Abolish grades, hated detention will disappear

January 23, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

[A shorter version of this article was published in Indian Express on 19th January 2019. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/rte-amendment-bill-school-no-detention-cce-5545512/ ]

The passing of RtE Amendment Bill by Rajya Sabha again triggered the periodic paper debate between antidetentionists, i.e., votaries No-Detention Policy (NDP) and detentionists who want to do away with NDP. The amendment allows states to decide whether to deny automatic promotion at the end of 5th and 8th grade. It does not say that the states have to detain non-performing students, it only says that they are free to decide whether they want to or not. But the tenor of debate is as if the states are legally bound to use detention.

The detentionists’ argue from age old wisdom of ‘bhay bin hoye na preeti’ or ‘no love without fear’; emphasising that the fear of failure in examination is a necessary motivator for learning, all other motivators fail in its absence. That almost summarises their theory of learning. This is certainly mistaken. Self-motivation is an important factor in genuine success which comes from learning and awareness of one’s own achievements. The external motivation is a function of loving care, appreciation and respect for the child’s mind. Fear goes against both, and therefore, never produces genuine lasting learning. Success attributed to fear is because of other factors in the system and family. The scrapping of NDP, therefore, is a mistaken and retrograde step. However, the dentionists can advance another argument, that in absence of CCE, which the government failed to implement, examinations are the only thing which can put some meaning in certificate of completion of elementary education.

Flawed arguments of detentionists, however, hardly make demands and arguments of antidetentionists valid, even if their main charge against detentionists is true. It is not a case of binary logic, here X being false does not necessarily make not-X true.

The antidentionists are well-read people, they have a plethora of arguments supposed to be based on rigorous research. The main arguments of antidetentionists can be reasonably summarised under psychological, social justice, legal and achievement heads. The psychological argument is the loudest and proclaims that fear of failure in examination causes stress and trauma, actual failure demotivates and pushes children out of the system. Social justice argument emphasise the stigma attached with failure, lower self-esteem, and that the harm is mainly done to the Dalit and tribal children. The legal argument worries about weakening other provisions of the RtE related to admission in age appropriate class, freedom from fear and trauma, and section 29 provisions. The achievement argument begins with the battle cry of “failing children does not make them learn”, which is actually true, and then goes on to site researches that prove that no-detention produces better results in learning achievements. This argument at the best is of dubious worth as generalisations in education is a hazardous business. Children’s learning depends on a number of factors in the system and society. In a reasonably well functioning system where teachers are appropriately trained and are really concerned about every child’s achievements, no-detention may improve learning; while in a system where teachers are clueless regarding learning levels of their own students and not trained to use alternative ways of monitoring their progress, it may spell disaster; which unfortunately is the Indian case.

No one points out to the antidetentionists that their psychological, social justice and legal arguments are of little educational worth if the achievement argument is not valid. Self-confidence without capabilities is nothing but arrogance of ignorance, and education does not mean shielding from set-backs through pretended success; it actually means teaching how to learn from set-backs, how to see them in proper light and how to deal with them emotionally and performance wise. Certifying all children as educated without required capabilities does no one any good, Dalits and tribals included. Legal provisions of RtE are not sacrosanct in themselves, the curricular and pedagogical provisions are worthy only if they help achieve educational aims, which necessarily require appropriate learning achievements. Thus the psychological, social justice and legal arguments depend on the achievement argument.

The holy grail of antidetentionists is by now famous CCE, i.e., Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation. They rightly point out that replacing the system of pass-fail by CCE is a much better and progressive option. They site shortage of teachers and lack of training as the main reasons behind failure to implement this perhaps most progressive provision of RtE. In spite of both the factual claims of shortage in numbers and inadequate understanding and training of teachers for CCE, a very significant and fundamental contradiction of RtE is missed or deliberately ignored. And without first addressing that contradiction implementation of CCE and NDP will neither be successful nor will succeed in improving quality of education.

The contradiction

The term “class” is the fulcrum of vision of school and school education in RtE. It remains an undefined term in RtE, and still the norms for teachers, teacher-pupil ratio, infrastructure and elementary education, are all defined in terms of class. “Elementary education” says the RtE “means the education from first class to eighth class”. Further it says that “every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have a right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education.” (Emphasis added) Which implies that one class is of one year in duration. The teachers should “… complete the curriculum in accordance with the provisions … complete entire curriculum within the specified time.” All this makes it amply clear that class is of one-year duration, the curriculum is organised class wise, and that the curriculum of each class has to be completed in one year. Add with this no detention till completion of elementary education and admission in age appropriate class, and you have as confused a picture of elementary school as it can get.

On the other hand, CCE demands that assessment should be continuous and it should feedback into pedagogy to help the child learn better. It is not primarily for promotion or its denial. If children in any given class are bound to be at different levels of learning achievements, and if the CCE is to help every child learn, then it cannot be based on uniform tasks and criteria for assessment. Which demands individual attention in assessment and pedagogy. The class-wise teaching on the other hand leaves no room for such individual attention.  The help provided to the child cannot be considered ‘remedial’ as differing paces of learning is no ‘malady’, it is a natural way of learning.

Therefore, the class-wise structure of curriculum and school on one hand;  and CCE on the other, point in two opposite directions. That is why all schemes prepared for CCE turn out to be nothing more than smaller tests more frequently taken. Because summation at the end of the year is a demand of the class-wise structure, and assessment made part of pedagogy is not conducive to mechanical summation. Therefore, CCE will require a more careful analysis in writing annual progress report and the learning achievements may not fit into neatly divided year-wise range; the curriculum for that class may not necessarily be completed in that sacrosanct period of one year. As a result assigning class to children will become a meaningless arbitrary exercise having no connection with the specified curriculum and learning levels.

