mid-day editorial: Guarantee learning, not promotion

The no-fail policy under the Right to Education (RTE) Act was formulated to remove the fear and burden of examinations from young students. Instead, there is cloud of gloom and stress hanging over children as they find themselves unable to cope with studies in senior classes.

A special report in this paper yesterday highlighted how a Std VI student was recently diagnosed with depression because he was unable to grasp basic mathematics. In another instance, a Std VII student was skipping school because his inability to understand lessons had made him a laughing stock in his class.

Psychiatrists stated that these cases are the result of the no-fail policy, under which all students till Std VIII are automatically promoted every year, irrespective of their academic performance. This means that they are often pushed to senior classes without fully grasping the crucial basics taught in junior classes. All of a sudden, these kids find themselves overwhelmed by the gap between them and their classmates, and with every passing year, the gap continues to widen, making it ever harder for them to catch up.

The RTE, some educationists argue, is a good system. But perhaps there should be some basic testing in lower grades to ensure that the child is up to mark. Students must not be made to feel that it is alright if they do not study, shirk their homework or be inattentive in class, because they would be promoted anyway. Because of this complacency, kids are often unable to deal with the pressure when they get to Std IX and are suddenly asked to prove their academic merit.

There is a fine line between unhealthy pressure and healthy competition. Evaluation in the lower grades must veer towards the latter. We live in a competitive, cut-throat world, and students must also maintain standards. Let promotions come with internal evaluation. If a student is caught lagging behind, there should be measures in place to help the child catch up with the academic workload. Before we can guarantee promotions, we must guarantee solid learning.

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