Improve the system

A parliamentary standing committee on human resource development has suggested reconsideration of the policy of automatic promotion of students up to Class VIII under the right to education act. The suggestion has been made in the light of the finding made by several studies of the poor learning outcome of children in schools. A large number of children, especially in government schools, are unable to read and write and do elementary arithmetic even after spending some years in schools.

One perception is that children are not  motivated to learn when they are assured of  promotions. The committee shares this view and also feels that the absence of examinations in the early schooling period might make it difficult for children to face exams from Class IX and later. It observes that a child “may not be mature enough to understand the implication of his being required to sit for formal exams from Class IX onwards and obtain minimum benchmarks.”

While the idea of incentives by promotion and punishment by failure may appeal to most of those who are schooled in such a system, a decision on the suggestion should be made only on the basis on other relevant factors also. The urge to learn is inherent in every child and that is why educationists recommend a system without the stressful need for performance in terms of marks in the early school days. What schools should do is to provide the right environment to develop the learning ability. The poor learning outcome  is mostly because such an environment in terms of facilities and good teaching is not available in most government schools.

The RTE law does not abolish exams in schools. It prescribes continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) of children through a series of tests to assess and develop their skills. These are tests without the threat of detention and are also intended to prepare them for future competition. But the CCE is not implemented in most schools. In fact the required CCE modules have not been prepared by most states and teachers are not trained to conduct such evaluation. Failure might also demotivate many students and parents and lead many to drop out of schools. This will defeat the aim of universal schooling. Improving facilities and the system of teaching will yield more results than the threat of failure.

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