This is one thing for an educationist to recommend this bundle of contradictions in the name of RtE, and quite another for a teacher to run a school, implement the curriculum and complete elementary education on its basis. No wonder the teachers who are not close to academicians get thoroughly confused and oppose NDP. These recommendations put together make a mockery of elementary education, as it is possible for a child to complete 8 years in the school and therefore complete 8 classes without acquiring learning appropriate for elementary education. Certificate at the end guarantees nothing more than the time spent in school.

Resolving the contradiction

There are two ways of resolving this contradiction. One, accept the true definition of class or grade, which is to complete a defined curriculum in one year and if the learning levels are not satisfactory then remaining in the same class. This is what the government has done. Surely, this is retrograde and does no good either to the children or to the education system. But all said and done, resolves the contradiction in the teachers mind, and allows them to practice the age old authoritarian and rigid system in its true glory.

The another way is to carefully understand the implications of progressive and pedagogically sound CCE and take on the arduous task to reform the system to make it capable of implementing CCE. That would require defining elementary education in terms of learning standards and not in terms of classes or years; organising curriculum as a free-paced learning path, and not year-wise boxes; organising school as ungraded learning groups which are composed of children at various levels, and not as small homogeneous folks of sheep walking listlessly in the indicated direction; and the ideas of self-learning and peer-learning have to be refined and made common place is the schools rather than complete dependency on the teacher. This is not a small change. It cannot even be imagined without appropriate systemic reforms and massive and serious in-service professional development of teachers. If the nation lacks consensus or the will to muster energy and resources for this change, the status quo will remain.

In short, abolish grades so that CCE becomes possible and detention loses meaning and disappears altogether. Or remain content to accept detention as a logical demand of grade wise organised curriculum and school. As they say, one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too.


Rohit Dhankar, Secretary Digantar, Jaipur & Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore.

RTE and popular debates

November 12, 2017

Rohit Dhankar

If your schools have classes they will necessarily have pass-fail

The government has introduced in the Lok Shabha an amendment bill to modify some provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE Act, for short). This bill seeks to empower the appropriate Government to take a decision as to whether to hold back a child in the fifth class or in the eighth class or in both classes, or not to hold back a child in any class, till the completion of elementary education.”

As is well known there is a continuing debate in the country on examination reform and particularly on the issue of no-detention policy. When one goes through the loudest screamed arguments for and against no-detention policy one wonders whether it is an informed debate or simple emotional outburst; or worse still, vehement repetition of pretended positions adopted in order to look progressive.

The Education Minister states in the objectives of the bill that “In recent years, States and Union territories have been raising the issue of adverse effect on the learning levels of children as section 16 does not allow holding back of children in any class till the completion of elementary education.” This singles out “not holding back” as a reason for unsatisfactory learning achievements. Thereby giving good ground to supposed to be progressive educationists to shout “failing children does not produce better learning”. Both miss the point and neither position helps in clearing the mess made in school education, with substantial contribution from confusions in the RTE Act itself.

The supposed to be amended section 16 of the RTE Act states “No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.” The most popular reasons given in support of this command of dubious merit is that failing children demotivates them, discourages them, often encourages dropout. This is only a politically correct child centrist argument of no pedagogical value. Yes, children should be encouraged to learn and not discouraged. Yes, keeping motivation high for learning and building their confidence is very important in any worthwhile pedagogy. Yes, repeated failure to be promoted to the next class encourages dropout. And still both the diagnosis and the remedy for these problems is completely wrong. On the other hand, dubbing no-detention policy as the major cause of falling standards of learning is equally wrong. Both are examples of superficial thinking of the worst kind.

Learning requires coordinated and sensitive efforts on the part of the teacher as well as the learner. If the school or the system or the teacher starts thinking that learning of children is a result of their own motivation, intelligence and family background; and the quality of teaching has little or nothing to do with it, they are shifting their responsibility onto the children. The school/teachers have to device ways of engaging children cheerfully and teach them to make efforts to the utmost level of their capabilities, which are dynamic in nature and not static as assumed by the notion of IQ. On the other hand, not telling the children that they have failed; yes, failed, to achieve the expected standards and always communicating that whatever silly notions they have developed are correct, beautiful and epitome of creativity shows complete lack of human achievements as well as of human mind. Pedagogy is an art which requires calibrated feedback without shunning the truth. If a child fails to achieve expected learning the teacher has to find a way of communicating the failure to achieve in a manner that encourages better concentration and efforts; not mindless goody-goody talk of ‘everything is great’. Children have to learn that human ways of thinking, doing and feeling have norms and they are expected to meet those norms appropriate to their age. Also, the teachers have to communicate that the children are perfectly capable of achieving those norms. And that sometimes failing to achieve a normal is nothing more than a necessary part of the mastering anything new; and some other times, in the Indian situations it is also because of inadequate help and guidance available to the child. But expecting that simply failing and communication of inadequate achievements will make children solve their own problems and learn better is an equally stupid idea. Without improving the system and preparing teachers to use appropriate pedagogy with sincere efforts learning achievements will not improve. Therefore, both parties in this case are mindlessly barking up the wrong tree.

The real problems with the RTE Act

The RTE Act is badly thought through. It does not touch the heart of education. It is an example of superficial educational thinking. And I believe, (do not have adequate evidence for this, through) that this superficiality is not because of the politics and politicians but because of inadequate and confused understanding of educationists in the country as it seems to be on the basis of their advice. RTE is about elementary education. But is has a very inadequate definition of completion of elementary education. The elementary education itself is defined as “the education from first class to eighth Class.” There are many stipulations regarding “completion of elementary education” regarding provision of schools, ensuring completion, not having board examination, not holding back, and so on. But the only possibility it provides for defining “completion” is in laying down a curriculum, assessment and implied learning in that which is to be specified by appropriate authority. Even if an appropriate authority defines any kind of learning levels that may be deemed necessary for completion of elementary education the Act takes away from them the power to implement them. It demands from them that the curriculum be completed but also demands that no child can be held back till completion of elementary education. Which simply put means being in the school till the age of 14 years is itself the mark of completion of elementary education. This is a poor understanding of the very concept of education. Education necessarily has an achievement aspect; that is, one can be considered educated only if s/he has achieved specified standards in knowledge, values and skills. Those knowledge, values and skills need assessment if one wants to claim that appropriate standards are achieved. And that assessment has to be respected if some certificate is to be awarded that has some respectability in the society. The RTE Act disassociated certification from any kind of learning achievements; and thus, empties education of its achievement aspect. What remains in education is time spent in school. One can hardly imagine a greater disservice to the concept of education.

