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The central government and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are trying to bring about some fundamental changes in the education system. Among them are the decisions to withdraw the option given to class X students of the Central Board of Secondary Education to not appear for the Board examination and the ‘no detention policy’ till class VIII. It was some progressive thinking in the previous Central Advisory Board of Education which resulted in making the class X Board examination optional, although there was always a debate about it. However, there was more consensus on not subjecting children in their elementary education stage to examinations, hence the country adopted the ‘no detention policy.’ There are schools in this country run on education philosophies of Mahatama Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jiddu Krishnamurthi and Arobindo Ghosh which also believe in delinking the practice of conducting examination from the process of education.

In a rare agreement Manish Sisodia, also the education minister of Delhi, whose party dissents against Bhartiya Janata Party on almost all matters, too advocated the withdrawal of ‘no detention policy’ in a recent meeting of CABE. The common argument is that the educational performance of children has gone down tremendously and if they are made to study for examinations they will learn better. The minister for Human Resources Development, Prakash Javdekar has indicated that examinations will be reintroduced in classes V and VIII, against the provisions of Right to Education Act, 2009, by making an amendment.

Manish Sisodia says that text books were not changed, teachers were not trained and neither were any changes made in the B.Ed. programme before this policy was implemented. It is his view that under such situation the policy should be done away with for now. However, the real reason for under-performance of children is none of the above mentioned. It is simply that teachers are not fulfilling their basic responsibility of teaching properly. The idea of education is so closely linked to education in this country that people have a hard time accepting the fact that there can be teaching without the need to conduct examination. Hence teachers started taking it easy and neglected their basic duty. They are also overburdened with additional work which takes them away from classroom.

If instead of reintroducing the examinations, the teachers were motivated to give their best in teaching, there would be improvement in quality of teaching and learning. Why should the children be punished for slackness of teachers and people responsible for running the education department?

There is also the question the ensuring fairness in examination process. It is a reality that students pass their class X and XII Board examinations in U.P. and Bihar by indulging in unfair practices. With the collusions of education department officials and management and teachers of the colleges, the students are able to clear their examinations by making payment of certain sum of money. Hence, there is no guarantee that examination will ensure learning. It is likely to open more avenues of corruption just like at higher levels.

The other negative effect of examination will be that children will be deterred from progressing to higher classes. Children from weaker socio-economic backgrounds, whose parents do not have a strong educational background and hence lack the atmosphere at home which encourages higher academic achievement, like dalits, tribals, minorities and girls, will be at a disadvantage when facing the system of examination and are likely to drop out after failing to clear at any level. One of the main reasons for introducing ‘no detention policy’ was because of the high dropout rate even at the elementary level.

Hence, considering the high dropout rate of children from schools and low levels of literacy in India as compared with most other countries, including smaller developing ones, around the world, what is required is a system which is child friendly and not which creates terror of examination from the early ages.

We need education system where the teacher is sensitive towards the children and helps them complete their education process. Quite obviously they’ll have to pay more attention to children who take more time to learn. The basic idea should be take everybody along rather than eliminate some on the basis of their academic performance. Children from weaker socio-economic background will require some hand-holding to be done. Except for a child sympathetic system there is no way universalisation of elementary education can take place in India. To achieve this it is imperative that teachers and education department officials fulfil their responsibility honestly. It is only when this cadre will consider this task as a mission and consider each child as their own will they be able to help all children. A personal involvement with children of the teachers is essential to ensure that learning takes place. All this is more difficult than merely conducting examinations but once teachers and officials make up their mind then it will not appear so insurmountable a problem. It is just a matter of changing people’s mindset.

Hence, the solution lies somewhere else and not in reintroducing the examinations. Actually, there is no relation between learning and examination. Examination is essentially to check the learning. But if the learning is not taking place properly how will the examination improve it? Therefore we need to concentrate on learning process. Evaluation of learning can be done without examining the child. In fact, teacher is the best person to evaluate and her opinion is all that is required. The child may not be subject to the torture of examination process.

By Sandeep Pandey
Vice President, Socialist Party (India)
A-893, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016
Ph: 0522 2347365, M: 9415269790 (Praveen Srivastava)
e-mail: ashaashram@yahoo.com

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