Monday November 19, 2018
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The no detention policy in schools needs to go away. Now.

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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.

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The Critique Of The Indian Education System

The country's higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed.

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Abroad, study
India needs a world-class higher educational system Pixabay

India has the third-largest higher educational system in the world. In 2016, there were 799 universities and 39,071 colleges spread across the country. These numbers are staggering. The growth of higher education in India over a little more than half a century has been even more staggering.

Between 1950 and 2014, the number of universities in India increased by 34 times. And, between 1950 and 2013, colleges increased by 74 times.

This quantitative explosion in higher education institutions has not been matched by the quality of the education they provide. In fact, the gap between quantity and quality is so large that it stands as one of the major obstacles in the way of India being a world leader. To become such a leader, India needs to develop a world class higher education system.

India
School Children in India. Pixabay

Two years ago, the Narendra Modi administration attempted to put some focus on quality in higher education with its introduction of draft regulations for a new initiative called the “UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as World Class Institutions) Guidelines, 2016.” By 2018, when the first six institutions were named under this initiative, they were designated as “Institutions of Eminence” as opposed to “world class institutions”.

Although the label has been changed, the intent remains the same. That is to give considerable discretion to and elevate the status of these institutions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But, it will do little to address the underlying problems of higher education in India.

This is true because the focus is completely wrong. These universities are the tip of the higher educational iceberg. Enhancing the capacity of a few institutions, thus possibly enabling them to be rated a little higher in the world rankings of higher education institutions, does nothing for the many.

India, education
Smart boards projectors used in government schools enhancing the quality of education. AP Janmabhoomi

That’s not to say that India does not need world class institutions of higher education. It is to say that more, importantly India, needs a world class higher education system.

A world class higher education system is one that is student- or customer-centred rather than institution-centred. It comprises certified and caring institutions that have the resources required and the core mission of ensuring that students/customers acquire the knowledge/skills/abilities and dispositions that they need to achieve their individual goals and to maximise their contribution to society.

India’s current system has been almost exactly the opposite of that. The emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals rather than embracing and addressing the needs of the whole.

There are many steps that must be taken to change this and to make the Indian higher education system world class. They include:

India, education
The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees.

– Increase public financing. The federal and state governments currently provide limited funding for higher education. As a result, over 70 percent of the higher education institutions are operated by the private sector. These institutions are not well regulated and are of highly variable quality. Public sector financing could be used to support existing public institutions and to establish new ones in regions in which there are limited higher educational opportunities.

– Enhance the infrastructure. Colleges and universities throughout India have inadequate physical settings, lack equipment, and suffer from a shortage of competent teachers. Ensuring that each higher educational institution is infrastructurally sound, establishes the proper environment for learning and growth.

– Expand access to and participation in higher education. The enrollment in higher education is approximately 15 per cent of the eligible population. This percentage needs to be much higher for India to be considered and to become a developed or developing country. It also needs to be representative of the entire population, including females, those from the weaker sectors, and rural areas.

India, education
he emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals

– Enforce standards and requirements appropriately. The announced replacement of the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) created considerable debate within and outside of the educational community. The essential question regardless of whether there is an UGC, HECI or some other agency with an acronym. must be: Is the proper data being collected and used to monitor performance and ensure accountability for each institution in the higher education system?

– Place an emphasis on vocational education. The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees. Currently, there is a mismatch. The higher educational system must equip itself to be the provider of first resort and give the country the skilled workforce it requires.

Also Read: The Biggest Casualty in Yemen’s War- Education

There are many other steps that must be taken, such as addressing politicians controlling many educational institutions, to make India’s higher education system world class. But there must be only one mindset. That mindset must be that the country’s higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed in a way that benefits all of India and all Indians. (IANS)