a lesser evil

A few more musings in continuation to my last post about the new no-fail policy announced yesterday by the Delhi Government. At the outset I would like to say that in an ideal situation I, more than anyone else would have welcomed this move more than anyone else, and may I add that even a few years back, when I was still blissfully unaware of the ground reality about the education scenario in Delhi, I would done so too. Sadly today that is not the case.

My thoughts were seconded by most of my teaching staff who were stunned at this new reality that would alter many things for us at pwhy! A very well packaged news item was aired yesterday on a leading metro channel to herald and applaud this new move. It even had a dazzling title and tag line: arresting girls drop out rates!

Based on my experience of almost a decade let me play Devil's Advocate. The policy of not retaining any child in primary classes has already shown its true colours. Children, and there is an abundance of them, sit in class IV or V barely knowing their alphabet or numbers. Till date class VI loomed large as a place where they would have to perform and motivated parents as well as children to try better. I say parents because for them it was examinations and their marks that altered behaviour. Let me explain.

Examinations and the ensuing risk of failure was a deterrent that would make the child work harder and the parent more lenient. Many little girls are spared house chores during exam time and many unruly boys are bullied to sit and study. Parents in spite of their somewhat modest means find ways to send their children for tuition because of the exams and failure risk. This is a boon in disguise as we all know how much teaching there actually is in state run schools. Marks are something the poor and illiterate relate to, grading and alphabets belongs to an alien world.

A quick perusal of the proposed scheme shows that though it is lofty in its ideal, it is bound to fail on the ground. The actual education system barely manages to muddle through a conventional system; wonder what will happen now as the teachers and their ways cannot see a dramatic transformation simply because a new law has been brought into existence. What will happen is that the back up system that existed - parents attitude, extra coaching etc - will merely disappear as no exam and possibility of failure exists.

Even the kids will not feel the need to study and learn as they will know that no one can fail them till class VIII. Hence they will reach class VIII or IX with an enormous amount to catch up with as ultimately they will have to sit for an end of school examinations where marks hold the keys to the future.

Not a happy situation.

Pwhy's secondary teachers were almost up in arms when they heard the news as they more than anyone else have the daunting task of making up for years of poor performance. And as one quiet voice said: maybe parents will stop sending their kids to pwhy as one of the main reasons they had was to ensure that their children do well in examinations.