I am shocked at the recent criticism of no-fail policy for students up to class VIII and the move to persuade the government to amend the RTE Act for reintroducing the pass-fail system in the schools.
I am shocked because no less than a parliamentary standing committee on human resource development has chosen to blame the no-fail policy of RTE for the imagined ‘consistently declining standards in reading and maths across the country’s schools’.
I am shocked because this panel is headed by none else than Oscar Fernandes, who is respected for his humility and erudition.
I did not want to dwell upon this topic. I thought the debate was over for all time to come and that everyone who had any concern for education, or children, would accept the policy as a progressive one. But I see that the detractors of no-fail policy are still trying hard to roll back the one positive thing that RTE Act has brought about.
For me, the very idea of failing a child, say a child of Std KG or I or II or III, is so disgusting, demeaning and retrogressive that I don’t want to take it up for discussion. And I won’t be surprised if this panel or a similar panel in future also concludes that banning corporal punishment in schools is also responsible for the falling standards of education.
Why? What is the difference? After all, failing a child is more cruel than corporal punishment. Given a choice, a Std III student would prefer submitting himself to limited corporal punishment to being retained in a class for a year.
I know, there are some influential champions of the pass-fail system working overtime in the country. Sadly, they are doing immense harm to the future of this country, and to children.
This lot includes some half-baked educationists, some full-baked politicians and some hard-baked and power-hungry teachers and principals. That a parliamentary panel would fall under their charm and accept their arguments as worthy of attention is what pains me.
And I fear that the days of emancipated schooling for children of this country may be numbered.
Perhaps, it is only a matter of time before the government decides to do away with the no-fail policy of RTE Act. That would be a sad day for all those parents and educationists who believe in progressive outlook.
And a very sad day for lakhs of children dreading the day when the teacher would declare them ‘failed’ and ‘unfit to be promoted to the next class’.
I am really sad to see that the people who are asked to frame the policies for the country are so out-of-sync with modern ideas and vision.
Among the champions of pass-fail system was a former human resources minister of Jharkhand. Sometime back, when he was the HRD minister of Jharkhand, I was shocked to read in the newspapers that he was a in favour of scrapping no-fail policy of RTE Act.
It is another matter that within months came the news that both his children had failed in 12th. Class 12th children did not come under RTE Act. I wonder how a strong believer in pass-fail system, that too the HRD minister himself, could not ensure success for his own children.
I don’t believe in god, but I am tempted to believe that this must have been a heavenly punishment for his cruel belief.
Well, lately, he has also been in the news for the wrong reasons.
As an ordinary person, who understands a child, I can’t change the mind of no-fail policy detractors.
I can only curse that their wives elope with someone else and that their children remain stranded in Std XII.
I have been saying this repeatedly. That the RTE Act has some good and a number of bad provisions. But the best and the most progressive provision of RTE is the no-fail policy.
And most of the arguments raised against the no-fail system are flimsy on facts and short on vision. Here I would highlight only five facts to emphasize why this is so.
No reliable study to prove that reading and maths standards are falling because of no-fail policy
Who says that reading and maths standards are falling? And who believes that? How do you measure the standards? Who has compiled the data for the whole country?
Which study has been conducted? And among how many students? How long have you allowed the no-fail system to show positive results? Only one-two years? Is that enough?
And were the standards good before the no-fail policy? If not, then what was the reason for that? Why not address those reasons first?
Fear of failure is no motivation for a child
The idea that a child studies more if he is scared of failing is basically flawed. The child does not, cannot, and should not study under fear. He gives a yuck to passing or failing. However, the fear is real for his or her parents.
They force him to sit before books and cram. Well, that does not improve the standards either. What is results in is misery for the child, as well as the parents. The joy of learning for the child and the pleasure of teaching one’s child goes missing in this arrangement.
If fear is really the great motivator that it is being made out to be why not introduce corporal punishment too. That would be more effective in forcing the children to sit before the books and cram.
After all, there are many who believe that the old system of caning was very effective in improving the educational standards. Why not blame the no-caning policy for the falling standards?
Learning is innate to children
Anyone claiming to be an educationist, or teacher, or parent must acknowledge this fact – that all children learn because for them learning is instinctive.
A child does not touch a bright lantern because he fears failure. He touches it because he wants to touch everything, see everything, smell everything and taste everything. Fear has no role here. In fact, he disregards all fear before touching a lamp.
All children want to learn a new language, do maths, learn geography and even Sanskrit. Their areas of interest may be different. But all of them do want to learn new skills, ideas and methods.
And they fear a subject, or a topic, only when they are unable to understand its basics. If they understand the basics, they will get interested in it.
And if they can’t understand the basics of a subject they turn away. No fear or punishment can rekindle their interest in that subject.
Only a good teacher, parent or a friend can help them understand the basics.
And then there will be no stop to the child’s journey to excellence.
It is stupid to measure learning standards up to Std VIII
It is sheer stupidity to try to measure and declare a child’s scholastic standards.
A child does not have any standards. It only has potentials.
If, at all, only a child’s learning potential should be measured. And all children would score equally well, 100 out of 100, on that count.
I don’t support the idea that a child is worth failing just because it is unable to read or write or do mathematics from a few book.
If you are clever enough to measure a child’s abilities, you should be competent enough to help the same child learn what he has not learnt according to you.
The child needs good guidance and good help to learn something. It does not need any fear for that. And why don’t the clever lawmakers focus on that?
Pass-fail system increases drop-out rate
Those who are obsessed with the reading and maths standards should know that pass-fail system has been responsible for high drop-out rate in the country.
And I am more concerned at lakhs of children dropping out of education system than the imagined drop in the reading and maths standards.
Suppose a fanatic pass-fail system supporter devises a scheme whereby only the so-called whiz-kids (define it yourself) are allowed to go to the next class.
Measured in the same manner, the reading and maths levels would certainly be very high. The only problem is that the classes would have only 5-10 students.
All would crack the IIT entrance examination at one go.
Others would drop out of schools.
You would have a few thousands of very bright students. And several lakhs of dropouts.
Would that make us a great nation? Is that what the parliamentary panel wants?
I personally feel that failing a child is the worst thing that one can do to a child, physically, morally and psychologically.
It amounts to nothing but child-abuse.
If I had my way, I would certainly make failing a child a criminal offence and provide for strict punishment for that. On the same lines as corporal punishment has been made.
I can’t match the influence of the powerful principals, educational lobbies, vested interests and child-haters.
I can only curse them for advocating re-introduction of pass-fail system in the lower classes.
May they be asked to pass the IIT entrance examination before they are allowed to sleep in hell.
How I wish all of them go to hell!
And I have no doubt that they will.