Beyond the Oxymoronic Idea of No-detention Policy

March 25, 2017

Rohit Dhankar

(EPW 25th March 2017)

The periodic debates on continuous and comprehensive evaluation and no-detention policy in media are completely futile, given the current class-wise structure of schools and curricula. As a result, elementary education gets defined by the number of years spent in school. The examination system thwarts all attempts at bringing reforms in pedagogy, curriculum and textbooks. Therefore, discarding both examinations and detention is necessary, and an alternative imagination of schools and curriculum organisation is imperative for the success of educational reforms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Staying power of the pass-fail system

June 17, 2016

Published in The Hindu on 17th June 2016.

Rohit Dhankar

Once again, it is that time of the year when the examination results season may be just ending and the admissions season is in progress, and marked by a cacophony of two contradictory voices — often from the same people — that rose to deafening levels from April to May when the results of various school boards were declared. The first voice celebrated those who succeeded and did wondrously well. Newspaper articles were published on which sections of students did better than the other. Did girls do better than the boys? Did school system ‘X’ do better than school system ‘Y’? Pictures of individual students who topped the examinations were published and their parents, teachers and schools eulogised. Once the general ‘results fever’ subsided, this shrill voice was echoed by private schools which claimed to have taught some of the toppers, with their posters appearing in every possible place, from roadside electric poles to walls.

In general, this celebration of success in an examination goes on for the whole year, till the next results season when the old faces are replaced with new ones to valorise.

Pressure of expectations

More importantly, the second voice is one of lamentation as many students, wilting under stress and pressure, burnout and even commit suicide in this season, simply because they could not fulfil their parents’ expectations.

The loss of these young, and often bright, people must make us ponder. They have moved up all the way from nursery class to high school to fulfil their parents’ ambitions of seeing them grow into engineers, doctors or managers graduating from the so-called top-level institutions in the country. These children must have seen themselves only as exam-cracking “achievers” in order to make their parents happy. They lost out on their childhood play and free time; no pranks with their friends and no experience of the simple joy of just being a carefree child. This loss would have led to a narrow vision of human life guided by the all-important value of “success”; which is just defined as getting a top job. Period. These children, deprived of social development and trapped in an artificially developed world, choose death over struggle when that world suffers a rude shock with exam results that are less than expected.

There is very little recognition that the first voice I talked about creates a powerful environment wherein the trait of parents imposing their ambitions on the children becomes dominant. When they do not turn out to be as successful as their parents want them to, they fade away. This problem has two sides to it: the first is the examination-oriented Indian education system, and the second is competitive and cruel parents.

The ‘crushing weight of exams’

About 80 years ago, the Zakir Hussain report on National Basic Education noted that the “system of examinations prevailing in our country has proved a curse to education”. It pinpointed the malady by saying that a bad system is made worse by awarding examinations a place much beyond their utility. The problem, however, is much older than stated in the Zakir Hussain report.

For this, one has to go back as early as 1904 to the Indian Educational Policy issued by the then Governor General. This colonial document had a section titled “The abuse of examinations” and noted that “[e]xaminations, as now understood, are believed to have been unknown as an instrument of general education in ancient India”. It also claimed that examinations did not have a prominent place even in the Despatch of 1854, commonly known as Wood’s Despatch. The Hunter Commission report of 1882-83, which left examinations and promotions to the next class up to standard eight entirely to the schools, did not recommend any province-level or board exemptions. Still, the educational policy of 1904 noted that examinations had “grown to extravagant dimensions, and their influence has been allowed to dominate the whole system of education in India, with the result that instruction is confined within the rigid framework of prescribed courses, that all forms of training which do not admit of being tested by written examinations are liable to be neglected”. It further noted that the system was adopted on the precedence of English education which itself has “finally condemned” it; however, in India, it was proving to be “disastrous in its influence” on education. The policy recommended reforms that included abandoning public examination at the primary level, “more equitable tests of efficiency”, and “to relieve the schools and scholars from the heavy burden of recurring mechanical tests”.