Another serious confusion in the Act is use of the term “class” in defining elementary education, its completion, infrastructure norms and stipulations regarding admission. But the term “class” itself remains undefined, and that is one reason the pass-fail is being brought back. The notion of class makes no sense without it.

The requirement of bringing back the possibility of holding children back (failing) is a requirement of certification, not that it will make them learn better. All it will do is deny certificate to those who do not meet the required learning. This is a requirement of putting achievement aspect of education back in the concept as it is implemented. But the government is doing it in a completely wrong way.

The roots of the problem

[This section I am writing on the pain of repletion, therefore, those who have been familiar with my views need not read it. IT needs to be repeated for those who are not familiar. Those who want details can read http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/12/perspectives/beyond-oxymoronic-idea-no-detention-policy.html ]

The roots of the problem lie in our confused thinking. Our imagination of structure of school and that of curriculum is rigidly stratified like our society. We cannot think of a school that does not divide children into hierarchical classes or grades, each one to be achieved successively through aggregated annual assessment. Our curriculum, textbooks, timetable, annual calendar, everything is governed by that imagination of a school. Undoubtedly this is administration friendly structure, but it can work. One can even run very good schools in this structure. They need not always be harsh on children either.

But the pedagogical thought the world over has moved on. There have been serious problems in this imagination of schools, it is challenged and has changed in most countries which do well in education. Particularly child centric ideas made this school structure look evil. Some of us then picked up some of the attractive ideas like CCE, no pass-fail, activity based learning and so on; and tried to implant them in our rigid authoritarian school structure and system. But the whole imagination of school and progression in school education logically demands pass-fail kind of annual assessment, if not one-shot exam at the least aggregation. Therefore, doing away with the pass-fail system actually renders the school a meaningless and aimless institution, in its present structure and imagination. It is natural that everyone practically connected with the school wants to bring back the pass-fail. The RTE and the educational discourse in the country has so far failed to develop an alternative imagination of school and curriculum where one can make pass-fail a redundant idea by organising the school and curriculum as an ungraded learning continuum.

The opportunity

There is an opportunity in the currently proposed amendment. Rather than spending our energies on opposing the idea of holding children back on account of not meeting the learning standard at 5th and 8th standards, we should ask different kind of questions and put forward different kind of demands.

For example, we can demand that rather than “holding back” at “5th and 8th” standard the amendment should mention “giving more time to complete primary” or “elementary” education, and that time need not be one year. Also, completion of primary and elementary level be defined in terms of learning achievements rather than in terms of class or grades. It could be stipulated that primary education is expected to be complete in 5 years normally, but it may be slightly less or more than that, depending on the achievements of the child.

We can also ask if the schools are completely free to disband the grades/classes before completion of primary/elementary education? That is maybe there are no grades 1 to 5. Only years in school and completion of stipulated learning. Similarly, for elementary education. That will give the schools complete flexibility to organise their learning groups and facilitate CCE and pass-fail will become redundant, at the least till students reach completion of primary education.

But this is the tougher path. It will require developing a complete conceptual scheme of elementary education with new organisational principles, massive teacher education and very substantial changes in the administration system. But this is not impossible.


12th November 2017






And children pay for our fragmented thinking

February 9, 2017

Rohit Dhankar

Professor Krishna Kumar has written a very thought provoking article (my response in Indian Express) on the CBSE’s decision to make class X board examination compulsory again. He rightly argues that compulsory class X exam will serve no useful purpose and will increase stress in children. He also points out the problems in re-introducing of annual examinations in elementary classes, and rescinding RTE decision that introduces CCE.

These arguments are sound; still the analysis presented in the article needs to be taken further. Professor Kumar rightly points out that examination can never be effective motivation for learning. Actually it is well recognised that it only devalues understanding and kills joy in learning. But motivation through examination is not the most important argument that the people wanting to rescind CCE and reinstate compulsory board exam are making. Their argument is that children reach the next level of schooling grossly underprepared if one removes annual exams in the present day Indian system. Annual examinations, according to them, make some dent in this unpreparedness, even if cannot remedy the situation completely. This is not an argument that can be dismissed summarily.

His arguments against the examinations are pedagogically peripheral. The most forceful argument is that examinations cause stress in children. Yes, education should be sensitive to the child and should not cause stress to the level where childhood becomes a burden. But being serious about studies is also a necessary condition for learning well. If proper teacher training could be a solution for implementation of CCE, as Professor Kumar argues, it can also be assumed to be a solution for stress-less annual examinations. The stress argument provokes sentiments without saying much about quality and depth of learning. One can also argue that the stress is caused by the family pressure and competition in the society; not by the examinations per se. Whatever system of certification of relative merit one creates, if the society remains competitive and parents make children means of realising their unfulfilled aspirations, we cannot reduce stress in education.

Professor Kumar thinks that if examinations are reintroduced in elementary education the path to child-centrism will be closed. This takes child-centrism as an article of faith, and as if that is the only true path to educational reform. But exactly what do we mean by child-centrism in India? Does it mean that the children should decide the curriculum, or that only what is interesting for children should be taught, or that children should be left free to discover their own knowledge, or is it simply teaching through activities? All these positions are taken by different people at different times; and each one of them has serious problems; theoretical as well as practical at the level of classroom pedagogy.

