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Monday, August 08, 2022

A time to revise

Despite no-detention policy, thousands of children are being left behind in learning outcomes. We need to reconsider it.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: August 24, 2015 12:00:32 am

At its first meeting since the NDA government came to power in May last year, the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) made a strong pitch to scrap the no-detention policy ushered in under the RTE. The RTE mandates that “no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education”, or till Class VIII, while prescribing a system of “continuous and comprehensive evaluation” (CCE) to measure a child’s learning levels that would eliminate end-of-year high-stakes exams. The CABE was motivated by the Geeta Bhukkal subcommittee report, which concludes that, given the declining learning outcomes of primary schoolchildren, the no-detention policy should be implemented in a phased manner that allows for students to be held back if they are lagging behind.

Both the no-detention policy and the CCE are well-intentioned. They are meant to address the needs of those students who are most ill-served by the exam-centric system, which equated learning with performance in exams. Allowing students to progress gives the most disadvantaged among them an equal opportunity to complete elementary education. However, in practice, as several studies have shown, learning outcomes have declined since students were allowed to be promoted to the next level without adequately assessing their learning levels. As the Bhukkal report notes, no detention has too often been read as “no assessment” or “no relevance of assessment”, which reduces the significance of any testing that is conducted in the eyes of all involved, parents, teachers and children. The lack of a proper metric to measure student performance is compounded by the fact that the CCE guidelines are badly defined. Teachers are not equipped or trained to conduct evaluations within the CCE framework and they do not know how to use the assessments to tailor lessons to student capabilities. In some states, the CCE activity is included in the old age-grade curriculum and in others, it is so complicated that it has actually reduced the likelihood of teacher involvement in a child’s learning at the individual level.

The RTE was a promise that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, would have access to quality elementary education. Five years after its implementation, the RTE has succeeded in getting children to school, but not in actually teaching them much of anything. Given the data — the last Aser found that over half of Class V students can neither read a Class II-level text nor do basic subtraction — the government must urgently re-evaluate the aspects of the education system that are not yielding results. Training teachers in the CCE concept, designing student assessment methods and grouping students by learning levels rather than age could do more to improve outcomes than promoting students only to set them up for failure later.

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First published on: 24-08-2015 at 12:00:29 am
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