The Union Cabinet has decided to scrap the ‘No Detention policy’ under the Right to Education Act that came into effect in 2010. After seven years, we are back to square one. The purpose of this policy was mainly to check the dropout rate. But this decision clearly shows that it has not served its purpose. While approving the scrapping of the said clause, the Cabinet has put the onus on states by stating: “States are allowed to detain students in class 5 and class 8 if they fail in the year-end exam but the students will have to be given a second chance to improve via an examination before they are detained.”
“Actually, the no detention policy was good and the decision to scrap the policy is taken in a very hurried manner without giving proper thought to it. The no detention policy was beneficial for students because responsibility and accountability was with the teachers. Now, once again the responsibility has been shifted to the students. We are forced to believe that the decision has been taken under the pressure of the teachers’ lobby,” says Avinash Chandra, associated with the Centre for Civil Society.
Chandra is of the view that the purpose of the No Detention policy was evaluation of students by teachers on a monthly or quarterly basis and taking corrective measures after evaluation. “There was a fixed criterion that a student of a particular class should know this much and it was the teacher’s responsibility but the teachers didn’t care about the spirit and responsibility and became casual. One can see that this is not an issue in public schools because teachers are accountable there,” adds Chandra.
Anjali Agarwal, a volunteer teacher in a school for special children in Mumbai, says, “It is not this that the policy was wrong, but actually, we came up with it without doing proper homework. We just decided that there will be no detention till class 8 but we were least concerned with the changes in the syllabus and the process of imparting education. It is just like bringing in Audi cars without building proper roads.”
She goes on: “The fear of examinations affects both the mental and physical growth of a child. Till the eighth grade, students are of a tender age and they need special care. If a student fails at that age, it has a very negative effect on the child’s mind which ultimately affects physical growth and overall personality. In my view, the government should frame such a policy so that government schools become at par with public schools where this is not an issue”.
Premlata Garg, Principal of DAV Public School, Shreshth Vihar, Delhi, welcomes the government decision. “Though dropout rate is not an issue in public schools but I believe that to maintain the quality of education, there should be some fear of examinations. It was said that if a student passed class 8, at least he can get the job of a peon or a watchman but this should never be the purpose of education. The purpose of education should be to prepare one for the life ahead.” However, Garg is of the view that for special children there should be a no detention policy.
“The students were not getting basic education and as far as dropout rate of students is concerned, it has not stopped but shifted to the 9th standard where the dropout rate is increasing. There had been a tremendous change in the approach of students and their parents after this policy was implemented. Both became least bothered about studies,” views Dr Mohd Maroof Khan, Principal of Dr Zakir Husain School, Delhi. He agrees that the major problem is in the areas where weaker sections of the society reside. “Students who are first in their generation to go to school need to have checks and if they think that they can pass without studying, then the whole purpose of education is defeated.” He thinks that some students take to crime for this.
This policy has been successful in the west because they have the infrastructure and there is less pressure on teachers. There are other activities in which students can excel. Teachers in western nations analyse the reason for the poor performance of a child and find solutions to help the child to perform better. There is no doubt that blindly following the ‘no detention policy’ will not help.
Schools must offer bridge courses to slow learners, but there is little focus on that. Classes with large student strength also make it difficult for teachers to offer extra care and pay attention to slow learners. But before scrapping this, the government should have given thought to all these aspects, particularly to changing the syllabus and overall infrastructure development. But this government seems to be in a hurry to undo almost all policy decisions taken by the previous government.