The no-detention policy in schools is being scrapped. Under the no-detention policy, which is part of the Right to Education Act, 2009, all students from Class I onward must be allowed to reach Class VIII without detention at any level. This means no student from Class I onward can fail regardless of his academic performance. Education experts are divided on the issue but a majority of them seem to believe that it has deterred the learning process. After all, how can a student be serious in his studies if he knows he will surely pass regardless of whether he has heeded his teachers and tried to learn anything, or not? It is a confidence-booster of sorts – “I will pass” syndrome – in the negative and academically disastrous sense. But no, says an IIM-Ahmedabad study. The study, led by researchers Ankit Saraf and Ketan S. Deshmukh and based on an alysis of tiol data for 10 years from the Annual Survey of Education Reports, seems to suggest that there is nothing so wrong about the no-detention policy as it is perceived to be by opponents. It says the policy has done less harm than it is actually accused of. “Implementation of the no-detention policy has not systematically lowered the learning levels of students. It has done less harm than it is accused of,” says the study titled “To Fail or Not to Fail?” and submitted to the parliamentary standing committee and the panel drafting the country’s new education policy. It will be recalled that last year, the Central government introduced an amendment bill in Parliament to allow States to detain a child at the end of Class V, Class VIII, or both. The bill is now with the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development (HRD).
To Pass or Not?
A quick reality check. It is difficult to say how the tiol data for 10 years from the Annual Survey on Education Reports has helped the IIM research team arrive at the non-negativity of the no-detention policy, but the fact of education life at the level of Class I-Class VIII is that at this level students are not turally inclined to pursue knowledge and therefore we have a regime of things like weekly or monthly assessments, homework, random tests etc that motivates a child to learn and try to learn, to ask questions and try to ask questions in class, to be curious, and thus to be creative in imagition. And this is what HRD is. After all, we are talking of human resource, and then we are talking of trying to develop that resource. This development cannot happen if a student is not introduced to the fear of facing the music of not studying to a desired level – a level below which he must remain in the same class until he has acquired sufficient knowledge to be promoted to the next class. This is the very philosophy of education. Therefore, the ‘right to pass’ that a student from Class I possesses under the no-detention policy seems to militate against a basic principle of education at the tender level. This is undesirable.
The Spiritual Sense
Recently Vice President M. Venkaiah idu pointed to India’s spiritual tradition and family system as being the country’s greatest strength and a model for the whole world. Calling India the “capital of spirituality”, he urged the people to understand the meaning and purpose of life and to realize the potential of the country’s heritage and culture. There is much substance in what he has said. One only has to visit the spellbinding Vedanta discourse that Swami Vivekanda produced as he addressed the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago more than a century ago. He mesmerized the audience by dwelling on India’s spiritual tradition and strength and on what the country can export in terms of spirituality. The country has a long history of producing spiritual giants who have informed the countrymen of man’s spiritual dimension, mostly unrealized, and his potential to grow as a human being fully aware of his inner world. This knowledge of the inner cosmos of impulses, instincts and emotions, and mastery over them, constitutes the spiritual dimension of man, apart from the larger goal of realizing the very purpose of existence. The materialist, whether atheist or agnostic, would ridicule the spiritual quest of man. But the emptiness of life in the absence of a spiritual factor is a reality. This is the reason why a whole lot of people from the West queue up in India seeking spiritual solace. The popularity of Yoga and the flourish of meditation centres in the West run by Indian spiritual organizations is a case in point. Therefore, what the Vice President has said is a timely reminder of what we can export to the world at our smartest best – the spiritual resource. But there is another side of the story. Spirituality is also the best prescription for violence of all kinds. The futility of violence – especially terrorism that has ragged this country in recent times – can be realized through our spiritual corridor. Buddha, though an agnostic, was a great spiritualist, because his doctrine of motiveless work, compassion and righteousness forms a profound hallmark of spirituality in the practical sense. He was a great protagonist of non-violence by virtue of his spirituality. The world needs this. And India should remind the world of this as often as possible. This will form a wonderful roadmap for peacemaking.