jharkhand’s education sector is in a shambles. Of the 81 assembly constituencies, 35 have got no college at all. In 11 districts there’s not a single college for women.

Jharkhand is one of the poorer states of India where poverty often forces youngsters to take up menial jobs or to simply migrate to other states. Education could have mitigated the situation, but lack of sufficient infrastructure often nixes that possibility, experts said.

Jharkhand has 428 colleges, which includes polytechnics and technical colleges, but the state needs at least 1,000 such colleges, the experts say.

According to Singh, the state government is moving in a phase-wise manner. There are plans to open at least one degree college in each assembly constituency.

For bachelor’s and master’s degrees, there are only 65 constituent and 62 affiliated colleges in Jharkhand. If the number of students passing out is considered, then the state requires at least 300 such degree colleges.

“We are trying to establish such institutions with private partners. To improve the quality of education and bring in investment in the education sector, five private university acts have been passed by the assembly. The five private universities will invest Rs.1,432 crore in the next five years,” Singh added.

The secretary also said that the government is planning on demand- and choice-based education which will focus on a student’s employment prospects.

“The state government will soon establish four professional colleges. There’s not a single women’s college in 11 districts and steps have been taken to address that,” Singh asserted.

In fact, the government has already allocated funds for setting up women’s colleges in Simdega, Gumla, Lohardaga, Khunti, Koderma, Chatra, Ramgarh, Pakur, Sahebganj, Seraikela-Kharsawan and Latehar, sources said.

However, as one education department official pointed out, huge funds are needed for establishing these colleges. “The state government has earmarked Rs.425 crore for 2016-17. But if the colleges are to be established as per the UGC guidelines then each college would require at least Rs.50 crore,” the official said.

Thus, the state government has flagged the union human resource development ministry. Funds have also been sought to improve the school infrastructure across Jharkhand.

How has this lack of educational infrastructure impacted the state? It’s a bleak picture as of now. Due to shortage of colleges and institutions, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Jharkhand is lower than the national average.

According to an education department official, in Jharkhand there are eight institutions for every 100,000 students, while at the national level the figure is 25 institutions for every 100,000 students.

GER is calculated on the basis of the number of colleges available for every 100,000 students in the age group of 18-23 years.

“The national GER is 19.4 but in Jharkhand the GER is just 8.1,” the official said.

Secretary Singh said the government aims to notch this up to 32 percent by the end of 2022.

Pushed by the government’s efforts, several colleges have now begun evening classes to accommodate more students. The system will be replicated in polytechnics as well.

Another problem that plagues educational institutions in the state is vacant posts of teachers. According to Singh, there are plans for mass recruitment to ensure the right teacher-student ratio in higher educational institutions.

It now remains to be seen how successfully these strategies are implemented to improve Jharkhand’s education indices. The sons and daughters of the state are waiting for the day when the state would shrug off its rickety image and be an equal partner in the nation’s growth story.