No Detention Policy: An Appraisal
Section 16 of the RTE Act categorically lays down that “No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from the school till the completion of elementary education.” Under this policy, the students up to class VIII are automatically promoted to the next class without being held back even if they do not get a passing grade.
Social promotion is the practice of promoting a student to the next grade at the end of the current school year, regardless of when or whether they learned the necessary material, in order to keep them with their peers by age, that being the intended social grouping. The opposite of this is called Grade Retention or Detention. This is the practice of making a student repeat a particular grade if they have not attained the basic learning level for that grade. A variant of this is the so called double-promotion where gifted kids can accelerate to join older students. The pros and cons of both policies are easy searchable on Google. Let me just state them here and put them in the context of the countries and cultures they are sought to be implemented in.
i. Social Promotion:
The main argument is that making a student repeat a grade adds to mental stress, lowers their self esteem, and could cause them to drop out altogether. In the favour of NDP it is justified as – “because examinations are often used for eliminating children who obtain poor marks. Compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating and discouraging”. The tests were replaced by a system called CCE (Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation). CCE is just a way of assessing the children by non learning factors such as social, personality, attitudes and values displayed. In 2012, the Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) crystallised its position on the NDP as follows, “The ‘no detention’ provision is made because examinations are often used for eliminating children who obtain poor marks. Once declared ‘fail’, children either repeat grade or leave the school altogether. Compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating and discouraging.” It was also clarified that the CCE is “a procedure that will be non-threatening, releases the child from fear and trauma of failure and enables the teacher to pay individual attention to the child’s learning and performance”.
The policy was implemented as part of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) under the RTE Act in 2010 to ensure all-round development of students. The concept of CCE imported from the West, which emphasises on evaluating a child through the year, and not just based on performance in one of two term exams. The main aim of CCE is to evaluate every aspect of the child during their presence in the school. It was also done to reduce the workload of children by taking continuous tests of the students throughout the year. According to the no-detention policy, all students should be promoted to next class till Class VIII.
Under the new system, the student’s marks will be replaced by grades which will be evaluated throughout the year through a series of curricular and extra-curricular activities. The grades will be awarded based on work experience skills, dexterity, innovation, steadiness, teamwork, public speaking, behavior, etc.
Class X board exams are optional for all CBSE students. The students can choose either school-based exams or board-based ones. In case of school-based exams, the exams are conducted within their own school and answers are evaluated by the teachers of the school. In case of board-based exams, the exam is conducted at an allotted centre and answers are evaluated at designate centers.
In the several surveys conducted by the government and various NGOs it was revealed that the detention system led to increased dropouts among students, especially from economically and socially weaker sections, who cannot afford costly private education. In order to overcome this, the no-detention policy was brought in to provide elementary school children an environment free from fear, anxiety and stress and allow them to learn and grown on their own pace. The main idea was to reduce the undue stress of competition among students, parents and the educational institutions.
Several educationists and academics have asserted that the NDP and CCE are based on sound principles of pedagogy and assessment and are recognised world-wide. They are welcome change to the exam-centric education culture prevailed in India. The no-detention policy embraces the concept of equity especially for children from low-income groups and girls. High repetition and high dropout rates have been a major issue since the 1990s. The NDP seeks to address that concern. There is no research evidence to suggest that the repeating a year helps children perform better rather it leads to more dropouts from the system. Research does say that repeating has adverse academic and social effects on the child. The no detention policy has attracted staunch criticism for doing away with the pass-fail system. But it has some strong rationale justifying its implementation. The no detention policy has been put into practice primarily to prevent drop outs. The traditional system of evaluation through examinations is often used to detain and eliminate a child who performs poorly. He is declared “fail” and made to repeat the class. The child would find least interest and motivation following the same syllabus, nor find any special resource to deal with the same syllabus requirement for yet another year. It is demotivating and discouraging. Detention, therefore, has no positive justification, rather negative implication for the child. The no-detention policy in the RTE does not imply the abolition of assessment but replacement of the traditional system of evaluation with continuous and comprehensive assessment that is non- threatening. It releases the child from fear and trauma of failure and enables the teacher to pay individual attention to the child’s learning and performance. The new system has the best potential to improve quality, rather than punishment, fear of failure and detention. Again as stated in article 13, every child has the same potential for learning. In most of the cases, it is the inadequacy of the educational system that accounts for the failure of the child. So instead of punishing the child with detention we should address the improvement of the quality of the system. There is no study or research that suggests that detaining a child improves the quality of the learning of the child. In fact, more often than not the child abandons school and probably learning altogether.
