The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or the Right to Education Act (RTE and no detention) was supposed to drive India’s big leap in social development. Recently, the Government had decided to scrap one of its most controversial features, the no-detention policy (NDP.
No-detention Policy (NDP) –
The NDP was interpreted as a call for all students to be automatically promoted to the next class, without having to take any examinations until class VIII.
Analysing NDP –
The latest edition of the well-regarded “Annual Status of Education Report” (ASER), which measures overall learning levels, has found, yet again, that learning outcomes remain below par.
Less than 48% of children in class V can read a class Ii-level textbook; only 43.2% of class VIII students in rural India can do simple divisions; only one out of every four students in class V could read an English sentence.
The NDP has also been found to be faulty by the comptroller and auditor general as well as the Central Advisory Board of Education.
More than 20 states and union territories have asked for the policy to be either scrapped or modified.
Arguments in favour of NDP –
Supporters of the NDP argue that the policy—successfully deployed in countries known for their high-quality education systems, such as Finland and Japan—wasn’t properly implemented in India.
NDP cheerleaders also claim that the objective of the policy was to keep students in school and prevent dropouts—and in that, it has succeeded.
What went wrong with NDP?
The NDP was supposed to be part of the larger continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) effort which replaced the annual examination system. The CCE, however, was stillborn—at least in part because teachers were never really trained in how to implement the new methods of evaluation and interpreted the policy as one that required no assessment at all.
Criticism of RTE and No Detention –
The Act makes it compulsory for schools to reserve 25% of seats for poor students, mandates a high teacher-student ratio, enumerates expensive standards for school buildings and infrastructure, defines working days and teacher hours, etc., but doesn’t offer any benchmarks for learning outcomes or link teacher assessment to student performance.
Many schools have been shuttered since they could no longer afford the RTE requirements.
Enrolment rates were high and improving even before RTE and no detention, thanks to much older schemes such as the mid-day meal scheme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)
In other words, the RTE and no detention has resulted in shutting down those schools that students wanted to attend while giving preferential treatment to those that they didn’t care for. It has, on the whole, promoted an education system that focuses on just about everything else but education.