After Parliament passed an amendment to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) in January this year and scrapped a no-detention policy for classes V and VIII — empowering states to hold back students if they fail the re-exam — the Punjab education department has decided to implement the amended Act from the current session (2019-20) itself.
This means that class V and VIII students who will appear for exams scheduled in mid-March will be held back if they fail in the re-exam. Written orders regarding this have been issued to all district education officers (DEOs) and government school principals by the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT). The orders dated March 1, issued by SCERT director state: “The school education department has decided to implement amended RTE Act from current session itself. All preparations should be made in this regard.”
Since 2016, Punjab has been conducting evaluation of students of classes V and VIII under the ‘Learning Outcome Evaluation System’ (LOES). As per the LOES, students are given grades between ‘A’ (more than 80 per cent marks) and ‘E’ (less than 33 per cent). Students are not or held back even if they get an ‘E’ grade, they are only “identified for remedial coaching and extra attention”. Moreover, only the grades (and not marks) are revealed to the students and their parents (see box).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Inderjit Singh, director, SCERT and elementary education, said, “We were conducting exams for classes V and VIII under LOES. But now those scoring less than 33 per cent will have to appear for a re-examination within two months. Those who will fail the re-exam will be held back. However, as per RTE, no student will be expelled from school till completion of elementary education. Also, we are planning to replace grades with marks. With grades, all scoring less than 33 per cent get ‘E’ grade and it is not possible to identify those who scored lowest and need more attention.”
Section 16 of the amended RTE Act, 2009, states: “There shall be a regular examination in the fifth and eighth class at the end of every academic year. If a child fails in examination, he/she shall be given additional instructions and granted opportunity for re-examination within two months from date of declaration of result. The appropriate government may allow schools to hold back child in 5th or 8th class or in both classes… if fails in re-exam provided that appropriate government may decide not to hold back child in any class till completion of elementary education. No child shall be expelled from school till completion of elementary education.’
SCERT director Singh said, “We will not expel any student till class VIII even if he/she fails but it has been decided to reinstate the detention policy.”
The present system
The ‘Learning Outcome Evaluation System’ evaluation was initiated under then education minister Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema in 2016 after noticing that due to the no-detention policy under RTE, learning outcomes levels were drastically declining and affecting the class X board results.
Cheema, who had also headed the sub-committee of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) under then MHRD minister Smriti Irani to study the problems faced by government schools across the country and work out a plan to improve education standards, had spoken in favour of reintroducing exams for classes V and VIII, saying that elementary education standards were declining due to the no-detention policy. Since no final decision was taken then on RTE, Punjab implemented LOES saying is it not a violation of the RTE Act as they will be holding exams only to identify weak students without failing or detaining them.