There is a common misconception that no-detention means no assessment. CCE is the assessment system under RTE and it should go hand in hand with no-detention policy. CCE allows for assessment of students on non-cognitive and non-academic areas of learning. Here a child need not be failed just because of non-performance on a narrowly defined and rigid set of indicators. There is lack of awareness regarding the implementation of CCE. The failure of implementation process is equated with failure of policy itself. The CCE failed to take off in most schools due to lack of basic capacity and awareness. In the absence of CCE, a no-detention policy has no meaning. There are also assumptions that students can only learn under the threat of failure. As long as there are such beliefs, the groundwork for reforms will not be ready. The failure of a child is the failure of the system as a whole, rather than that of the child. Instead of proposing the changes in the learning process, we are victimising the children. We often tend to expel the students on grounds of deviant and aberrant behavior, which we apprehend, would influence and affect other children. But expulsion signifies the refusal of the system to serve the child. The notion of “expulsion” is not compatible with the concept of “right”. In no civilized nation do we find the policy of “expulsion” in effect to deal with the students of elementary schools. If such tender aged (6-14 years) children engage into activities violating the rules and discipline of the school, the system has to take the responsibility. The system should address the child differently, through counseling, by providing different curricular and co-curricular activities which enable the child to develop self-awareness, changing his behavioral pattern. Another reason to implement the no detention policy is to free the students from the pressure and fear of examination and give them a stress free academic environment and childhood.
The phenomenon of poor learning outcomes is the product of many factors which influence learning, and should not be conveniently pinned to the door of the no-detention policy. There is a pressing need to acknowledge the failure of other key provisions of the RTE, for instance, the stipulated pupil-teacher ratio (PTR). Many government schools in India are facing acute shortage of teachers and the available teachers are burdened with non-school activities. Until the desired pupil-teacher ratio is achieved, it is unreasonable to expect CCE and NDP to succeed. Other factor responsible for poor learning outcomes is the lack of trained teachers. Lack of training has caused the confusion among the teachers on what their role is in implementation of CCE guidelines. Teacher training must be revised in line with the requirements of CCE. In-service support should also be provided to ensure that teachers are equipped and motivated to drive learning outcomes without having to teach to a test. Meanwhile, more effort needs to go into designing a workable, accessible framework which meets the objectives of continuous and comprehensive assessment. At the cusp of transformative changes heralded by the RTE, a drastic reversal in policy without wider discussions and consultations would amount to a retrograde step. It would be especially detrimental if it meant going back to a system acknowledged as poor–as it was based solely on a pass-fail calibration of learning. The foundation of the education system has to be made ready for reform. Reform should not be held responsible for existing cracks in the foundation. Instead, efforts to strengthen the foundation should be the objective of policy. Detention is punishment to the child for the failings of the education system, so it’s cruel and unjust, along with being completely ineffective.
ii. Demerits of NDP
However, after few years of implementation of no-detention policy, it was found to be counter-productive. Many government school teachers and principals conceded that it became a big challenge to ensure minimum learning levels among the children. The general complaint against the NDP was that the policy led to students developing a lackadaisical attitude towards their studies. It was also seen that the parents also didn’t bother as their children cannot be held back in the class. This system makes no difference between good and bad students. Several studies have showed that learning outcome in schools have been poor over years. The fact that the students will be promoted to the next class up till 8 is making them carefree and they have developed an easy going attitude. They don’t study as there is no fear of failing in them. There is no distinction between the studious and unscholarly students. The students are kept at the same parameter because even if don’t work hard they will be promoted to the next class.
