[lg policy] Focus beyond school ‘detention’ policy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Jul 23 11:37:51 EDT 2018


Focus beyond school ‘detention’ policy

   - Sanchayan Bhattacharjee

The implications of States having different policies with regard to
detaining students goes against the principle of having a uniform
elementary education system.
[image: detention policy, students, detaining students, uniform education
system, no-detention, progressive policy, no-assessment, implementation,
CCE, education in India, Sanchayan Bhattacharjee, ORF Mumbai]

   - Detention Policy <https://www.orfonline.org/tags/detention-policy/>
   - No Assessment <https://www.orfonline.org/tags/no-assessment/>
   - No Detention <https://www.orfonline.org/tags/no-detention/>

As per the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) sub-committee
report, “No detention policy is implementable (only) in an ideal system.”
The recent Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second
Amendment) Bill, 2017 <>,
passed in the Lok Sabha on 18 July (pending Rajya Sabha approval) is a
tacit and misguided admission of how far India is from that ‘ideal’ place.

The bill amends Section 16 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and gives
States the option to mandate examinations at the end of classes 5 and/or 8.
Students unable to clear these exams will receive additional inputs and be
allowed to reappear within two months. If they still do not pass, the
school will be allowed to detain them. However, it is encouraging that the
Centre has left the final decision in this matter to the respective State
Governments. It can only be hoped that most States will appreciate the
soundness of the ‘no-detention’ policy and not discard it, at least in the
long-term. However, the implications of States having different policies
with regard to detaining students goes against the principle of having a
uniform elementary education system.

It is a major departure from the original provisions of the RTE Act that
prohibits detention of any student within the elementary education (class 1
to 8) system. There are several arguments in its favour, including
‘unconditional promotion reduces incentives to study,’ ‘high failure rate
post class 8,’ ‘declining learning outcomes,’ ‘lack of preparedness,’
others. While some part of these arguments holds credence, it is essential
to analyse the issue beyond the myopic lens of ‘yes/no detention.’

It is important to remember the distinction between ‘no-detention’ and

At the outset, it is essential to state that there are a number studies
that conclusively prove that there is no correlation between detention and
improved learning levels or decrease in dropout rates. On the contrary, the
social stigma faced by detained students from friends and society at large
is well documented. Also, amidst the mainstream and social media din, it is
important to remember the distinction between ‘no-detention’ and

Even the RTE in its original form espoused a comprehensive no-detention
policy. Section 29
of the Act called for assessment mechanisms through Continuous
Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) that can evaluate a “child's understanding
of knowledge and his or her ability to apply the same.” As per the National
Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) guidelines
<http://www.ncert.nic.in/announcements/pdf/CCE-Guidelines.pdf>, CCE must
include ‘Assessment for Learning,’ ‘Assessment as Learning’ and ‘Assessment
of Learning.’ The inclusion of current examination systems within the
‘Assessment of Learning’ bucket itself is fraught with issues such as over
emphasis on rote learning and meagre testing of understanding levels. More
importantly, in the current debate, the other two forms of assessments are
relegated to the periphery.

Since the school education system does not have any robust accountability
framework for teachers, exams become the only measurable yardstick.
Different States reported
a disproportionally large number of students failed class 9 examinations
and blamed it squarely on the no-detention policy. To put it mildly, it’s a
flawed correlation. Inadequate and unsuccessful implementation of CCE is
one of the major reasons for the failure of the ‘no-detention’ concept. As
mentioned in the CABE report, “the challenges faced by teachers inside the
classroom will increase due to no-detention and CCE.” This is more of a
mindset problem. On ground, practitioners have consistently maintained that
if understood and implemented correctly, models akin to CCE can actually
distribute assessment responsibilities more effectively and allow teachers
to change their approach to certain topics/subjects based on short term
learning results.

Inadequate and unsuccessful implementation of CCE is one of the major
reasons for the failure of the ‘no-detention’ concept.

For example, Pratham’s Learning Enhancement Program (LEP), which focuses on
grouping and teaching students of different learning levels, showed tangible
in government schools of Haryana. However, it is important to note that the
CCE model showed no relative improvement among these students. A similar
study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad found no difference in learning levels as
a result of CCE. Thus, there is a valid argument to be made against the
hasty rollout of CCE across the country. A more nuanced approached
involving pilots in different parts of the country to iron out the chinks,
look at the other assessment models, sustained training of teachers,
inclusion of such models to evaluate teacher training courses and awareness
of such assessment models among parents might have yielded better results.

The ‘declining learning outcomes’ argument used in favour of doing away
with the no-detention policy is also misdirected at various levels.

*First*, the RTE is applicable only for students in the 6-14 age-group.
There is no sustained policy intervention which focuses on Early Childhood
Education (ECE). The Ministry of Women and Child Development is tasked with
the ‘holistic development of women and children’, thus often making it
difficult to give adequate focus to ECE. Since a significant number of
children are first generation learners, lack of ECE leads to insufficient
school preparedness when children enter the formal education system. Even
basic skills like comprehending instructions on a blackboard becomes a
challenge. Thus there is a gap right at the fundamental level which has a
cascading effect in the latter years.

*Second*, a large number of school students in their initial years find
little/no familiarity with the medium of instruction. Cosmopolitan urban
student profiles, attraction towards English medium schools and a language
policy that is not in congruence with contemporary needs and aspirations
are some of the challenges the government is grappling with in this sector.
As the struggle with language continues, learning outcomes suffer.

*Third*, as mentioned before, there are no parameters to gauge teacher
accountability. So, while the Annual Status of Education Reports continues
to paint a grimmer picture every year with regards to learning outcomes,
there is no mechanism to understand why teachers have failed to instill
basic grade level competencies among students. All the issues mentioned
above have nothing to do with the existence or absence of the no-detention
policy. All of them are systemic issues that have plagued school education
well before the RTE Act.

Once again, a well-intentioned policy measure has not even come close to
achieving intended outcomes as a result of flawed execution. With its
reversal, several students will once again have to bear the brunt and
‘fail’ for systemic lapses. Instead of focusing on creating outcome based
assessment frameworks and implementing them in a phased manner, it was
unfortunately deemed prudent to pass a regressive legislation. Ultimately,
the goal of any progressive school education system should be to completely
do away with the conventional examination paradigm and replace it with one
that follows an integrated assessment and learning model. No-detention for
students is a progressive policy initiative. Hasty and ineffective
implementation should not sound its death knell.

   - Development <https://www.orfonline.org/topic/development/>
   - Education <https://www.orfonline.org/topic/development/education/>
   - India <https://www.orfonline.org/geography/india/>

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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[image: avatar]


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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