The recent spate of radio advertisements in Delhi featuring deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, urging people and teachers to support children in developing readings skills ahead of children’s day, surprised many. The question which immediately came to mind is how the children reached higher classes without being able to read. With Sisodia insisting that 74% of children in schools are “not able to read”, this was a cause for concern.
But the problem is not restricted to Delhi alone. It has now emerged that most states in the country believe that the no-detention policy, a part of the Right to Education Act, 2009, is to blame for the marked deterioration in the standard of learning among students in the country.
States don’t want the no-detention policy
Barring five states, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Telengana and Sikkim, that spoke in favour of continuing the no-detention policy, all other 25 states and union territories were against it, according to a survey by the National Council of Education Research and Training. They believe that the policy is lowering the level of education in the country.
Delhi too had opposed the policy. “No-detention policy needs to be amended as this has led to students being promoted to next class without achieving the desired level learning for a class and being able to comprehend and follow the subject taught. It further results in unreasonable and undisciplined behaviour of students or their dropping out of school,” it had stated.
Many other states, like Bihar, had called for withdrawing this policy and implementing the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) policy instead, so that the performance of students can be assessed from time to time. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat demanded that the policy be “reviewed and suitably modified”.
Some states like Tripura had also pointed out that the no-detention policy has “led to a state of inattention to the teaching-learning process on the part of the children and has had an adverse impact on the regular attendance of students and teachers in schools.”
Yet, other states like Uttar Pradesh noted that it had “resulted in lack of competition and has reduced the learning outcome of students”. The few voices in favour of the no-detention policy mainly talked about its ability to sustain students’ interest in education and provide a minimum of eight years of school education.
Telangana said it “should continue to enable a child to learn better without fear of failure, detention and stigma”. At the same time, it also called for strengthening CCE, “to evaluate the learning standards of the child regularly” and to encourage “creative and critical thinking”.
Maharashtra was most candid on why it wanted the no-detention policy to continue. It insisted that this policy has “reduced school dropout rates and helps in building self esteem”.
MHRD asks law ministry’s opinion
But keeping the overall sentiment in mind, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has now sought the comments of the Ministry of Law and Justice on the issue of bringing about a change in this policy as it would require an amendment to the Act.
According to Upendra Kushwaha, minister of state for HRD, several sub-committees have been constituted in the past to evaluate the implementation of the no-detention policy. In response to a question in Lok Sabha, he submitted that a sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was also constituted under Haryana education minister Geeta Bhukkal for assessing the implementation of CCE in the context of the no-detention policy, which had recommended that the contentious policy should be implemented in a phased manner.
“Given current systemic challenges and process inefficiencies, the no-detention provision should be implemented in a phased manner,” the committee had stated, calling for implementing a “system of state wide assessment at grades 3,5 and 8 – with no detention up to grade 5, provisional promotion after grade 5 and detention after level 8 (if minimum grade-appropriate competencies are not achieved by the child).”
This committee was in favour of the system allowing for “detaining students lagging behind”. For example, a student who has not attained grade 3 competency, but whose age would put him/her in grade 5. The committee stated that the schools should provide special training to the students to support them in the acquisition of “grade appropriate competencies”.
Another sub-committee of CABE under Rajasthan education minister, Vasudev Devnani, had recommended that “there should be an examination at class 5. It should be left to the states and UT’s to decide whether this exam will be at the block, district, or state level. If a child fails, then allow the child an opportunity to improve. There should be additional instruction provided to children and the child should be given an opportunity to sit for another exam. If the child is unable to pass the exam in the second chance, then detain the child. At classes 6 and 7, there should be a school based exam for students. At class 8, there should be an external exam. In case the child fails the child should be given additional instruction and then appear for an improvement exam. If fails again, then detain.”
A third sub-committee of CABE, chaired by Punjab education minister, Daljit Singh Cheema, had called for defining comprehensive benchmarks of student learning for each stage of education, making available tools and processes for assessment, building teacher capability in the area of assessment and empowering teachers to design classroom pedagogy, choose curricular material and select assessment processes.
More importantly, it had called for implementing CCE in its true spirit and noted that the adoption of the no-detention policy in the light of the right to education had proved “counterproductive”.
In October this year, a meeting of CABE had urged the Centre to bring in suitable amendment to the Right to Education Act, 2009 which will give states the freedom to review the no-detention policy. It had suggested that the no-detention provision may be applied up to grade 5 and the states and UTs may decide to detain children for grade 6, 7 and 8. However, it had called for giving every child an opportunity to pass a class before being promoted to the next class.