Teachers especially resent this policy as it takes away the power they have over their students. The teachers cannot hold back or expel the weak students. A large number of teachers have reported that some of the students don’t even come for the exams as there is no fear of repeating the class. The efforts of the teachers go in vain as the students don’t come to schools and even if they come, they don’t pay attention in class or even worse, they disturb the teaching environment of the class.
This situation is promoting the idea of coaching classes. The students who don’t pay attention in classes go to the coaching classes to get the passing grade in the Board examinations. The students also lose out on a chance to develop better. Repeating a class gives them another chance to understand the syllabus better which is taken away from them when they don’t repeat the class. The student, their parents, their teachers don’t know where the student stands. The policy makers forgot the fact that all the students don’t learn at the same rate. There are some slow learners who require extra attention and care from the teachers. There is a large strength of the students in the schools and sometimes the slow learners are often ignored. Moreover, there are also those students who are intelligent but the teachers cannot hold their attention for long time as by repetition for slow learners these students get bored and often lose interest in studies.
All this has really deteriorated the quality of students in the country. Many states have asked the Union Human Resource Development Ministry to scrap the no-detention policy. The 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) brought by the Pratham, an education non-profit organisation said that every second Class V student in rural India can’t read the text of a class three levels below. In 2012, a sub-committee set up by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) under then Haryana Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal, had come up with a conclusion that no-detention policy has had a “very bad” impact on the children. The committee recommended that the no-detention policy be implemented in a phased manner so that all stakeholders understand what it entails instead of interpreting it as zero assessment. The committee was of the view that it should be applied only till Class V instead of Class VIII. The committee also recommended that government should make it mandatory for students to register minimum attendance of 80 per cent in their classes so that they are benefited by the CCE under the RTE Act. Since the report was finalized in the last year of the UPA-government, no action was taken. The present HRD Minister held a series of meetings including with school children and the general opinion favoured for examinations for lower levels as well as for Class X. In August 2015, at a meeting of CABE chaired by HRD Minister, a road consensus emerged on scrapping of the NDP and bringing back the board exams in Class X. The Ministry asked all states to give their views. While most of the states are in favour of scrapping of NDP, few states are against it. During the 63rd meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) there was a broad consensus at the meeting, with state governments being ‘unequivocal’ in suggesting that the no-detention policy be revoked. “Education ministers, representatives of the states and CABE members unanimously agreed on the need to do so. However, the Government of India proposed that state governments should formally provide their views, in writing, within 15 days, to the HRD ministry, which would consider the next steps based on these recommendations,” said an MHRD release on August 19, 2016.
iii. Vasudev Devnani Panel
On 31 December, 2015, a Centre-appointment panel, led by Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani, has recommended revocation of the ‘no-detention policy’. The panel had sought opinion of 22 states, of which 18 favoured revoking the policy. The key recommendations of the panel are as follows:
1) Introduction of state level compulsory exams for classes V and VIII. Students, who fail to achieve the required learning level, will be given one more opportunity to clear the exam in one month time. In case they fail to achieve the learning level again, they have to repeat the respective class.
2) No-detention policy should be applicable to classes I to IV, VI and VII subjected to required learning levels. Those who fail to achieve the learning level will be marked as unsuccessful in their report cards.
However, blindly following the ‘no detention policy' will not help. Schools must offer bridge course for 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 attention to slow learners. Rashtriya Madhymik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) introduced a programme to help slow learners but that hardly helps as it is just a three-month programme offered for students of class IX before the final exams.
The much-awaited New Education Policy (NEP) was released by the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani earlier in June 2016. The policy draft has been prepared by the TSR Subramanian Committee and includes several recommendations that need both debate and deliberations. One such is the revision of the “no detention policy” (NDP). This states that no child will be held back in any class until Class VII or be expelled from school till the completion of elementary education. It was implemented as part of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation in the Right to Education Act 2009. The TSR committee recommends that NDP must apply only till class V, when the child will be 11 years old approximately. At the upper primary stage — that is after class V — the system of detention would be restored, subject to the provision of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances being offered to prove a child’s capability to move on to a higher class. The idea is that a student who is performing badly is given the scope to improve, but with a timeline.
