Government does well to repeal the no-detention policy for school students

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Updated: August 4, 2017 5:48:45 AM

The positive correlation between the no-detention policy, that has been in effect since 2010, and the falling levels of learning at schools in the last decade should have been a strong indicator that the policy was failing, and failing poorly.

ASER data shows that students, especially at government-run schools, have been consistently underperforming in basic reading, comprehension, and mathematical ability tests. (Image: PTI)

The positive correlation between the no-detention policy, that has been in effect since 2010, and the falling levels of learning at schools in the last decade should have been a strong indicator that the policy was failing and failing poorly. ASER data shows that students, especially at government-run schools, have been consistently underperforming in basic reading, comprehension, and mathematical ability tests. Consider Class V students’ ability to read Class II text. While 58.9% of the students in 2007 could do so, only 53.7% were able in 2010 when the no detention policy was introduced. The number fell to 42.2% in 2014 and was even lower at 41.6% in 2016. For arithmetic, the number of Class V students who could do division declined to 26% in 2016 from 36.2% in 2010. No-detention helped the government increase enrolment rates, but learning levels went for a toss.

Therefore, the Cabinet has done well to scrap the policy—which made schools offer re-exams once a student failed, and ultimately, promote him/her to the next grade even if he/she couldn’t clear the re-exam. While the new rules allow supplementary exams for students failing the “finals” Class V onwards, unlike in the previous system, the schools can detain students if they fail the retest. Now that the government has repealed the no-detention policy, the focus has to be on improving learning and teaching standards.

There are several ways to do that, but a good way to start would be to implement the recommendations of a panel of secretary-level bureaucrats, the Group on Education and Social Development. The panel had asked the government to introduce a School Education Quality Index and also enrol India for PISA tests. ASER data shows that there is also a need to rely more on technology to improve standards, as studies show that children learn more when they interact with technology.

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