The Indian Educational Policy of 1913 declared victory and stated that “the formerly crushing weight of examinations has been appreciably lightened”. It further declared that the “principal objects of the school final examination are adaptability to the course of study and avoidance of cram”.

All this shows that the devastating effects of this “curse to education” have been known quite well for over 100 years. There is no commission or committee report after Independence which does not acknowledge the burden of rote learning and the examination system on its students and its futility in assessing their real abilities. They all recommend examination reforms. The recent attempts, after Right to Education (RTE) stipulation, of no pass-fail and no board examinations till completion of elementary education in favour of a continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) are well known.

However, the public education system has completely failed to implement these reforms and the private schools have never paid much attention to them. We have now reached a stage where no one in the country knows how the CCE can be implemented, and how we can measure progress of the child without pass-fail systems. Therefore, there has been a concerted effort to discard this half-hearted foraging into unknown territory as soon as the present government came to power at the Centre. The result is that many States have gone back to their familiar pass-fail system and board examinations at the end of eighth standard if not earlier.

Nexus of forces

The question that stares us in the face is, how is it that we haven’t cleansed our education system of a curse that has been well known for over a hundred years? There is never a single factor behind the persistence of such problems; it always has to be a nexus of forces. Some of the factors that lie within the education system are often mentioned. The lack of seriousness, of resources, teachers untrained in new methods, etc. form the routine list. One reason rarely mentioned is the inconsistency between the prevailing grade-wise curriculum and school structure on the one hand and the idea of progress on the learning continuum inherent in the CCE on the other. The CCE does not suit our authoritarian school organisation, administration and syllabus organisation.

But it seems that the biggest force behind the persistence of this curse and useless examination system is a social one which is grossly under-examined. We are a caste-based and strictly hierarchical society. In earlier times, this hierarchy had the iron-clad stability of the caste system. That determined the place, function, work and life of an Indian even before his/her birth. There are attempts now, which range from constitutional rights to political struggle, to break that mould. It may not have been dismantled yet, but is under tremendous pressure ever since the freedom movement began.

But social hierarchies involve privileges, prestige and goods of life that are cherished by all. None is ready to let go of the privileges one has. As a result, the attempts to maintain the old hierarchy as well as the ways to challenge it look toward education. Education, therefore, becomes a means of fierce competition either to remain in one’s position of privilege or to rise in the hierarchy. It completely stops being a self-motivated way of forming an authentic self and gaining an understanding of the world, and is reduced to a means to beat/best the neighbour. A more open and thoughtful system of education will challenge the hierarchies which are so dear to a caste-minded Indian. The result is that the authoritarian system of pass-fail stays.

The stand of intellectuals

One wonders why the intellectuals in Indian society, and who understand the ills of this education system and the implied curse of examinations, don’t make a beginning to dismantle it. The answer perhaps lies in the often noticed phenomenon of the very people who write scathing papers and offer opinion on the ills of the current examination system, hold seminars and give keynote addresses on it in conferences, taking leave and cancelling all their engagements to be at hand when their own children are to appear in the standard 10 and 12 board examinations. Interpreting this contradiction as a simple lack of commitment to ideals is a superficial understanding even if it has an element of truth. The malady is deeper. In spite of being convinced of the “truth” of their analysis of the education system and the ills of examinations, they see the possibility of privileges their children will get through success in these very examinations; and the dangers of losing the positions achieved by themselves.

To face this situation one requires courage of conviction which scholar Alberuni noted a thousand years ago, albeit in the context of religion, that Indians don’t have. In the context of theology Alberuni notes: “at the utmost, they [Indians] fight with words, but they will never stake their soul or body or their property in religious controversies”. Not putting at stake their soul, body and property in religious disputes may be considered a welcome openness; but it seems this tendency is applicable to all ideas that might bring change. Indians don’t stake their property and position on ideas that may collide with the existing system. Unfortunately, no change in the system is possible without there being a critical number of people in society who are ready to pay the price to make a beginning. We don’t seem to have that critical number yet. And till we reach that number, our children will continue to commit suicide and their parents will continue to disown the responsibility to push them to do it. And we will all continue to blame the rigid system without noticing that its roots are in our own souls.


