Education

Thousands of Delhi Government School Students Face Being Pushed out of Education System

Unable to clear the class 10 board exams after being made to appear as part of correspondence programmes, most students now have no remedial options.

Government school

A school girl reads her book inside her class at a government-run school. Credit: Reuters/Files

The fate of nearly 35,000 Delhi government school students who had appeared for the class 10 board examinations this year as open school students but failed in more than one subject now hangs in the balance. They are now out of the education system and there seems to be no corrective mechanism in sight to give them another chance.

Most of these students are those who had failed in class 9 examinations and were made to quit the formal education stream and appear as correspondence programme students or private students in the class 10 examinations. While this may have meant “better results” for the Delhi government schools, for these children it has spelled doom.

End of the road for nearly 35,000 students?

While those students who failed in just one subject are getting another chance to appear in the compartment examinations this month, their numbers are small. For a majority of those who failed, this appears to be the end of their road in education.

Out of nearly 62,000 students who had appeared through correspondence, only about 1250 managed to pass. As for the nearly 60,000 students who failed, the Delhi government said they are organising remedial classes for those who failed in just one subject and got a compartment.

“The number of such students is around 25,000 and they constitute about 40% of all the students who failed. They would be appearing for the compartment examinations in July and special remedial classes are being organised for them,” said Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Atishi Marlena, who is also an advisor to deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on education and health matters.

Marlena, who had overlooked the party’s educational reforms, said efforts are being made to do something for the other 35,000-odd students as well.

However, senior advocate Ashok Agarwal, who has been fighting court cases for the education rights of the poor and had organised a protest by the affected children at Jantar Mantar in June, is not satisfied with the assurance. “The 35,000 children will just drown because the government is ignoring their welfare. Instead of reaching out to each one of them and ensuring that they study, the government has simply dumped them,” he charged.

 Push out policy being used to improve results, only adding to out-of-school children

“The Delhi government is using the “push out policy” to ensure that only the bright students remain in the schools and their results look good. There are nearly 7-8 lakh children of school-going age in Delhi who are out of the schooling system and the situation has only worsened in the last three years during which about 3 lakh government school students have got added to this section as they were removed from schools,” said Agarwal, who regularly raises issues pertaining to education and health in the city.

But no one is concerned about these children, he said. “The Delhi government only believes in showmanship and the announcement of opening English medium government schools is only part of that. We had never seen this kind of indifference in the earlier Congress or BJP regimes in Delhi. Now things have just crossed the limit.”

Situation equally bad in BJP-run MCD schools

It is not that the situation is any better in the BJP-led MCD schools, said Agarwal. “About 1.25 lakh students of MCD schools have also dropped out due to various reasons during the last few years. We have pulled out all this information through the Right to Information Act,” he noted.

Whether the ‘no detention policy’ under the Right to Education Act (RTE) was responsible to some extent for the present state of affairs, Agarwal said that was not the case for it was not the RTE that was saying that you pull out students from the regular stream and push them into correspondence or expel them from the schools.

Wrong to blame RTE’s ‘no detention’ policy

Even when the no detention policy was not there, the situation was bad, Agarwal said. “I have been seeing this for the last 20 years. Some children in class 9 can’t read a word. There is something inherently wrong and the blame rests with the manner in which the children are taught in these schools. Most teachers do not take proper interest in the weaker students.”

Stating that the Delhi government has indeed tried to improve the infrastructure in the schools, Agarwal said the need of the hour was to focus on the education standards. “I recently received a letter from a teacher saying there were 250 students in her school in two of the classes. We also have positions of teachers lying vacant for many years and pending issues pertaining to guest teachers,” he said.

In such a scenario it becomes difficult for a student who gets left behind to catch up on the learning. He said when children repeatedly failed in class 9 they were removed on the pretext of being allowed to appear as private correspondence students in class 10. Many lunged at the opportunity only to fail.

Agarwal said in all about 1 lakh class 9 students were removed in 2015-2016 from the mainstream education system under the push-out policy. “About 62,000 of them joined the Patrachar or correspondence scheme while the remained simply dropped out. And of those who appeared for the board exams, only about 2% managed to pass.”

Ideally, Agarwal said these students should have been retained in class 9, taught properly and made capable enough to not only pass the class 9 exam but also class 10 in the following year. But that did not happen as any easy route was chosen.

 Muslims, girls among the worst affected

According to Agarwal, poor and minority students are among the worst affected. “About 10 years ago two Muslim girls had come to me with an application that if they were not admitted in class 8, their father would get them married off. I had taken them to the Regional Director at Shahdara and they were provided admission as it was very important for their future,” he said, adding that unfortunately what we are seeing now is only politicking.

In fact at a protest organised by him on the issue at Jantar Mantar on June 11, a large number of students from the minority community had blamed the Delhi government’s correspondence education programme for their plight.

Criticising the Delhi government for its doublespeak on the issue of education of the girl child, some of the students held banners that read: “You say teach the girl child, save the girl child, but girls are still being victimised”.

There were also other banners in Hindi that read: “first corruption and then correspondence and then you have spoilt children’s life” or that “children were only put into correspondence to be thrown out of the schools”.

Many of the students had claimed that they were moved to correspondence or open school despite having failed just once. Others insisted that their teachers and principals had compelled them to make the move.

We gave them a chance: Delhi government

Meanwhile, the Delhi government had defended the decision staunchly then as well. Marlena was quoted as saying that if not for the scheme, most of these students would have dropped out anyway. “We gave them a chance to remain in the system. We gave them access to regular classes and study material. These students would have dropped out otherwise,” she had said.

The question now is whether anything more can be done for these students who have been pushed out of the education system against their wish?