One viable form of child-centrism is what John Dewey, the famous American philosopher, articulated. He calls it “progressive education”. That the school curriculum has to be ‘psychologized’. Dewey argues that one necessarily has to start from the child, her experiences, and her understanding; but has constantly to look at the accepted human knowledge and understanding. One is the starting point, the other the end. Without the end in view, the starting point itself is of no value; and in fact there can be no justification for taking this or that starting point without reference to an end point to reach.

We in India do not realise what all does it take to ‘psychologize’ the curriculum in Dewey’s sense. The matter is not that of activities or keeping the children happy or even stress free. It is quite a different story. To psychologize the curriculum would mean that the subject matter of today’s accepted human knowledge may become part of child’s experience. And how the teacher’s knowledge of subject matter may assist in recognising what is valuable in the child’s experience today, what the child’s needs of growth are and how her growth can be properly directed towards the end of acquiring knowledge and understanding.

All this demands freedom, flexibility and contextual decision making on the part of the teacher; keeping in mind individual child. And that is the crux of the matter: our system of schooling does not give that space. We have a year wise divided curriculum, grade wise organised school and annual occasions of progression. And wnat to implement CCE keeping this structure intact. But this structure militates against using child’s experience and growth of understanding based on experience. Because the understanding to be built on experience cannot be predicted for all children and cannot be planned in a timed sequence in advance that is universally applicable. Graded school and curriculum assume precisely that. One can of course plan rough overall time and sequence of knowledge acquisition; but the day to day activities and their results are to be left to the teacher and the child. Therefore, the graded school and curriculum logically demand pass-fail kind of examination. CCE and automatic promotion, then, are a logical anathema to present day schooling system. This contradiction makes CCE in any reasonable form impossible in our schools. The school structure and basic ideas behind CCE are in a fundamental and irresolvable contradiction with each other.

This is not a problem that can be solved through better teacher training. Actually there can be no teacher training that can prepare teachers to implement CCE in the present day rigid and authoritarian system. All attempts will turn out to be a series of miniscule examinations and burry the teacher in more and more record keeping, without really interpreting those records into any helpful way. It is a systemic problem and teachers cannot be expected to solve it through their sensitivity, skill and understanding. It is a matter of making up one’s mind regarding what kind of school and curriculum organisation suites child’s development that is sensitive to her emotional, intellectual and moral growth. It is a matter of fitting the school structure and curriculum to the desired visions of education and CCE; and not the matter of fitting a form of so called CCE to the existing school and curriculum structure. We are looking at the problem up-side-down.

Our fragmented thinking that educational ideas can be implemented out of their overall theoretical and structural frameworks is the cause of repeated failure to achieve success in any reform. We get infatuated by singe ideas and never take on the bull of total system by horns. As long as we keep thinking in this fragmented way without looking at the overall structure in which such ideas can fruitfully exist, our children will keep on paying the price of reform pendulums we set in motion without any real progress. Therefore, if we are serious about doing away with stressful examinations be that at elementary or X standard level, we have to dismantle the rigid structure of school and curriculum.


गलत पेड़ पर भोंकना: बच्चों को फ़ैल करो

October 4, 2015

रोहित धनकर

(अनुवाद: रमणीक मोहन)

[अंग्रेजी में यह लेख मैं ब्लॉग पर पहले ही पोस्ट कर चुका हूँ “To detain or not to detain: Barking-up the wrong tree” नाम से. रमणीक जी ने मेहरबानी करके अनुवाद कर दिया है तो यहाँ हिन्दी में भी दे रहा हूँ.]

समाचार-पत्रों में इन दिनों इस बात का बहुत ज़िक्र हो रहा है कि पास-फ़ेल करने वाली व्यवस्था को स्कूलों में फिर से लागू किया जाए या शिक्षा का अधिकार अधिनियम के तहत मौजूदा प्रणाली को जारी रखा जाए जिस के अन्तर्गत बच्चे को अगली कक्षा में स्वत: प्रमोट कर दिया जाता है। 21 अगस्त 2015 को अंग्रेज़ी समाचार-पत्र ‘द हिन्दू’ में छपी ख़बर के मुताबिक इस प्रणाली को “रद्द किये जाने के लिए उठ रही एकमत आवाज़ के बावजूद” केन्द्र सरकार इस मुद्दे पर बहुत सावधानी से चल रही है और उस ने “सभी राज्य सरकारों से लिखित प्रतिक्रियाएँ लेना तय किया है”।[i] इसी तारीख़ को ‘द हिन्दू बिज़्नस लाइन’ में छपा कि महाराष्ट्र के शिक्षा मन्त्री के मुताबिक, “देश के अधिकतर राज्य…… चाहते हैं कि केन्द्र सरकार शिक्षा का अधिकार अधिनियम में संशोधन कर के कक्षा-1 से कक्षा-8 तक के विद्यार्थियों को किसी भी कक्षा में न रोके रखने की नीति को रद्द करे”।[ii] लेकिन कुछ शिक्षाविद इस नीति को समाप्त करने के पीछे एक कॉरपोरेट एजेण्डा देखते हैं। उन का मानना है कि “शिक्षा का अधिकार अधिनियम ने स्पष्ट तौर पर खोल कर बताया था कि सी.सी.ई. [यानी निरन्तर एवं सतत मूल्यांकन] को किस प्रकार लागू किया जाना चाहिए। उन्हें अनुत्तीर्ण कर के आप बच्चों को अच्छे शिक्षार्थी नहीं बना देते” (‘द हिन्दू’ ,18 अगस्त 2015)[iii]। दूसरी ओर शिक्षक बहुत बार बच्चों को किसी कक्षा में रोके न रखने और सज़ा न देने की इस नीति पर शिकायत करते हैं – उन में से कुछ के लिए तो ये दोनों ही बच्चों पर नियन्त्रण का सब से कारगर औज़ार हैं। और जैसा कि हम जानते ही हैं, बच्चों को सिखाने के लिए नियन्त्रण को एक आवश्यक शर्त के रूप में देखा जाता है।

