From topper scam to being the top board in country, how technology changes BSEB fate in a year
Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. From infamous topper scam to mass cheating, it has seen all a year ago but that is not the case any longer, thanks to technology. In 2019, powered by emerging technology, the board has been able conduct examination smoothly and announced results in March itself, something which is unheard of.
Mohd Ujaley spoke with BSEB chairman Anand Kishor to understand how he has been able to achieve this feat and what are his future plans. He said,”We were able to achieve this feat because, a year ago, we started upgrading our processes and introducing new technologies. Since lot of negative publicity has happened, our aim was not only to streamline the processes, but to be the number one board in the country and achieve exceptional feat.”
Tell us about the key functions of BSEB?
Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the intermediate and class 10th board examinations. Earlier, we used to only conduct class 10th examination as there was a separate board called Bihar Intermediate Education Council (BIEC). In 2007, both of these boards were merged into BSEB.
In addition to conducting board examinations, BSEB is also responsible for grant of affiliations and financial grants to different colleges across the state. Also, as per the recommendation of The State Council Educational Research and Training (SCERT), the curriculum is looked after by BSEB.
Other than these, we are conducting competitive examinations such as Teacher’s Eligibility Test (TET), Simultala Entrance Examinations, Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed.) and ODL examinations.
What have been your key focus in last two-three years?
When I joined in the second half of the year 2016, at that time BSEB was in news for the wrong reasons. In that year, the so called infamous topper scam had happened which had maligned the reputation of the BSEB and it had also given state a bad name in the field of education.
So, with that background, we started looking at the processes that were involved in the examinations – right from the form filling to the announcement of results and subsequent process of scrutiny among others. We found that by and large, it was a manual process which was leading to lot of anomalies and malpractices. These malpractices were also responsible for scams.
So, our first priority was to automate the complete examination system. We made filling of the forms fully online. As many as 30 lakhs students fill their forms online every year. Our volume is very high. There are very few boards in the country that are catering to so many students as we do.
The biggest challenge was the scalability of the automation process. The examinations process involved many layers and people at different stages were creating teething problems but we were firm to implement a new technology led architecture to minimize the manual intervention.
Not only the form filling, but both pre-examination and post examination processes were computerized by software. In the first year, we also experimented with the digital evaluation of the compartmental examination copies, in which more than 3 lakh copies were scanned and were evaluated by more than 2000 teachers on the computers.
In addition, in last two years, we have introduced extensive changes in the question pattern. Last year, the CBSE NEET topper was from Bihar but she could not score more than 87% in Bihar board examination. So, we analyzed different boards and made it at par with other boards. Both marking and questions pattern were revised. We introduced 50% objective questions in all the subjects along with long form and short form questions.
Also it was quite surprising that earlier copies of BSEB used to have the details of the candidates on the first page and those copies used to go the evaluation centers for the evaluation. Since those copies used to have roll number, roll codes and other details of the students, this was pushing lot of malpractices. There were instances where parents, teachers and school management used to approach the evaluation centers for illegally increasing the marks of the students.
So to address this challenge, we replaced first page with OMR and copies were barcoded. The right part of the first page had the identifiable details of the students such as roll code, subject code, registration number and year and student name. After examination, we used to send these copies to barcoding center where we designated the ADM rank officer as a chief security officers. The barcode used to be pasted and identification details were removed and only the non-identifiable details used to go for the evaluation.
The copies which were now reaching the evaluation center had certain barcodes which were un-identifiable, even if somebody would try to read it via barcode scanner, it will just give them a fictitious number. So, there was no way of finding whose copy is this. This led to stopping of lot of malpractices. And, evaluation centers were able to do evaluation without any pressure, fear or any kind of malpractices.
As and when we implemented new technology, problems also used to also come. For example when we implemented barcoding and OMR, we observed that students have to filled around 28 circles, many a times students were making mistakes in darkening the circle leading to the problem that the computer was not able to identify the students properly. These mistakes of the students used to create error and their copies used to go into pending category. On this category, the board had to co-relate lot of different data sets to identify the students. This entire process used to take lot of time.
To address this challenge, we consulted certain other boards including CBSE but none had automated this process as it was difficult task to do. So we decided that we will go with copies with pre-printed details of each student with barcode and litho-codes. So, we designed and implemented such pre-printed copies with barcodes and litho-codes for the first time in India. There were very few boards that were doing pre-printing but no board was doing barcode and litho-code on them.
In all these activities, our focus was on streamlining the process and that really improved efficiency.
This year BSEB completed examination in February end and the results were announced in the March itself, something which is unheard of. How did you manage to do this within such short duration?
