The no detention policy in schools needs to go away. Now.


By Harshmeet Singh

Gone are those days when you could encourage the kids to study harder by telling them that they would fail if they don’t study hard. The ‘no detention upto class 8th’ policy was perhaps one of the most contentious provisions of the Right to Education Act. Though several voices have been raised against this provision, it is still alive and applicable. The purpose behind introducing this policy was to give a push to the holistic development of students and to keep a check on the dropout rates. But the declining levels of reading and writing across the country point towards an entirely different story.

By protecting our students against a probable failure, we are letting go of the chance to prepare them for the tougher times to come, both in and outside the school. The students are being made to believe that lack of inputs would still give them what they wish to achieve. In 2012, a committee of CABE (Central Advisory Board of Education) was formed to look into the feasibility of continuing the no detention policy.

The committee stated, “We need to stop, re-assess and then move forward. At this stage, it would be prudent to reiterate the need for assessment of the learning outcomes, and make it consequential by linking it to promotion or otherwise to the next class beyond grade 5”. It also supported the view that degrading learning levels is one of the negative consequences of this policy.

Promoting the child to the next class while his or her knowledge base isn’t good enough is disastrous. The RTE act has tried its best to retain kids in the school, without ensuring that their purpose of attending a school is fulfilled. Since the policy only extends up till class 8th, most of the students are ill prepared to handle the rigor of classes 9th and 10th.

Most of the government school teachers seem to be content with the no detention policy. The no detention policy means that even if they don’t teach anything to the students, they will still maintain a clean track record of 100% students passing the grade. A drop in the teaching standards can be attributed to this ill-conceived provision.

Interesting, the act even fails to mandate a minimum attendance for the students to the eligible for the next grade. So even if a student shows up for 30 days in the entire year, he or she will still be promoted to the next class. In such a scenario, how would you encourage the students to take their studies seriously?

In government primary schools, the implications of this policy are all the more weird. The students, who aren’t taught anything all year long, have no option but to leave the answer sheet blank in the final examinations. The teachers, in order to justify the final results, fill up the answer sheets of the students themselves! And this is how a student who can’t read a class 2nd text reaches class 8th and inflates the literacy rate of the country!

With no academic requirement needed from the student’s end to pass on to a new class, the Right to Education should more aptly be named as the Right to attend school.