लगता है कि दोनों दावों में कुछ सत्य तो है, लेकिन असल मुद्दे से तो वे दोनों ही बहुत दूर हैं। हमारी औपचारिक शिक्षा पद्धति करीब डेढ़ सदी से भी अधिक समय से परीक्षाओं की सख़्त जकड़ में रही है। इम्तिहान सीखने के लिए एकमात्र उत्प्रेरक बनजाते हैं और इस के चलते प्रेरक का काम करने वाला कोई भी अन्य स्रोत उभर नहीं पाता। सभी शिक्षित भारतीय इस अनुभव से हो कर गुज़रे हैं। इसी लिए वे इस बात उनके ज़हन में गहरे बैठ चुकी है कि ‘इम्तिहान नहीं, तो सीखना भी नहीं’। यह विश्वास बहुत ही आसानी से बच्चों को भी हस्तान्तरित हो जाता है। सीखने और ज्ञानार्जन की प्रक्रिया में भी एक मज़ा होता है, इस बात का अन्दाज़ा शायद प्रचलित व्यवस्था को है ही नहीं। इस लिए जिन लोगों का मानना है कि इम्तिहान के डर के बिना बच्चे सीखेंगे नहीं, वे एक व्यावहारिक बात करते दिखाई देते हैं, हालाँकि शिक्षा-शास्त्रीय नज़रिये से देखें तो यह बात सही नहीं है।

शिक्षाविदों का यह कहना सही है कि “बच्चों को फ़ेल कर के आप उन्हें अच्छे शिक्षार्थी नहीं बना सकते”। लेकिन यह सोचने में वे ग़लत हैं कि अगली कक्षा में स्वत: प्रमोट कर दिये जाने से प्राथमिक शिक्षा पूरी की जा सकती है। बहुत बार यह विचार रखा जाता है कि बच्चे फ़ेल होने की वजह से स्कूल छोड़ जाते हैं[iv] – असल में यह बात सही नहीं है। बच्चे सीख न पाने की वजह से स्कूल छोड़ते हैं, फ़ेल होना तो इस इस ‘सीखने से रहित शिक्षा’ का परिणाम भर है। यह दावा कि “शिक्षा का अधिकार अधिनियम ने स्पष्ट तौर पर ज़िक्र किया है कि सी.सी.ई. को किस तरह कार्यान्वित किया जाना है”, ग़लत है। शिक्षा अधिकार अधिनियम में तो सी.सी.ई. की समझ भी ठीक से नहीं झलकती, उस के कार्यान्वयन का तरीका दूर की बात है।

सर्वप्रथम, हमें ध्यान देना होगा कि कक्षा में ‘न रोके रखे जाने की नीति’ और सी.सी.ई. का एक दूसरे से बहुत करीबी सम्बन्ध है। शिक्षा का अधिकार अधिनियम के अनुच्छेद-4 के तहत आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा में दाख़िला एक तीसरा मुद्दा है जिस से कुछ स्कूलों में स्थितियाँ कुछ उलझ गई होंगी। इस प्रावधान के मुताबिक यदि छ: साल से अधिक उम्र के बच्चे को या तो स्कूल में दाख़िला नहीं मिला या वह प्रारम्भिक शिक्षा पूरी किए बिना स्कूल छोड़ गया हो तो वापस विद्यालय आने पर “उसे अपनी आयु के अनुकूल कक्षा में दाख़िला मिलेगा।”[v] इस सन्दर्भ में हम यह भी पहले से जानते हैं कि हमारे बच्चे पाठ्यचर्या में उन से की गई उम्मीद के मुकाबले बहुत कम सीखते हैं। ऐसी जटिल स्थिति में विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में रोके न रखे जाने की नीति से बस एक ही बात सुनिश्चित की जा सकती है – वास्तविकता में कुछ भी सीखे बिना प्राथमिक शिक्षा पूरा कर लिए जाने का दिखावा।

लेकिन अगर हम इस नीति के शैक्षिक महत्व को समझना चाहते हैं तो हमें शिक्षा का अधिकार अधिनियम द्वारा प्रतिपादित तीनों महत्वपूर्ण बातों को ध्यान में रखना और समझना होगा : आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा में दाख़िला, सी.सी.ई., तथा विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में न रोके रखे जाने की नीति।

इन विचारों की जड़ें

इन तीनों विचारों की जड़ें पश्चिम में चली विकासवादी शिक्षा की मुहिम में हैं, जिस के कई रूप हैं। भारत में इस का पदार्पण बाल-केन्द्रित शिक्षा के नाम से हुआ। कक्षा के भीतर की प्रक्रिया बच्चे की रुचि के अनुसार और गतिविधियाँ करते हुए सीखने की बात से मार्गदर्शित हो, ऐसा इस की सोच में निहित है। भारत में शिक्षा के विमर्श में रचनावाद (constructivism) के नाम से प्रचलित शिक्षा-शास्त्रीय व्यवस्था बाल-केन्द्रित शिक्षा के लिए पूरी तरह उपयुक्त है। विकासवादी शिक्षा की ही तरह रचनावाद के भी कई रूप हैं। इस के एक सिरे पर तो यह विचार है कि शिक्षक बच्चों को स्वयं अपना ज्ञान निर्मित करने में सहायक हो, और वह उन द्वारा निर्मित ज्ञान की उपयुक्तता या उस के सत्य के लिए कोई मापदण्ड लागू न करे, क्योंकि सम्पूर्ण ज्ञान व्यक्तिगत अनुभवों और व्यक्तिगत अर्थ-निर्माण का नतीजा होता है। रचनावाद के ही तहत में एक विचार यह है कि शुरुआत वहाँ से करें जहाँ बालिका है, यानी उस के पास उपलब्ध ज्ञान से शुरुआत हो। अवधारणाओं के निर्माण तथा उन के बीच के परस्पर सम्बन्धों के निर्माण के माध्यम से सक्रिय अर्थ-निर्माण करने में विद्यार्थी की मदद की जाए – मगर उद्देश्य उस ज्ञान तक पहुँचने का ही है जो आम तौर पर आज के दिन स्वीकार्य है।

