[Burning Issue] Scrapping of No Detention Policy

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Why in news?

Lok Sabha has passed The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017 to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ in schools.

Key Features of Bill

  • The Bill amends provision related to no detention policy in the parent Act to empower central or state government to allow schools to hold back child in class 5, class 8, or in both classes.
  • It mandates conducting, regular examination in class 5 and class 8 at end of every academic year.
  • In case, the child fails class 5, class 8 examinations, he will be given additional instruction and opportunity for a re-examination (within two months from the declaration of the result). If the child fails again in re-examination, he may be held back in class 5, class 8, or in both classes.
  • The Bill empowers Union and State governments to decide whether to not hold back the child in any class till completion of elementary education. Further, Union or State governments will decide manner and conditions subject to which child may be held back.

What is ‘No-Detention’ policy?

  • As per the No-Detention Policy under the Right to Education Act, no student can be failed or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education covering classes 1 to 8. All the students up till Class 8 will automatically be promoted to the next class.
  • The essence of the policy is that children should not be ‘failed’ and detained up to Class 8. There are no “examinations” in the narrow traditional sense of the word up to Class 8. Instead, the Act mandates a process of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) to assess and evaluate the student’s learning.

Reasons why ‘no-detention policy’ is criticized

  • Negative impact on the standard of education: Most of the schools in interior places are running without any teachers. Hence, if the ‘no-detention policy’ continues, it will leave a negative impact on the standard of education in India and force the children to face more harsh future.
  • No reward for hard work: This policy has led to students developing a lackadaisical attitude, with there being no risk of failing. It also makes no distinction between good and bad students, and between those who work hard and those who don’t. Thus, it makes no effective way to implement a good level of teaching and learning.
  • Apathy from teachers: With the policy in place, the Education Department does not take steps to revamp itself and the teachers do not take the pain to ensure a good education for the children.
  • Dark future of students: Students coming from poor economic background face problem in their coming life because of no good education in the schools.
  • Will affect the women empowerment programs: The girls especially will face a major problem if not getting a proper education in the schools.
  • Zero academic outcomes: If no merit is checked while giving promotion to another class, the children will never learn the importance of studying and acquiring knowledge. It will lead to a poor academic outcome in classes.

Reasons why ‘no-detention policy’ is supported

  • Detention policy doesn’t guarantee improvement in quality of education as long as exams can be passed by mugging the content. Exams should assess the overall development of students.
  • Will increase drop-out ratio: Detention policy will increase the number of drop outs. Drop outs percentage was 10% in 2005-06 academic year, whereas it was 4% in 2015-16 academic year. The major reason for this success can be attributed to no-detention policy.
  • No-detention policy is not the only villain: The reason for the lack of quality education in India is not just no-detention policy, many schools in India do not have qualified teachers, basic facilities and infrastructure. Teachers retraining at regular intervals is not followed at all. All these things results in the decreasing quality of education. Punishing children for this by not promoting them to the next class will be our society’s failure.
  • Detention policy will create stress in students: Many private schools put too much pressure on students to get good grades so that they can market their schools by showing off their ranks and marks. We are witnessing student suicides as a result of this pressure. Children of primary schools will also have to undergo this stress due to detention policy.

Will scrapping the no-detention policy solve all problems?

  • Flawed teachers’ training (the eye of many scams), social indifference to the plight of school teachers, rampant use of ad hoc teachers in small towns and villages, etc. have all substantively contributed to a failing school system. Only scrapping the policy is not going to drastically improve the standard of education in the country.
  • According to some educationists, the policy was wrongly interpreted to create an environment in which the significance of evaluating a school-goer’s learning outcome was undermined.
  • Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), that aimed to assess the child’s understanding of what was being taught in class at periodic intervals, proved to be a non-starter in many schools. The policy alone cannot be blamed for poor results.
  • The teachers were not given adequate training to undertake this reform. They had no idea of what was to be evaluated, and how. In several schools, CCE was reduced to “project work”, which parents resented. The RTE’s provisions regarding the upgrading of school infrastructure and an increase in the teacher-student ratio — that would have created an enabling environment for the policy — were given a short shrift. Hence, the poor performance can be linked to a variety of other factors rather than just the no detention policy.

Way ahead

The phenomenon of poor learning outcomes is the product of many factors which influence learning and should not be conveniently pinned to the door of the no-detention policy. The steps that can be taken to improve learning outcomes can be:

  • measuring learning level outcomes of all children on a regular basis,
  • catalysing a “performance-driven culture” and rewarding high performers at every level,
  • changing stakeholders’ mindset and preparing them for new provisions, in which parents were made responsible or accountable for full attendance of their children.
  • The policy should be implemented in a phased manner and a scale-up to all classes should be undertaken only after the critical infrastructural, teacher strength and teachers’ skill-set requirements were fully met.

Conclusion

  • Rather than addressing the core issues that affect the quality of education in the country, the entire focus seems to be shifting to bring back the pass/fail model.
  • A greater level of seriousness on all sides is the need of the hour. It is high time steps are taken to remove the other flaws that exist.
  • Hence, the policy should either be renovated with adequate changes to neutralize the ill effects or replaced with a new policy that would take a balanced approach. The prime objective should be to effect an all-round development of children and equipping them with life skills.
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