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”.

Another brick in the wall: Examinations and the child

May 5, 2015

Published in THE HINDU, 5th May 2015

Rohit Dhankar

A few weeks ago, the media captured the stark and shocking image of people — family members and friends — climbing and getting on to the ledges of the high-rise Vidya Niketan school in Mahnar village, 60 kilometres from Patna, Bihar, to pass on answer chits to students appearing for their school exams on March 18, 2015. Headlines such as “Scaling new heights to deliver cheat sheets” and scenes on TV made it clear that this could never have happened without the connivance of teachers and examination personnel, thus laying bare the deep flaws in the Indian education system. The incident caused the State Education Minister P.K. Shahi to admit that stopping malpractices in Board examinations was a huge task.

“If we try to stop unfair means at a centre, friends and family members of the examinees gang up to intimidate us,” said a schoolteacher. The incident at Mahar was not an isolated one. Reports also came in of people scaling compound walls of schools to help examinees at centres in Sharsha and Khagaria districts.

Just a few weeks after this, on April 15, BBC News published a story titled, “Jail for cheating Atlanta teachers”.

These two starkly different responses to unfair means in exams, in India and the United States, are startling. In spite of a difference between teachers adopting unfair means with regard to manipulating exam results and school authorities, including teachers, allowing students to use unfair methods in exams using help from outsiders.

Who is to blame? Who should be held responsible? In both these examples, one has to acknowledge the great pressure of competitive exams and the mark sheet-centric approach in academics as being a measure of human worth in trying to understand why this happens. One also has to look closely at the relationship between education, learning, exams and competition.

Authentic self and education

We often talk of education as being an instrument of economic development of self and society. Sometimes, we also allude to it as being an instrument to help one prepare for critical, democratic citizenship. But rarely do we talk of education being a process to help a person form his authentic self. When I talk about “formation of the authentic self”, I do not mean the oft-talked about character development and education in values. All three aims of education — economic, citizenship, and character/values — though necessary, fall short of helping one form one’s authentic self. Moreover, they can be used to work against it.

The three characteristics I would like to count as being a part of the authentic self of an individual are: autonomy, integrity and harmony. Apart from one’s intellectual capabilities, all three necessarily should manifest themselves as character traits of an individual. Further, their necessary ingredients are a deep, emotional investment as well as a dispassionate understanding.

Let’s examine these three. Autonomy means using one’s own mind in making choices whether they are personal or public. This is possible only with a robust understanding of the world and one’s situation in it. It also demands a level of self-confidence and self-respect without being conceited or indulgent.

Integrity is more than just autonomy as it involves a coherence in the results of one’s intellectual deliberations and taking them seriously while putting them in action and thus imparts an overall stability to one’s personality.

Harmony, metaphorically, may be termed as a state of internal peace. More precisely, it means an alignment between one’s emotional states, intellectual understanding and actions. I will also bring in “an absence of fragmentation”, which does not mean the complete absence of internal tension. There will always be a certain degree of tension as one constantly faces new situations and in utilising one’s emotional and intellectual energies to bear upon them. But this tension will always be confined to being within the limits of one’s strength of character. This wholesome development of an individual can be called the formation of an authentic self. Education is the primary means of helping an individual form such a self. Perhaps, it is also the highest goal of education. An alternative expression for an authentic self can be: manasavachaakarmana; with the proviso that all three are governed by one’s own judgement.

