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Bringing back detention – just another regressive move?

Bringing back detention – just another regressive move?

By Ananya Singh

The Central government decided to abolish the ‘no detention’ policy on 2nd August 2017. The provision introduced in 2010 as a part of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act promoted children of classes 5 to 8 to senior classes, irrespective of whether they failed their examinations or not. The policy, thus, was directly proportional to the drastic fall in learning levels. With teachers across the country, along with 25 state governments, objecting to the provision, ‘no detention’ policy is now to be scrapped. The bill, at present, awaits Parliamentary approval.

The population of India is well aware of the elements of the Indian education system that beg reform. However, the majority is not very concerned with decisions concerning the detention policy and believes that the government should rather work towards other steps that would ensure a more holistic approach to education.

Why did India need a ‘no detention’ policy?

It is a well-documented fact that children of lower economic and social strata frequently drop out of school, mostly to assist in providing for the family’s sustenance. According to the ‘no detention’ policy, children are automatically promoted to senior classes, even if they fail while re-attempting their term-end exams. This was introduced as a means of increasing enrollment in schools.

Owing to the high level of dropouts, the government instituted the policy to achieve India’s goal of free and compulsory education for all up to 14 years of age, as stipulated by the RTE Act. However, the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) found a loophole in the provision; the number of dropouts in Classes 9 and 10 were increasing manifold. Since teachers were ordered to promote all students to higher classes, it caused a drastic change in the students’ attitudes. They became increasingly lax about studies as they were liberated from the fear of having to repeat a year. All in all, learning levels declined.

According to Delhi Education Minister’s adviser, Atishi Marlena, a study conducted by the government in 2016 revealed that a shocking 74% of Class 6 students were unable to read their textbooks. Students in classes 5 to 8 lacked knowledge and skills that they should have acquired during their education. When these children were promoted to class 9, failure rates in schools rose rapidly as the students were unable to cope with the education level they encountered in a higher class.

Another incompetent effort

The RTE Act, 2009 now stands to be amended. If students in classes 5 to 8 fail their final examinations, they will be awarded a second attempt at clearing the standard. Provisions will be instituted to help them in the form of remedial classes. If they fail their re-exam, they will be detained and made to repeat a year.

The Act lays stress on the system of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) to assess the student’s understanding of what they have “learnt” in class. CCE was supposed to be implemented in tandem with the ‘no detention’ policy. However, the reform proved difficult to enact, due to the lack of trained teachers for conducting such evaluations. The government has not established a mechanism for CCE to be implemented effectively. The policy, therefore, morphed into an easy breeze for students enrolled in schools.

Institutions, especially in rural areas, suffer from high absenteeism, the incompetence of teachers and a lack of adequate infrastructure among a horde of other issues. Is the ‘no detention’ policy truly the cause of the decrepitude that plagues our education system? The policy on its own is insufficient to bring about change. The government should focus on improving the state of education in our country before concerning itself with whether to fail or pass students.

The current snare of Indian education

Experts have argued that detention can inflict serious and subsisting damage on children’s self-confidence. Further, the brutal stress of marks, percentages and test scores puts undue pressure on the student, significantly increasing the drop out rates. The high number of children who discontinue their education inevitably land up embroiled in child labour, unable to extricate themselves from the jaws of the newly-instituted and seemingly-innocent provision of working for family enterprises.

India’s education system has proved to be a narrow-minded approach at producing graduates, with degrees in hand that, often falsely, prove their capabilities. There is no provision for a holistic development of children, both skill and textbook-based. India continues to suffer under the oppressive belief that ‘marks can make or break a person.’

Schools should extend vocational training besides the standard classroom teaching method employed. Skill-based development of children has been undertaken in Germany, with positive results. As reported by OECD, “The dual system is especially well-developed in Germany, integrating work-based and school-based learning to prepare apprentices for a successful transition to full-time employment.” Instead of detaining students, a comprehensive education system with a focus on skill-development should be the goal.

The pressing need for progressive change

When attempting to reform the education system, the government should realise the importance of building up a particular policy through supporting mechanisms and provisions. By scrapping the ‘no detention’ policy, India will relapse into a state of increased dropouts and lower literacy. Instead, introducing skill-based training for students in addition to their classroom learning will ensure a well-rounded development.

Detention or no detention is the subtext to a larger narrative.
Devising a progressive and more liberal approach to schooling as opposed to a test-based system is more important than the current debate. Such a system should include under its ambit a blend of vocational training as well. If implemented effectively, this would mean a brighter future for both India’s education sector and its children.

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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