इन धारणाओं का तकाज़ा है कि बच्चे एक-दूसरे के साथ सहयोग करते हुए काम करें, एक स्वतन्त्र वातावरण में तार्किक खोज करते हुए आगे बढ़ें। मान कर चला जाता है कि एक ही आयु के बच्चों का परस्पर अन्त:क्रिया में होना और सहयोग करना उन्हें इस निरन्तर अर्थ-निर्माण में बेहतर मददगार होगा। इसी के चलते आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा के सिद्धांत की बात की जाती है। (हालाँकि आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा में प्रवेश एक अस्थाई व्यवस्था हर है, क्योंकि यदि सभी बच्चे विद्यालय आने लगें और कोई भी बीच में ना छोड़े तो सभी अपने आप ही आयु-उपयुक कक्षा में होंगे.)

इसी प्रकार, बच्चे भिन्न-भिन्न गति से विकास करते हैं और ज़रूरी नहीं कि यह विकास एक ही अवधारणात्मक पथ के माध्यम से हो। इस लिए तयशुदा प्रश्नों की सब के लिए एक ही नियतकालिक परीक्षा का होना उपयुक्त नहीं है – क्योंकि इस के चलते शैक्षिक तथा नैतिक एवं भावनात्मक विकास में बच्चे की प्रगति का मूल्याँकन काफ़ी हद तक छूट जाता है। और इसी लिए सी.सी.ई. की आवश्यकता है।

क्योंकि बच्चे अपनी गति से विकास करते हैं, और यह इस लिए भी आवश्यक है कि वे स्वयं अपने दिमाग़ को प्रयोग में लाते हुए अवधारणात्मक स्पष्टता हासिल कर पाएँ, इस लिए कक्षाओं में पास-फ़ेल करने की कोई तुक नहीं है। इस से तो बच्चों को बस कृत्रिम तरीके से, ज़बरदस्ती एक-दूसरे के साथ इकट्ठा कर दिया जाता है – इसी लिए बच्चे को कक्षा में रोके न रखे जाने की नीति की बात होती है।

इस तरह इन तीनों विचारों (सी.सी.ई., पास-फ़ैल व्यवस्था को हटाना और आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा में बच्चे का दाख़िला) का एक दूसरे से नज़दीकी रिश्ता है और ये तीनों विचार ज्ञान, मानव के सीखने और बच्चे के स्वभाव तथा प्रकृति से सम्बन्धित मान्यताओं पर आधारित हैं। ये एक दूजे के पूरक हैं और एक साथ गम्भीरता से लिए जाएँ तो किसी भी शिक्षा व्यवस्था में काम में लाए जा सकते हैं। इन्हें अलग-अलग कर दिया जाता है और किसी एक को अपनाते हुए अन्य को छोड़ दिया जाता है, तो बात नहीं बनेगी, और ऎसी कोशिश निसंदेह असफल होगी।


गहरा विरोधाभास

अगर हम आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा में दाख़िला, सी.सी.ई. और कक्षा में न रोके रखने की नीति की बुनियाद में मौजूद मान्यताओं को स्वीकार करते हैं तो पाठ्यचर्या की व्यवस्था और स्कूल के ढाँचे में बुनियादी बदलाव करने होंगे। पाठ्यचर्या और पाठ्यक्रम को ‘सीखने में सातत्य’ के सिद्धांत को मान कर चलना होगा न कि ‘सीखने की सीढ़ी’ के सिद्धांत को। ‘सातत्य’ के तहत सीखने के एक ऐसे वक्र की कल्पना की जाती है जिसे हम प्रत्येक बच्चे द्वारा लिया गया पथ कह सकते हैं। आवश्यक नहीं है कि इस पथ में समय-सीमाओं में बंधे और तयशुदा मील के पत्थर हों। ज़रूरत हो तो पाठ्यचर्या और पाठ्यक्रम के तहत ज्ञान, दक्षताओं और मूल्यों को एक शृँख़ला में तो व्यवस्थित किया जा सकता है, लेकिन किसी सालाना कड़ी-कठोर सीढ़ी-व्यवस्था के लिए जगह नहीं हो सकती।

दूसरी ओर ‘सीखने की सीढ़ी’ के सिद्धांत में पाठ्यचर्या और पाठ्यक्रम को सालाना व्यवस्था के रूप-आकार में बड़े ही साफ़-सुथरे तरीके से बांधा जाता है। इन्हें हम ग्रेड्स या कक्षाओं के रूप में जानते हैं। प्रत्येक साल में एक व्यवस्थित पैकेज सीखा जाता है। साल के दौरान परीक्षा हो सकती है – जितनी चाहें हो सकती हैं, लेकिन नतीजों को साल के अन्त में इकट्ठा किया जाता है। पर्याप्त सीखना हो पाया है या नहीं, इस पर निर्णय पास या फ़ेल, उत्तीर्ण या अनुत्तीर्ण के रूप में अभिव्यक्त होता है। अनुत्तीर्ण होने की सूरत में सम्पूर्ण वार्षिक-खण्ड को फिर से सीखा जाता है; उत्तीर्ण हो जाएँ तो माना जाता है कि पहले से नाप लिए गए क्षेत्र में सीखे गए को अधिक मज़बूती देने के लिए और मौका मिलाने की ज़रूरत नहीं है। बस चढ़ गए अगली सीढ़ी, अब पीछे का दिमाग में रहे या ना रहे कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता.

