#EducationMatters- Leave Them Kids Alone
The words of Pink Floyd’s rebellious song echoes in my head. We Don’t Need No Education…he said. It was a defiant wail at a system that in theory is supposed to help children. A system that is supposed to debunk class and caste divides and ensure that every child gets a fair start to be what he or she wants to be.
One way of doing this was of course to ensure that every child got into school in the first place and was given an environment that would make it conducive for him/her to learn and stay on in school. This meant doing away with detention. This is what the Right to Education Act of 2009 did. No more failing. No more having to worry about staying back in a lower class while your friends went ahead. No more feeling left out and left behind. This was supposed to reduce the dropout rates and improve attitudes toward learning. Studies have shown that emotional factors and attitudes toward education in school-age children can influence how they learn. Here we are talking about children who are in all likelihood the first generation in their families to step into a school. These are children who live in the most abject conditions possible. They face immense pressure to quit school so that they can start working or take care of younger siblings and household chores. Detention for poor performance, forcing them to repeat a class would only hasten their departure from schools.
The no-detention policy was accompanied by a form of assessment that was supposed to be non-threatening called the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE). This basically meant assessing the learning progress made by students at regular intervals. The assessment was to be done on smaller manageable chunks of content to reduce stress and do away with rote learning. CCE involved using different methods of teaching as well as non-threatening tools of evaluation. There was an emphasis on no negative comments on the learner’s performance. Like many wonderful ideas no-detention plus CCE sounded great on paper and once it was announced educationists awaited with bated breath a revolution in India.
Sadly, this was not to be. Policies turn into practice only with the right training and support. While CCE was introduced in 2009 as part of the Right to Education Act, scores of teachers are not aware what it exactly means or how they are supposed to implement it. No assessments and mass promotions to the next grade is not CCE. With CCE not being implemented correctly schools often did not know the learning levels of their students or the remedial techniques needed to help them achieve grade-appropriate learning levels.
We love statistics. Statistics that shock us and make us tweet and talk and rave and rant. 98 percent of people in India quote at least one statistic in a conversation every day. This is a statistic I just made up! One such shock-inducing statistic which I have not made up unfortunately is that ‘in rural India every second child in class 5 cannot read at the class 2 level’.
Gasp!! What could possibly be wrong in our system? Let’s not worry about the fact that teachers are not trained in the correct methods of assessment. Let’s not worry about lack of nutritious school feeding programmes or use of corporal punishment or children sitting on the floors in rat-infested class rooms with not enough text books between them. Let’s not worry about the lack of clean drinking water and clean toilets in school. These are all things that prevent children from learning well. Instead let’s just bring back the detention policy. Because the fear of failure is just what we need for children to embrace education with a whoop!
The government in a bid to improve the standard of education feels each state should evolve its own practice of examination and detention post class 5. There are as many as 18 states that want to do away with the no-detention policy but scores of education experts including the NCERT are urging the government not to do so. They say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. In the current education system, the one thing that is not yet broken is the student. Let’s try and fix the 99 other things that we know will help the student.
To quote Pink Floyd’s song again “Teachers! Leave them kids alone.”
Photo Credits : Reuters
Words By : Chandrika Rao
Chandrika Rao is a Psychologist and Development Sector Professional, passionate about children’s and women’s issues and mother to a teenage boy. You can follow her on twitter @chocandcheese