Row over communal profiling of Board exam topper in Bengal

Muslim girls have outnumbered boys in the West Bengal Board exams even as a row erupted over the communal profiling of the topper.

On Thursday, while announcing the results, West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education president Mahua Das, had stated that a girl student had registered the highest mark. However, while celebrating her achievement, the council president went on to mention the girl’s religion at least thrice.

The alleged “communal profiling” of the student did not go well with different sections of society.

Resignation sought

Expressing regret over the remarks of Ms. Das, West Bengal Imam’s Association on Friday issued a strong statement demanding the resignation of the HS council president.

The student who secured the highest marks this year was Rumana Sultana from Kandi Raja Manindra Chandra Girls High School, Murshidabad. She secured 499 out of 500 marks. The fact that Rumana scored the highest mark among the 7.77 lakh students who were evaluated for the higher secondary exams should not come as a surprise because more girls took the examination than boys. Of the 7.77 lakh students who were evaluated, 4.29 lakh (50.59%) were girl students, and 3.51 lakh (49.41%) were boys.

Similarly in the West Bengal Board of Secondary Examination, girl students outnumber boys by almost a lakh, as 5.53 lakh girl students appeared in the examination compared to 4.44 lakh boys for the year 2021.

Stark divide

The divide is stark in the West Bengal High Madrasah Examination for 2021, where 36,914 girl students were enrolled for the examination, compared to 15,850 boys. Almost 70% of the students evaluated in the West Bengal High Madrasah Examination in the year 2021 were girls. The West Bengal Madrasah Board is a separate one where all subjects including science, mathematics, social science and languages are taught along with one optional paper of Arabic or Islamic Studies. The Board also holds examination for Alim and Fazil, which are meant for students taking up religious study.

Researchers have for the past several years cited the higher enrolment of Muslim girls compared to Muslim boys.

“Muslim girls in West Bengal have higher enrolment than boys of the community both in secondary [7.61 percentage point] and Higher Secondary [6.65 percentage point], reveals U-DISE [Unified District Information System for Education] data for 2019-20,” said Sabir Ahamed, research associate of Pratichi (India) Trust.

Mr. Ahamed said the data revealed that the percentage of enrolment of Muslim boys in Secondary Education was 25.39% and in girl students 33%. For Higher Secondary, the enrolment of Muslim boys was 20.35% and girls 27.09%. The Muslim population in West Bengal as per 2011 census is 27.01%.

Experts like Mr. Ahamed are of the opinion that conditional cash and other incentive schemes of the West Bengal government aimed at school-going girls like ‘Kanyshree’, ‘Sabooj Sathi ‘and minority scholarship could be the reasons behind this phenomenon.

There is another concern among the experts that the gap in favour of girl student enrolment may be because boys from the Muslim community dropping out or migrating to other States for work at a young age.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 10:51:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/row-over-communal-profiling-of-board-exam-topper-in-bengal/article35501390.ece

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