By Aarti Mangal
The draft of New Education Policy (DNEP), along with revamping the higher education, has also made significant changes in the school education system. On the one hand, the recommendation to include Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) under free and compulsory education is laudable if it is implemented effectively in the school set ups; many of its recommendations with regard to the foundational/primary stage of schooling go against the amendment made in Right to Education Act (RTE) of reversing No Detention Policy (NDP).
The ideas which are put forth in the DNEP do not validate the step to reverse the no detention policy. The DNEP acknowledges that students especially during the early years of schooling learn at different paces and levels (p 56). Furthermore, it says that attaining foundational literacy and numeracy for all children must become a national mission as well as a non-negotiable part of the curriculum (p 60).
Having no detention policy at its side would not help in achieving this goal. Furthermore, one of the top priorities as has been underscored by the DNEP is ensuring universal access to education which is partly to be done by bringing drop outs back to the school and preventing others from dropping out.
This is to be done in two ways, one by providing adequate infrastructure and two by tracking the progress of individual student. The second point brings us to the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), on failing of which, the no detention policy was decided to be reversed. So, both at the level of idea and the recommendations, the DNEP supports the no detention policy.
Furthermore, the DNEP recommends on maintaining good pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) at 30:1, involving community and locales for remedial teaching of those who lag behind. The policy of no detention largely failed because the condition of the public school did not allow having one to one teaching and assessment of children and hence children moved along the education ladder without acquiring the minimum standards of learning at each of its stage.
The DNEP with its recommendations puts an attempt to remedify those gaps which led to reversing no detention policy and hence it makes the arguments that were given for reversing no detention policy irrelevant. Also, to ensure compulsory education it becomes necessary that no detention policy should be reinstated.
Although DNEP is not clear on the nature of the examinations that is to be conducted in foundational or primary stages of school education, however, it has underlined that there is a need to shift from rote memorization based exam to formative assessment, which takes us again to the idea of no detention policy.
Furthermore, the draft policy talks about taking census exam at grade 3, 5 and 8 which it said would be conducted to assess the progress of student learning and nowhere mentioned about using it for the promotion of students to the next level. Thus, overall the policy has emphasized about mapping and tracking the learning of individual student through formative assessment.
The presumptive ideology of the policy, acknowledging the potential of each child and supporting it with its best, do not go along with the arguments given for the reversal of the no detention policy. The DNEP recognizes that because of the lack of quality of education children receive, there tends to be cases of drop outs and hence approximately 10 crore of students would be lost to illiteracy if proper measures are not taken up.
In this context, it becomes the responsibility of the system to retain the child in school by providing required support rather than putting the onus of learning on the child alone and detaining her in the class for the failure of the system.
The class to which children attending public schools belong is not a hidden thing. Mostly those who belong to the marginalized section of society get themselves enrolled in these schools for lack of resources. Most of them are first generation learners and lack educational support at their home atmosphere; detaining them at the crucial or foundational/primary level of school means losing them at all from the educational system.
Given the background they come from, they are most of the times burdened to earn a living for themselves and their family; in such an unequal society these children have to pay a cost in order to attend the school which they are likely to not able to bear once they are detained.
So, when the DNEP has recognized that for a child’s failure the dysfunctional school system is responsible it is time that we should stop putting the onus of the learning failure on child alone and make every effort to at least retain them in the crucial foundational/primary levels of school education. This is where the idea of reversal of no detention policy stands in stark contradiction to the ideas laid down in the DNEP.