Debate on automatic school promotions
New Delhi: The Centre today began consulting the states on a new education policy that will review a range of practices, including the automatic promotions till Class VIII and the option of skipping one's Class X board exams under the Central Board of Secondary Education.
Smriti Irani's human resource development ministry made a presentation flagging 33 key issues, which include the need for examination reforms to focus on problem-solving, critical thinking and reasoning skills.
The new policy is expected in about a year. Before that, feedback on the 33 issues will be sought from the public, nationally as well as at the levels of the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks and 625 districts.
The entire feedback will be uploaded on the website mygov.in, school education secretary Brinda Swarup said.
At today's meeting, many of the state education ministers demanded abolition of the automatic promotion policy, stipulated by the Right To Education (RTE) Act.
Rajasthan, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Nagaland argued that promoting the children continually without putting them to any test was harming them. They said that when these children take exams for the first time in Classes IX and X, they fail to perform.
The RTE Act asks schools to hold Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) as an alternative to conventional exams, assessing their pupils internally and round the year for their scholastic as well as extra-curricular performance.
Most of the states said that rural schools, which lacked enough trained teachers, were handicapped when it came to conducting the CCE, so their pupils' learning outcomes remained poor.
The Delhi government recently requested Irani's ministry to limit automatic promotions to Class III and below.
Several surveys, including one by the NGO Pratham, have shown that learning outcomes have suffered since the CCE was introduced in 2009. A committee headed by former Haryana education minister Geeta Bhukkal has opposed automatic promotions.
Many of the state ministers also sought a review of the Central Board of Secondary Education decision to make the Class X board exams optional since 2011.
At an interaction with Irani last November, toppers from various private and government schools had demanded that the Class X boards be made compulsory, although some board officials privately dismissed it as topper bias for exams.
Among the issues to be debated is the requirement for children to study three languages - their mother tongue, English and another Indian language of their choice - till Class VIII.
One of the questions the policy will address is how, in a highly competitive world, and at which level foreign languages can be offered as (optional) school subjects. This would necessitate a review of the existing three-language formula.
The policy agenda, which stresses learning outcomes and the quality of teaching, also dwells on the criteria for teacher promotions and possible punishment for habitually truant teachers.
It touches on the mushrooming of private colleges, some of which lack the required infrastructure, teacher strength and academic standards while fleecing students. The suggestion is not just to tighten the regulations to curb profiteering and punish errant institutions but to ensure that students are better informed about the facilities at private institutions.
The agenda hints at empowering government institutions to increase tuition fees: many undergraduate colleges now charge just Rs 25 a month.
The last education policy was framed in 1986 and amended in 1992. The earlier policies were framed by committees, unlike the wide public participation envisaged for the upcoming one.
A taskforce will draw up the draft recommendations on the basis of the feedback received from across the country. Its members include the heads of the National Council of Educational Training and Research, University Grants Commission and the All India Council of Technical Education as well as representatives from ministries such as tribal affairs, social justice, and women and child development.
The recommendations will be placed before the Central Advisory Board of Education early next year before they go to the cabinet, Swarup said.
The Telegraph, 22 March, 2015, http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150322/jsp/nation/story_10167.jsp#.VQ7D_473-xM