A DAY after the Bombay High Court asked the educational boards to consider making mathematics an optional subject, academicians and counsellors remained divided on the matter. On Monday, a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice A K Menon, while hearing a petition on the issue of students coping with learning disabilities in schools, asked the boards to take suggestions from experts on whether mathematics should be made optional for students. The bench observed the move could reduce the dropout rates.
Academicians, however, maintained that mathematics being a fundamental subject was required for students to develop their analytical skills. “Elementary mathematics is necessary for students till Class X. Basic calculations enhance the decision-making abilities of children,” said Meera Korde, chairperson of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Rabodi, Thane. She, however, said that Algebra and Geometry need not be compulsory.
“Maths is a mark-fetching subject. Students can score full marks if they are good at it but it is difficult to score well in language subjects. Maths should be optional for only students with learning disabilities who find it difficult to comprehend,” said Jamshed Mistry, a lawyer who has argued several cases of disability rights.
In September last year, state education minister Vinod Tawde expressed his intent at making English and Maths optional subjects for Class X students. However, the announcement faced backlash from education experts forcing Tawde to not take the case forward. “The court has made the same observations that I had expressed last year. We will consult experts and educationists on the matter and come back to the court. I am positive about the development,” Tawde told The Indian Express.
Mathematics and English were optional subjects until 1975 but were made compulsory in accordance with the Kothari Commission’s recommendations. In 2005, then education minister Vasant Purke, too, had proposed making the subjects optional. Vasant Kalpande, the then chairperson of the Maharashtra state board, said, “In 2008, when the decision was to be implemented, we held two seminars in Pune and Nagpur for around 500 parents, educationists and counsellors. They felt that both subjects were important for students,” said Kalpande. It was then decided that Maths be divided into two categories—General Maths (Basic) and Maths. General Maths was offered as an option to Algebra, Geometry.
However, the subject did not find many takers and was scrapped in May this year. According to figures from the board, the number of takers for General Maths dropped from 1,37,784 students in March 2013 to 91,515 in 2017. Kalpande said the court must keep students’ interest at heart while deciding on the matter. “The argument that over a lakh students fail each year in Maths is incorrect. Over the years, the performance has been increasing to over 88 per cent students passing,” said Kalpande.
“Mathematics is a fundamental subject without which the career options available for students becomes limited. Even humanities subject such as Psychology demand analytical skills that can be developed with Maths,” said Kalpande. Psychiatrists and counsellors, on the other hand, welcomed the court’s intentions. Psychiatrist Harish Shetty, whose petition on the support and learning aids provided by various educational boards to help such students the bench was hearing on Monday, said the SSC board and CBSE board should adopt guidelines similar to the ICSE.
“The ICSE allows students with learning disability to not to choose Maths in Class IX and X. While other boards should follow suit, all ICSE schools too should ensure proper implementation,” said Shetty. Psychiatrist Dayal Mirchandani said by making Maths optional, the boards will acknowledge that each child is different. “The decision would empower parents to make the right choices,” he said.