How can the quality of education in India be enhanced by throwing out children from school?


Text of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti’s (BGVS’) online petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

There is a conscious move to amend section 16 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and thus reintroduce such a policy enabling the system/school to fail the children in any standard by conducting examination. It is said that this move is for ensuring the quality of education. Thus the government is arguing that one can enhance or ensure quality of education only by failing the students.

Before taking any decision to amend the No Detention Policy or section 16 of RTE, we have to critically examine this issue both realistically and educationally. We have to look what the State and the systems  have done before putting all responsibilities on the shoulders of the children for deteriorating the quality of education and eliminating them with the ‘conventional’ yardstick of assessment “one-size-fits-all”, that too, without recognising that each child is unique.

What is the real field situation?

The report of the Committee for Evolution of New Education Policy submitted to MHRD by the committee chaired by TSR Subrahmaniyam which compiled various reports and listed on the basis of the government documents, the sorry state of affairs of the country. Some are quoted here

  1. In 2014-15, the retention rate at primary level was 83.7% and it was as low as 67.4% at the elementary level. Roughly, four in every 10 children enrolled in grade I was leaving the school before completing grade VIII (U-DISE, 2014-15)
  2. Teacher absenteeism, estimated at over 25% every day, has been identified as one of the reasons for the poor quality of student learning outcomes.
  3. Around 8% of all elementary schools in the country are single teacher schools. This is the situation even after March 2015 which is the ultimatum for complying all aspects of RTE, 2009.
  4. It is estimated that there is a shortage of more than 5 lakh teachers in elementary schools; nearly 14% of Government secondary schools do not have the prescribed minimum 6 teachers. Typically teacher vacancies are more in tribal areas and far off villages where teachers are reluctant to be posted due to inadequate facilities.
  5. Teacher recruitment and transfers have become a major source of corruption in many parts of the country.
  6. Till recently most states did not have an independent position of Headmaster in primary schools; one of the teachers was given additional responsibility of Headmaster. While Government secondary schools did have the post of principal, many remained vacant for years due to delays in recruitment, litigation and administrative apathy. Lack of effective leadership in Government schools has contributed to indiscipline among students and teachers and falling academic standards.
  7. The report also very critically observing in its last chapter- Teacher absenteeism, teacher vacancies and lack of teacher accountability have destroyed the credibility of the public sector school education system. These issues can be resolved only with strong political consensus without which all efforts would be ineffective.

Should we make the child responsible for all these systemic failures?

The educational rational

  1. The present move for reintroducing detention policy implies that the sole responsibility of learning and outcome (achievement) rests with the children. In other words, neither the system including school nor the teacher has any role in it. Why the system is not asking, why does the school fail the child?  Because the system doesn’t to address the realities or to revel the systemic failures of providing the basic minimum facilities for meaningful learning including teachers or infrastructure and learning materials. For a democratic system of governance what matters is that all children learn and also develop.
  2. The “No Detention Policy” (NDP) as mandated by the Right to Education Act (2009). The essence of the policy is that children should not be “failed” and detained up to Class 8. This also means 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. CCE regularly assesses student progress in multiple ways and uses the feedback in the teaching-learning process. It gives a continuous progress record and specific inputs for improving learning. Unlike exams, it can also assess things such as social attitudes, creativity, emotional development and perseverance. Research evidence across the world suggests that such methods (called formative assessments) tend to improve student learning.

Before taking a final decision we have to consider the following observation also.

Albert Einstein’s remark – that everyone is a genius, but if we judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.

It is very clear that the issue is not “detention or no detention”. It is a larger question why children fail. And who are all responsible for that. And who are the children and what are their socio economic and cultural back grounds that are eliminated or pushed out from the system.  Hence our basic duty is to identify why children are not performing as per the curricular objectives and to find solutions to address the issue with a socially oriented perspective rather than putting all responsibility over the shoulders of students and kicking them out from the main stream education by using the magic wand “the examination”. Here the State is withdrawing – by placing children as culprits – from its primary role of providing minimum facilities which caters quality education to all children.

Hence we demand to the central government

  1. Withdraw from the move to  amendment section 16 of RTE.
  2. Provide facilities to all children for 12 years of quality education.
  3. Understand we can’t improve quality by failing a child.

Click HERE to sign the petition

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