THE SUGGESTION in the Central government’s New National Education Policy draft of extending the school hours from six hours to eight hours for students up to eighth standard has raised eyebrows from representatives of various teacher and parent organisations in the city.
Educationists say the main reason for the dissent is the “double standards” on the government’s part — that on one hand, it is trying to reduce the burden of the school bag and on the other, “planning to put psychological pressure by increasing the school hours.”
On its website, the State School Education and Sports Department has displayed the draft of the New National Education Policy. The state has sought suggestions and objections from schools, teachers and parents till November 23. Following this, various organisations such as Maharashtra State Principals’ Organisation, Maharashtra State Teachers’ Coordinating Committee have strongly opposed the move.
The draft of the policy says that, “Although RTE mandates the minimum number of teaching hours from the teachers, there is no emphasis on mandating the learning time of students. Research shows that an 8-hour school module is more effective in improving learning outcome than other modules. State should mandate 6 hours of minimum student (instructional) learning time in schools. The school systems should revamp their existing administrative / infrastructure hurdles to comply with this norm. And the tagline should read, hundred per cent students in schools learning for eight hours a day.”
According to P R Patil, the state head of Maharashtra State Arts and Sports Teachers’ Coordinating Committee increasing the span from six hours to eight hours could prove a great disaster. Citing what is wrong with the suggestion, Patil said, “This decision will affect the students badly. The government must keep in mind that not all students live near their schools. Some have to leave as early as an hour to catch the bus or travel by bicycle. If the time is increased, they won’t have a life outside school. In six hours also, we’ve to give them two-three breaks, because it is impossible to sit in one place for so long. We’re not complaining because we’ll have to teach longer hours. The government has already put us under a lot of pressure till now. We’re worried for our students.”
Anubha Sahai, a member of Parents of Private Schools of Maharashtra (POPSOM) said, “This decision will have a negative impact on students unless the government steps up the quality of education being provided in schools. They are trying to copy the policies of Western countries in India; without knowing their own shortcomings. Western countries have superior facilities and research to back their decision of increasing the school hours, we don’t have that. For our students, even 5-6 hours in schools are hectic. The main reason for that is they don’t get enough attention from the teachers. Almost 80 percent students go to private tuitions after school. If this decision is taken, they will lose their personal life completely.”
However, Sahai also pointed out that if the government is planning a complete overhaul of the education system through the new National Education Policy, then parents will welcome this decision. “The extra-curricular activities in school aren’t very good, so according to me if the government is planning to indulge the children in extra-curricular activities at school in these extra hours, the decision is of no use. But if they are planning to improve the quality of education altogether, it might prove helpful.”