पाठ्यचर्या को सीखने-के-सातत्य के रूप में व्यवस्थित करने का अर्थ होगा स्कूल के ग्रेड या कक्षा-आधारित ढांचे के विरुद्ध जाना। क्योंकि माना गया है कि सीखना सतत निरन्तरता में होगा, इस लिए वर्ष-आधारित बंटवारा भी नहीं किया जाएगा। ऐसे में बच्चों को विभिन्न ग्रेड्स या कक्षाओं में स्थित करना, और उत्तीर्ण-अनुत्तीर्ण वाली परीक्षा-प्रणाली भी न केवल अनावश्यक हो जाते हैं बल्कि वे सीखने-सिखाने की प्रक्रिया के लिए अवरोध का काम करेंगे। इस हालत में सी.सी.ई. की मूल्याँकन पद्धति ही उद्देश्य की प्राप्ति में सहायक हो सकती है।

हमारी शिक्षा व्यवस्था बहुत ही रूढ़ और जड़ किस्म की है। बच्चे द्वारा स्वयं, सीधे तौर पर, लगातार विकास करते हुए ज्ञान के निर्माण का विचार उस विचार के संपूर्ण ढाचे के ही विरुद्ध जाता है जिस के तहत पाठ्यपुस्तक में स्थापित ‘ज्ञान’ एक संपूर्ण और पक्का उत्पाद है, ठीक कुम्हार के पके घड़े की तरह, तो पूर्ण और अपरिवर्तनीय है। पाठ्यचर्या की ग्रेड/कक्षा-आधारित व्यवस्था ज्ञान की इस अवधारणा के साथ बहुत मेल खाती है, क्योंकि किसी भी पूर्ण उत्पाद को साफ़-सुथरे तरीके से टुकड़ों में विभाजित कर के प्रस्तुत किया जा सकता है। स्कूल का कक्षा-आधारित ढाँचा एक प्रशासक के लिए बहुत ही सुविधाजनक है क्योंकि इस का प्रयोग करते हुए विद्यार्थियों और शिक्षकों के लिए बहुत आसानी से काम निर्धारित किए जा सकते हैं। पास-फ़ेल परीक्षा-प्रणाली तो ज्ञान, ज्ञानार्जन, पाठ्यचर्या और स्कूल सम्बन्धी इन विचारों का स्वाभाविक तार्किक नतीजा भर है।

यह एक पुरानी पड़ चुकी सत्तावादी-जड़ व्यवस्था और शिक्षा के एक अधिक प्रबुद्ध, ज्ञान-सम्पन्न विचार के बीच इस वक्त चल रहे टकराव का नतीजा है कि पहले तो सी.सी.ई और विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में न रोके रखने की नीति को लागू किया जाता है और अब उसे हटाए जाने के लिए शोर हो रहा है। सी.सी.ई. और विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में न रोके रखने की नीति को तब तक अर्थपूर्ण ढंग से लागू नहीं किया जा सकता जब तक कि हम सत्तावादी और जड़ शिक्षा-व्यवस्था को चुनौती नहीं देते, उसे डहा देने को तैयार नहीं होते।

साहस की कमी – या समझ की?

सी.सी.ई., विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में न रोके रखना, और आयु-उपयुक्त कक्षा में दाख़िला – ये तीनों सैद्धांतिक तौर पर मज़बूत और व्यावहारिक तौर पर सही सिद्ध हो चुके विचार हैं। गुणवत्तापूर्ण शिक्षा के लिए ये विचार तयशुदा कक्षा/ग्रेड तथा पास-फ़ेल परीक्षाओं के मुकाबले कहीं बेहतर विकल्प हैं। इसी लिए विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में न रोके रखने की बात का मौजूदा विरोध “गलत पेड़ पर भोंकने”[vi] जैसा है। कमी स्कूल के निरंकुश ढाँचे में है, कैंसर वहां है. न कि विद्यार्थी को फ़ैल न करने की नीती में।

दिक्कत यह है कि हमारे यहाँ बात को पूरी तरह समझे बिना और संस्थागत ढाँचों तथा सम्बद्ध लोगों को समर्थ बनाए बिना, उसे लागू कर दिए जाने का इतिहास रहा है। डी.पी.ई.पी. की तरह की बाल-केन्द्रिकता, बी.आर.सी/सी.आर.सी के विचार और कार्यरत शिक्षकों के सालाना प्रशिक्षण का ढोंग ऐसे ही कुछ उदाहरण हैं। और अब वक्त आया है शैक्षिक तौर पर एक और विचार (यानी विद्यार्थी को कक्षा में न रोके रखने के विचार) को बदनाम करने का – और हम यही करने में लगे हुए हैं।

शिक्षा से सम्बद्ध प्रशासकों से यह आशा करना कि वे सी.सी.ई. और कक्षा में विद्यार्थी को न रोके रखने के सिद्धांत को समझ लेंगे, बेपर की उड़ान वाली बात होगी। लेकिन उन शिक्षाविदों के बारे में क्या कहें जो शिक्षा का अधिकार जैसी नीतियों पर सलाह देते हैं? क्या उन में इन प्रस्तावित शैक्षिक सुधारों की नफ़ासत और उन के परस्पर अन्तर्सम्बन्धों की समझ की कमी है? या फिर उन में यह हिम्मत नहीं है कि वे ऊपर चर्चा में आए अन्तर्विरोध, और स्कूल के सत्तावादी जड़ ढांचे को डहा देने कि जरूरत पर जोर दे सकें?

