NAS findings expose no-detention rot PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 04:09
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Sarthak edit

The findings of the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2018, which tested learning outcomes in schools, reflect the damage the Right to Education’s ‘no detention till Class VIII’ policy has caused. The Union government moved last year to scrap the policy—after 24 states insisted on this—and it is likely to go soon, as per a Times of India report. But given it has been in effect for over eight years, it would likely have impaired learning for millions of Indian students. NAS—that tested learning outcomes in English, maths, science, social science and Indian languages—found that while 64% of Class III students surveyed at state board, CBSE and ICSE schools were able to correctly answer a maths question, in state-board schools, it fell to 54% in Class V, 42% in Class VIII and less than 40% in Class X (except for Andhra Pradesh). For English, the corresponding figures were 67%, 58%, 52% and <42% (except in Manipur).

The figures were slightly better for both subjects in both CBSE and ICSE schools—52% in maths and 58% for English for CBSE schools, and 51% in maths and 70% in English for ICSE schools—but still below the Class III performance. Successive Annual Survey of Education Reports—which are brought out by Pratham, an NGO—had pointed at the rot even before, but the NAS is irrefutable evidence given its sample ran into tens of lakhs.



The no-detention policy was implemented to emulate education policy in many developed jurisdictions—the idea was to lessen the stress of exams on students in the junior classes. It also had an ancillary benefit for the government; it kept primary level enrolment numbers high.

However, it also meant that schools lost a key tool to monitor and influence students’ learning and, with that, the motivation to work on improving students’ learning outcomes also faded. Thus, it ensured that that schools, instead of addressing learning deficits at the foundational level, simply swept the problem under the carpet. This showed in both the growing under-performance of students in senior classes, as well as in the spurt in dropout numbers at the secondary level—as per the HRD ministry’s Educational Statistics 2016, secondary dropout rate was over 18% while, at the upper primary level, it was less than 5%.

Critics of scrapping of no-detention contend that it is important to build the confidence of socioeconomically disadvantaged who also tend to be slow learners. While remedial classes could help lessen the anxieties of such students for exam performance, the Jamal Abdul Lateef Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) talks of a rethink in pedagogy as a solution.

As per J-PAL, “teaching at the right level (TaRL)” that involves grouping children as per learning levels in various subjects rather than in grades and basing the teaching and examination at the current competency levels could help overcome fears and help learning outcomes. Since 2010, 13.8 million students in India have participated in TaRL-based programmes in India. If the government could reorient teaching and performance evaluation in early learning on similar lines, there will likely be significant improvement in learning outcomes.


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