At the time of Indian independence, the schools and colleges of Bihar were largely privately run. There was the system of the Zila School which were like the benchmark of quality education. There were the British Govt established institutions like the Patna Science College and Prince of Wales Medical College. But for every Government run institution, there were scores of privately run as well. This system got a fillip in the period after independence when philanthropists and other public minded individuals were encouraged to take these up since the government of the day had limited resources and did not wish to restrict the march of progress. These schools were built on land donated by the much maligned Zamindar families of Bihar. They had trusts running them.
Later, some of the new private institutions that came up were by politicians and started getting misused as an instrument to distribute favours. However, the number of institutions run by professional politicians were limited and the private educational institutions were largely well run.
In the mid seventies, with a stroke of pen, all of them except those run by the minority community were nationalized. In one stroke, the chairmen and secretaries of these school committees who were men of eminence from the local area and had a stake in the continued welfare of these institutions were replaced with nameless and faceless babus who had no aptitude, training, interest or time for such activities. In a sense, the babu-ization of the educational institutions had started a little earlier when an IAS, was appointed OSD for Bihar University superseding the bodies of academics who were perhaps too independent minded for the rulers that be. The hunger for power was only matched by an arrogant belief that cuture and intelligence are alien to the native Bihari and he has to be kept under constant vigil as he cannot but be corrupt.
In the event, the stifling control killed all initiative. The result was a steep decline in the education standards all round. Teaching, which was regarded as such a noble profession in the land of Nalanda, Odantpuri and Vikramshila, became a chore. Is it any surprise that the only schools which escaped this period with their reputation intact were the Xaviers and Convents of this world?
The second is the privatisation of the medical colleges. Several private medical colleges were started in Bihar in the sixties and early seventies: NMCH, SKMCH, MGMCH, Patlitputra MCH, Magadh MCH. They quickly built good infrastructure and a name for themselves. For example, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital at Patna had an enviable infrastructure, excellent faculty, highly dedicated trustees and very well maintained book of accounts open to public scrutiny. Again, babudom felt threatened by the power wielded by those who were running these institutions as they were unfettered by the chain of command of the bureaucracy. They managed to convince the well meaning Karpoori Thakur to nationalise these in the name of “merit”. In the process, what could have been the template of an educational revolution ahead of the Karnataka model was nipped in the bud. One can only imagine what kind of engineering and medical education infrastructure would have developed in Bihar had they been allowed to thrive.
I myself, having secured admission through IIT JEE at IT BHU, had been so brainwashed about the misplaced ‘merit’ theory that I thwarted the attempt of many a cousins who aspired technical education in the private colleges. I realised my mistake years later when I had to depend upon the masses of the Karnataka style private college graduates while managing large scale software dev factories. Where had Bangalore been without the benefit of these huge masses of engineers? Conversely, where would Patna had been with the steady flow of engineers in such large numbers?
I dare say that Patna and not Bangalore would have been the centre of science and engineering if these early leads of Bihar were allowed to flourish. Alas, that was not to be. Today, the state of Bihar with a population of over eight crore has less than five engineering colleges and maybe six medical colleges. Courses like MCA and BCA are conspicuous by their absence. The admission to these limited number of technical institutions is against very stiff competition. However, the reputation of these institutions, inspite of having first rate students is so bad that they have to really struggle to get a job. Things like campus placement are virtually unheard of. A large number of Bihari students have to migrate to the southern states and Maharashtra for basic engineering, computer science and medical degrees. Needless to add, this is at a great cost to the students and their families of the economically deprived state. One economist even assessed that the total inflow of remittance from the roughly one crore Bihari labour force working outside is almost equalled by the outflow required for the fees and provisions of the several lakh students studying outside.
Do hope decision makers would go by common sense rather than misplaced idealism and allow private educational institutions to thrive in Bihar