Detaining education

The Union cabinet recently gave its approval to scrap the no-detention policy (NDP) that had been adopted to ensure elementary education to children under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Twenty-five states opposed the policy citing that it was causing a high failure rate in Class IX and X.

The pertinent question here is: Was it the fault of the NDP in itself that caused a rise in failure rate among children in Classes IX and X? The problem may lie with the government giving freedom at one level and denying it abruptly at another. For a student learning under the no-detention policy until a particular level of education, it would be a problem if s/he is assessed by means of a different system.

For someone who has been learning at his or her own pace without fearing education, the introduction of the concept of failure at a crucial juncture in life is bound to be worrisome. The testing methods employed to evaluate students who have come through the no-detention policy should also be equally creative to say for sure whether it was a failure or not.

At a time when the government claims, only claims, to be taking measures with long term benefits of the country in mind, education must not be pushed to the back seat. The rise in failure rates at Class IX and X could be the result of the mismatch between the learning patterns that children have developed when the NDP was in effect and the method of testing. They may perhaps be more adept at producing results in a less time-bound measurement of knowledge and understanding. Perhaps testing their knowledge should be approached differently as well.

There is no denying the fact that parents will be anxious about the future of their children learning under the new pattern. However, scrapping it from the next academic session would mean that those students who have been learning under the no-detention policy will be suddenly made to shift to the old pattern of rote learning and exams.

It is also bound to bring things back to square one where the poor will not be able to give their children a fair go at schooling since they would not be able to afford private coaching. Also, for children from poor households who may have been contributing to family income by working after school hours, it would be next to impossible to focus on learning at their homes.

The opportunity they had at schooling without fear of having to sit for exams to get to the next level is being snatched from them. The government should instead invest in surveys for ensuring that the curriculum in schools are modified to ensure that students are drawn to education or at least gain some skills that they may be able to apply in some area of life.

Learning from books and tests based on those texts alone may not be the road forward. The problem lies not with the NDP but the absence of adequate support for students to develop a thirst for knowledge and skills and means to acquire them and find their way to better livelihood.

Teaching methodologies and approaches, too, need to be considered in toto to understand why the output is not up to the mark. Any change in the pattern of education should not be taken without due consideration of its effects on the present and future generations of children.

If the government turns back the clock, it will only mean the system will produce more people whose aptitude and learning are misaligned. It would be better that people be freed of the education system, which eats into precious time in their lives without enabling them to perfect their unique faculties of intelligence and/or abilities that may hold them in good stead later on in life.

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