इन दिनों हम देश के लिए एक नई शिक्षा-नीति पर चर्चा कर रहे हैं। इस चर्चा के केन्द्र में शिक्षा और स्कूल की एक अधिक विवेक-सम्मत दृष्टि होनी चाहिए थी। यह देख कर निराशा होती है कि नीति सम्बन्धी बहसों को दिशा देने वाले लोगों में हमारी शिक्षा-व्यवस्था की इस घोर आवश्यकता के प्रति कोई जागरूकता नहीं है। और इसी लिए हम यों ही गलत पेड़ों पर भोंकने के लिए अभिशप्त रहेंगे।


[i] The Hindu, in “Govt. treads warily on RTE amendment” dated 21st August 15.

[ii] The Hindu BusinessLine, in “States want revocation of no-detention policy in schools”, 21st August 15

[iii] The Hindu, in “Panel for phased implementation of no-detention policy in schools”, 18th August 15.

[iv] The Hindu BusinessLine, in “States want revocation of no-detention policy in schools”, 21st August 15

[v] RTE section 4.

[vi] अंग्रेजी का एक मुहावरा है “barking up the wrong tree”. कल्पना करिए आप अपने शिकारी कुत्ते की मदद से शिकार को निकले हैं. जो शिकार आप ढूंढ रहे हैं वह नीम के पेड़ पर छुपा है और आप का कुत्ता दूर कीकर के पेड़ के नीचे खड़ा होकर ऊपर देखते हुए भोंक रहा है आप को यह संकेत देने के लिए कि शिकार कीकर पे पेड़ पर है. इस एकाहते हैं “गलत पेड़ पर भोकना”.

Examination System: In dire need of reform

January 5, 2015

Rohit Dhankar, Jan 05, 2015, Deccan Herald

The Zakir Hussain Committee Report (1939) on basic education rightly saw examination system as “a curse to education”. The Commission on Secondary Education (1952) spelled the curse out by pointing out that it dominates education in every aspect from content to teaching and that it becomes the sole motivation for learning.

Today, there is near unanimity that the examination system is in dire need of reform. Therefore, the Right to Education Act (RTE) is justified in emphasising continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE). However, all efforts to change the examination system almost always fail. One wonders why this exam system bounces back every time one tries to reform it. Obviously, there are many reasons. This article briefly hints at one, perhaps the most important, of them.

Examinations and the factory model of schooling

The structure of modern school, brought to India by colonial masters in curriculum, teaching and examination, assumes that knowledge can be organised into discrete packages, each to be mastered independently. Therefore, learning can be organised into grades, and the content of learning in each grade can be separated into subjects like language, mathematics and environmental studies without emphasising interconnections.

The curriculum, therefore, loses its aim of holistic growth and becomes a bag of more or less unrelated units. Once the curriculum is fragmented, the teaching and testing follow suit. Therefore, periodic checks on how much of each of these independent units is memorised becomes the most efficient way of evaluation. This is the birth of an examination system most suitable for a factory model of school. The models of the school and examination support and give life to each other, and are highly management friendly and authoritarian.

The CCE as a possible alternative

What is demanded in CCE is ‘continuity’ and ‘comprehensiveness’ in assessment of learning. Discrete periodic events—however frequent—do not constitute continuity, unless one creates a sham misleading definition. One does not require much analysis to realise that the continuity in evaluation can be achieved only if the teaching itself becomes a process of evaluation for the child as well as for the teacher, and includes an ongoing sensitive response to the child’s learning difficulties and achievements. This is possible; but requires individual attention to each child. Therefore, the teacher needs to know each child, be in a position to make mental note of their learning behaviour in the classroom, needs to know their difficulties and successes individually, and to keep a reliable record of her classroom teaching every day. This, in turn, demands a high teacher pupil ratio, and institutional time for the teacher to plan, prepare and maintain notes. The system recognises none of these demands of CCE or not to the extent it should.

The second aspect in CCE is comprehensiveness, which demands attention not only to the particular concepts being taught, but to situate them in curriculum of the subject, and connect with what is being learnt in all other subjects as well as to the child’s general problem solving behaviour. The teaching, therefore, becomes a highly reflective activity. In addition to scholastic learning, comprehensiveness also demands attention to the child’s attitudes and dispositions. That further increases the demand for time and hard work.

The purpose

The central purpose of CCE is to facilitate better learning for the child. Three-fold variations in any class room can be easily understood: One, the children are likely to learn with different paces. Two, are likely to have different conceptualisations of what is being taught during the process of learning; for example, in their ways of understanding multiplication or how seasons change.

Their paths to achieve a common understanding are likely to differ substantially. Three, children come to class with different levels of preparedness to learn and interest in different subjects. Therefore, the same child may learn faster in one subject while may be slow in another. A suitable pedagogy for CCE has to facilitate learning in all these situations.

Little choice

On the other hand, the system demands that all children in a class complete the curriculum by the end of the session. This leaves very little choice for the teacher but to teach the whole class in a uniform manner. In order to complete, say, the upper primary curriculum in three years the teachers and children need an enormous amount of freedom to plan their work and execute it. The authoritarian system does not allow that.

To take an example, the understanding of child’s knowledge in CCE has to be progressive meaning making which becomes increasingly consistent internally as well as with accepted human knowledge at a given historical juncture. In this understanding, if the child is becoming progressively aware of her own ideas and tries to create coherence in them, it should be considered very good progress. But the year-wise packaged curriculum emphasises conformity, memorisation and reproduction on demand. These two attitudes to knowledge and learning contradict each other. As a result the teaching becomes geared to examination and the intellectually organic progress has to be abandoned.

It is clear, therefore, that the CCE can succeed only if we make the system flexible, change the notion of child’s knowledge, formulate the curriculum as a learning continuum and restructure the school.

Surprising we continuously miss the point that the prevailing examination system is a creature of the structure of school and curriculum; and cannot be reformed without dismantling the authoritarian school. If we still lack the courage to question this structure, CCE will fail; or it will metamorphose into something very akin to the existing examination system; which will serve no good purpose than to kill one more excellent idea in education.