A month has gone by since the State government decided to introduce board examinations for classes 5 and 8. However, the debate over it among academicians and parents is yet to conclude.
While the former say that introducing board exams would put stress on the young minds, the parents opine that it would help them face board exams in class 9 even as they demand no-detention even if the students fail in these tests. With barely a few months left for the academic year to end, parents and teachers of Classes 5 and 8 remain confused as there is still a great deal of ambiguity over whether students of these classes would have board exams or not.
The State government decided to conduct board exams for Classes 5 and 8 from this academic year in line with the orders of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
Though the decision was taken in February, 2018, the government order was issued only recently. The order said that as per RTE Act, examinations would be conducted for the students studying in Classes 5 and 8 this year.
“There shall be a regular examination for Classes 5 and 8 at the end of every academic year. If a child fails in the examination, he or she will be given additional instruction and granted opportunity for re-examination with a period of two months from the date of declaration of results,” reads the order.
With academicians and parents differing vastly on the conduct of public exams for middle school students, School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan took a u-turn a few weeks ago and claimed that the results of the board exams for Class 5 and 8 will not be published and there will not be any detention to ease tension among the student community. However, the government order to bring back the detention policy was not cancelled so far leaving parents and teachers confused.
To understand the current move by the union government in introducing two more board exams, one has to go back to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Section 16 of the RTE Act stipulates that ‘No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.’ Thus, the policy covered the elementary stage of schooling - Classes 1 to 8.
With no detentions until Class 8, the School Education Department officials began to face a new challenge in the form of increased dropout in Classes 9 and 10. According to the statistics given by an official at the education department, the dropout rate in Class 9 was 20 per cent every year as a result of the no-fail policy, which prompted a rethink to scrap no-detention policy in line with the Union Government’s proposal.
Annually, about 23 lakh students enroll for Classes 9 and 10 in government and private schools. However, only 19 lakh of them go to Classes 11 and 12 on an average, while about a lakh opt for polytechnic courses after Class 10, said the official. “About two lakh students drop out every year,” he said.
He said in 2018-19 alone, the number of students enrolled in Class 9 and 10 is 23.26 lakh. The number of students who enroll for Classes 11 and 12 is 19.6 lakh only. “If the students have board exams in Class 8 itself, it would be easy for them to face board exams in Class 9 also as it will not be a new experience for them” he said.
After such a pattern was detected in several States, the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was held in 2012 and a subcommittee was constituted for assessment of the implementation of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) in the context of no-detention provision in the RTE Act, 2009.
The report of the subcommittee was placed before CABE in 2015, wherein it was decided to request all States/UTs to share their views on the no-detention policy. A total of 28 States, including Tamil Nadu have shared their views on the no-detention policy out of which 23 States have suggested a modification to the no Detention policy.
The recommendation of the committee, after considering all the feedback from the states, was that there should be an examination at Class 5. It was left to the States and UTs to decide whether this exam will be at the school, block, district or state level.
Accordingly, if a child fails, then he or she should be allowed an opportunity to improve. The committee also recommended that in Classes 6 and 7, there should be a school-based exam for students.
In Class 8, the committee recommended an external exam and if the child fails, he or she should be given additional instruction and then made to appear for an improvement exam. If the student failed again then detain.
TN government’s stance
While many voiced their views against the detention policy, the government authorities are viewing it as an exercise and procedure to improve the academic performance of children gradually.
Justifying the government stance to introduce board exams for Classes 5 and 8, a senior official from the Directorate of School Education pointed out that during the past few years, thousands of students reaching Class 9 finding it difficult to write board exams to reach SSLC standard. “We expect that this move will reduce the drop out rates in Classes 9 and 10,” an official said.
Mixed reactions from academicians
Meanwhile, academicians claim that the government move will affect the minds of the students at that age group.
“Detention is not a deterrent. Especially for children who are below the age of 14. Detention at this age group will be a great challenge to the marginalized especially girl children to pursue higher education.
The Policy of ‘No Detention’ was evolved only after taking into consideration several factors including socioeconomic background and difficulties faced by girl children,” says general secretary, State Platform for Common School System, PB Prince Gajendra Babu.
He added that if there are problems faced by the government, they should identify the difficulties in learning faced by children and address the issues as only that will prevent the school dropouts. “Smooth and happy School Life without the Stress of Examination and detention at least up to the completion of Elementary Education must be ensured,” Gajendra Babu noted.
Tamil Nadu Teachers Association president P K Ilamaran welcomed the government announcement. However, he clarified that the government order is unclear about the whole initiative to conduct board exams at the elementary level. “This has created lots of confusion among the parent,” he said.
Parents welcome board exams
Parents are of the view that the government should consider not to detain the students, who face the board exams in Class 5 and 8, if they fail.
According to Kancheepuram District Parents-Teachers Association deputy secretary S Parandhaman, the problem was that most of the government schools do not maintain study records of the students in the middle school level to assess their knowledge.
Therefore, all the students were treated the same by not conducting annual exams till class eight. “Teachers find it difficult to identify the slow learners so that they could be given more training,” he said. But he clarified that detention will not be the solution to students since they will cultivate a “failure” attitude in his mind.
SB Selvakumar, secretary of the Forum of School Management in TN, said the main problem was that no school management or academician was taken for the meeting before finalizing to implement the proposals in the Centre’s new education policy.
“The Union government claimed that it took three years to prepare a draft education policy. But now it is a hurry to implement without consulting with the stakeholders,” Selvakumar said.
With barely four months to go before board examination, school education authorities do not have much time to decide on whether they will be holding board exams for Classes 5 and 8.