Examinations and testing

So far there is no method by which to assess the development of an authentic self. The only test is life itself! Examinations are a severely limited means by which to assess educational development, even if the assessment of an authentic self is left out. First, they are limited to testing the present repertoire of knowledge of an individual; even this has severe problems of validity and reliability. Knowledge is a fully connected whole and it cannot be tested by seeking fragments of information as is usually done in examinations. Going deeper into the interconnections of concepts and beliefs of an individual is a time-consuming and subjective affair; subjective for both examiner and examinee. In order for it to be reliable, it demands objectivity across a sample of examinees. Therefore, validity and reliability vary inversely with each other. Large-scale tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Annual Student Assessment Report (ASER) can ensure a satisfactory level of reliability and validity only if the testing is limited to a very small portion of student learning. This makes them almost useless in understanding the development of an authentic self. However, to be fair, in such tests, this is not even the goal.

Competition, an endemic problem of everyday life, is aggravated through a system of testing and examination. In the name of pursuing “success”, schools start encouraging competition at the individual level right from standard one. Measuring one child against the other becomes the motivating factor in learning; in the process, immeasurable damage is done to the child’s self-image; in most cases, a child’s worth is reduced to a piece of paper signed by the class teacher. In schools, students become almost intellectual slaves, competing with each other for a greater share of the market. At another level, as in States, large-scale, unreliable and invalid methods of testing are used. Education is reduced to the level of “teaching for testing”. At the national level, it becomes the tool of one-upmanship and used in spurious predictions of future economic worth. In all this, the individual is completely lost. All that is visible are aggregates of a tiny part of the human capability, measured through tools of suspicious validity.

Education systems across the world are used to judge the worth of individuals. They issue certificates and mark-sheets and these documents are taken by employers and institutions of further education as the measure of an individual’s capabilities. Since societies reward individuals on the basis of their perceived capabilities (if we ignore nepotism and money power), these certificates become the measure of the worth of the individual. Thus a person ends up getting characterised on the basis of minuscule part of his/her self.

The disproportionate importance accorded to such certification pushes people — students, parents and teachers — to use all means possible to get that good certificate. Therefore, using unfair methods in an examination, for example, is often the easiest way to get that ideal mark-sheet. This tilts the balance of the learner’s personality; her development of reasoning, character and alignment of emotions are totally ignored. Her capability to reproduce so-called “important information” overwhelms everything else. Education, which is supposed to help her develop an authentic-self, creates disharmony within her soul.

Nonchalance versus righteous wrath

I come back to the incident and case I referred to in the beginning — in Bihar and the U.S. The typical Indian attitude/reaction if shown a picture of what happened in Bihar would have been one largely of a nonchalance borne out of apathy. The 15-minute flash of interest on social media around the incident does not belie this claim.

On the other hand, the American reaction, which resulted in jail terms of up to 20 years, seems to express a righteous wrath. We, as Indians, generally see ideas and actions in a flux, as specks that are unimportant in a gigantic cosmic flow. This often conceals from us the true significance of events. In the Bihar example, most of us seem to be unaffected by the possible harm it might cause to our collective understanding and growth of our children as individuals with potential. In contrast to this are the Americans who seem horrified by the prospect of the havoc cheating by teachers may cause to the national system of education.

However, both seem to ignore the distortion brought to education and its very purposes, and the root cause of it being testing for competition. Neither apathy nor righteous wrath can free education from the grip of competition, testing, and instances of using unfair methods. This atmosphere and character of education is what holds back a child’s growth, of autonomy, by limiting understanding to a tiny part of “testable” knowledge, which is grossly inadequate to understand one’s situation in the world. It tears apart the coherence of intellectual deliberations, values and actions. It completely destroys the harmony between the intellectual, moral and emotional self; it makes action a random response to the contingency of the moment.

The besieged state of education is what is reducing the child’s soul into a battlefield that results in fragmented pieces of the self. The child’s aspirations, understanding, moral dispositions and emotions are constantly at war with each other. We are reducing the child into becoming fake copies of what we aspire for rather than helping the child become a master of his or her own soul. One wonders whether cases of student suicides in India and the repeated instances of shooting sprees in American schools are a direct result of this disharmony in the soul created by present day education systems!


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.