More than 330,000 students in India’s Bihar state have faced expulsion from their schools due to prolonged absences exceeding 15 days. Bihar, known for its concerning education statistics, holds the lowest literacy rate in the country, along with poor performance in various human development indicators.
The state has grappled with notorious cases of exam cheating, and one particularly shocking incident in 2015 involved parents scaling five-story buildings to assist their children in cheating during exams.
The recent expulsion of students comes as a stern move by Bihar’s education department to address chronic absenteeism. Reports indicate that students absent from public schools for more than 15 consecutive days have been disassociated from enrollment. Moreover, the number of expelled primary and secondary students may rise as education officials continue to inspect schools across the state. Approximately 40,000 schools are being scrutinized daily, as per one department official.
The decision to expel these students was made by KK Pathak, a senior education department official who serves as the additional chief secretary of Bihar’s education department. Mr. Pathak also urged parents to commit to their children attending classes regularly. The education department stated that students could be readmitted upon their parents’ undertaking and commitment to consistent attendance.
According to the Free Press Journal, Mr. Pathak expressed concern, stating, “The number of students attending schools has substantially increased across the state. However, there are still around 10 percent of schools where the attendance of students is still less than 50 percent… It is a matter of serious concern.”
Ramesh Chandra, the assistant director of the education department, reported that “We have removed the names of around 3.32 lakh [332,000] students from the rolls of schools across the state. They were absent for long periods and did not give an undertaking that they would attend the classes regularly. With around 40,000 schools being inspected on a daily basis, the number could increase further.”
It’s important to note that under India’s education laws, students cannot be expelled or denied admission solely based on their academic performance or attendance. The Right to Education (RTE) law in India ensures that children aged six to 14 years have a fundamental right to free and compulsory elementary education. This means that every child in this age group has the right to be admitted to and remain in an elementary school until they complete their elementary education, regardless of their attendance record or academic performance.
Mr. Chandra shed light on the rationale behind removing students’ names from enrollment records, stating that many students have enrolled in multiple schools simultaneously to take advantage of various government schemes. He also noted that some students attend classes in both government and private schools simultaneously.
Bihar houses over 85,000 primary, upper primary, secondary, and senior secondary government schools, with a current enrollment of at least 25 million students. The recent expulsion of students highlights the challenges and complexities of managing education in a state with diverse educational needs and practices.