Suggestions for improvement:
The ‘no detention policy’ along with the CCE is in itself good but has failed to deliver because our country lacks the infrastructural support and awareness on the part of the guardians needed for the successful implementation of the policy. For both the policies to be implemented, a healthy teacher-taught ratio is necessary. The CCE has become a farce in schools where the teacher-student ratio ranges from 1:50 to 1:120. Again pedagogically, the no detention policy is effective if the teacher is professionally equipped, committed, works in a conducive environment, and is not over-burdened. Then she/he should be in a position to assess individual learning needs, appreciate individual differences and be committed to provide remedial inputs to each learner as per his or her requirements. The teacher should be also responsible to ensure that at no stage does the learner come under undue stress. But it is futile to expect this from the teachers who are not only burdened with hugely populated classes but also have to participate in election duties, census or sample surveys. It was an ill-conceived decision to introduce the no detention policy without taking into account its feasibility and, hence, it is destined to fall flat. Until the desired pupil-teacher ratio is achieved, it is unreasonable to expect CCE and NDP to succeed. Other factor responsible for poor learning outcomes is the lack of trained teachers. Lack of training has caused the confusion among the teachers on what their role is in implementation of CCE guidelines. Teacher training must be revised in line with the requirements of CCE. Instead of strengthening the foundation to implement the reforms, bringing back the old pass-fail system threatens to undermine the egalitarian promise of the RTE. Therefore, the following are some suggestions for smooth functioning of the No Detention Policy and CCE:-
1. The student- teacher ratio in the class should be kept to manageable limits.
2. Regular orientation and training of the in-service teachers should be done to acquaint them with the principles and strategies of the policy needed for its successful implementation.
3. Parents’ awareness should be generated.
4. Special training for the weaker students and the late entrants should be there to make them at par with the academic level required to be in a particular class.
5. Value education should be imparted among the students.
6. Teaching-learning process should be made more attractive and joyful so as to arrest the attention of the students.
7. Funding and resource allocation should be increased.
On the basis of the discussion above, we may conclude that the no detention policy might be aiming to ensure universal enrolment and retention but has certainly affected the quality of education and aim of education, which cannot be ignored. It is now high time that the controversial clause is reviewed to maintain focus on quality education. We must remember that mere educational qualification is not a means of social change. The real purpose of the schools should be to broaden the horizon of the students and not merely to offer certificates. Even with the dedicated teachers one needs a change of the policy to make children actually study. But revoking the policy in isolation without drastically overhauling the education system would only add more woes to the already overburdened lives of the poor Indian children. Hence, the policy should either be renovated with adequate changes to neutralize the ill effects or replaced with a new policy that would take a balanced approach. The prime objective should be to effect an all-round development of children and equipping them with life skills.
As per the latest development the Government has now reviewed the no detention policy and the law ministry has given the go –ahead to HRD Ministry proposal to restrict the no-detention policy from the present class VIII to class V because children are getting indisciplined “as they do not have fear of failing”.
# What Is The Current Status Of The No-Detention Policy - iPleaders http://blog.ipleaders.in/current-status-no-detention-policy/#ixzz4CfU8lEJS
# http://www.newslaundry.com/2016/06/29/no-detention-policy-is-a-bad-idea/ The problems with the new No Detention Policy/Government schools need to offer better standards of education before implementing NDP/Posted by Devanik Saha | Jun 29, 2016 in Criticles
# No Detention Policy: Rationale and Reality-An Appraisal Abhijit Ghosh./ http://www.researchinformation.org/files/Abhijit-Ghosh.pdf
# The Times of India, Monday December 26, 2016. Govt. nod to no-detention policy limit till Class V.