Actually, we were able to achieve this feat because we started upgrading our processes and introducing new technologies since last year. Since lot of negative publicity has happened, our aim was not only to streamline the processes, but to be the number one board in the country and achieve exceptional feat.
We identified the factors which delay the announcement of the results. All those factors were automated with the help of modern technology. We designed different formats and every formats were scannable, means it could be digitized. For example no other board in the country gives the question paper in 10 sets. We give it in the 10 sets from A to J. Then we realized that students were making mistakes in filling set code also.
In the compartmental examination, out of around 3 lakh copies, there were around 3700 copies that were not identifiable as it had no set code. This is challenging because if a student does not write which set he/she has answered how will you evaluate a copy.
If you extrapolate it to annual examination, where we have about 1.8 crore copies, then even a one percent of non-identifiable copies will be huge. So to address this issue, we decided to work on the principle of data redundancy in which we captured different data at multiple places. So in case any data is missing we can take it from alternate options. Because of these interventions, out of around 1.8 crore copies, there was not a single copy that we were not able to identify.
Similarly at evaluation centers, we used software for online entry of marks, and we used more than 4 thousand computers across the state to capture the data at the evaluation centres. This entire process was so perfectly handled that we started evaluation on the March 2nd and on March 30th results were announced, within 28 days.
When we announced the board results in March itself,, it surprised many in the country, we started getting calls from many boards. They were asking how we did it.
I am very happy that some of the board took the lead from there and they also announced results quickly. I see it as a healthy trend. Earlier, there were cases when student had to lose entire year due to delay in the announcement of results. Many a times the announcement of the results were so delayed that students were not able take admission into Delhi University or in some other good university/institution.
Now we are so much in advanced that Bihar students can apply to multiple university and they have much more time for preparation.
What are your future plans?
Now, I am aiming at completely automating the entire work process of the BSEB. Particularly, processes that are affecting the large number of students. For example- affiliation, there are different modules. The grant of affiliation and the release of the grant is also one of our important function. We are looking to automate this process.
Similarly, lot of agencies and government organization apply for the verification of BSEB student’s certificates and marks. Currently, they are sent manually to BSEB and it gets processed manually. These take lot of time. All these processes we are planning to make online.
For this, we are digitizing our data. In the first phase, we have taken a target of digitizing last 30 years data, so that it can be made online and people who are looking to verify the data, they can do it online. We are going to launch this service very soon.
Also, I have noticed students in Bihar had to come to Patna at our headquarter to get various works like issue of mark sheet, duplicate mark sheet, correction in the name. So, there used to be long queues, there used to be counters at BSEB to handle such requests.
So, we decided to open regional offices at all the Commissionerate headquarters in the State. We have opened 9 regional offices at the 9 Commissionerates. Now, we have offices in Patna, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur,Darbhanga, Chapra, Gaya, Munger, Saharsa and Purnia. So now the students don’t have to come to Patna. Their all works are being done at the regional offices. Now, we want to make it more automated. I am looking at the system where the students do not have to go to even regional offices. Our services should be available online so that students can access it via their mobile phone or desktop.
But this will require proper IT set up and ability to handle data. So what are your plans on data center and other IT infrastructure?
When I joined BSEB, there was no IT person in the Bihar board. We did not have programmers or IT manpower who could bring technology to the board. But now we have built an entire IT team. We now have a Director IT under whom we have created entire team including Deputy Director IT, System Analyst, Programmers etc. Now, very soon we are also aiming at making our own data center. We have used cloud data centers for various purposes including online form filling. Now, we are in the process of creating our own data center with advanced router, switches and servers. Within this calendar year we will make it happen. Our data center will be quite modern and based on high-end advance technology.
Is there any challenge you face in the implementation of your vision for BSEB?
More than challenge, I must admit that there is immense support of the state government, especially by the Hon’ble Chief Minister, who had given clear directions and guidance for these reforms. The state government has fully supported the reforms- that is why we have been able to achieve this humongous task.
On the challenge side, we are facing lack of IT infrastructure across the state. If we compare Bihar with the South Indian states, where even at Taluka level they have high availability of IT infrastructure. We don’t have such kind of IT tools and IT infrastructure in remote places, which pose some challenges , at times.
When we started online form filling, we found that many of the government colleges did not have the adequate IT facility. So the students and schools used to depend on the cyber cafés etc. That not only used to delay the process but also used to put data privacy at risk. But now things are improving fast and hopefully our colleges and schools will very soon be able to match with the pace of BSEB IT modernization.
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