No-fail policy: Central panel favoured exams after Class 5, but no action yet

  • Navneet Sharma, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2015 16:41 IST

Punjab wants to go back to the system of board examinations in Classes 5 and 8. Its neighbouring state, Haryana, is also mulling board exams in Class 8.

But the two northern states are not the only ones eager to junk the “no-fail policy” introduced by the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act in 2009. A number of other states, including Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Goa and Tripura, have also expressed from time to time their preference for exams for assessment of learning levels over no-detention provision up to Class 8 which was brought in to reduce exam-related stress on schoolchildren.

The contention of these states, which is likely to be discussed by the human resource development (HRD) ministry after Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal made a fresh request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, finds support in the recommendations of a sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) set up by the previous regime for assessment of the continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) and the no-detention provision.


In its report submitted to the HRD ministry in August 2014, the sub-committee panel headed by Geeta Bhukkal, education minister in the then Congress government in Haryana, strongly favoured reintroduction of exams for promotion or detention of students from Class 5.

“We reiterate the need for assessment of learning outcomes and making it consequential by linking it to promotion or otherwise to the next class beyond grade 5,” concluded the sub-committee. However, CABE has not met in the past one year.


The sub-committee comprising education ministers of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Assam and renowned educationists, had prepared the report after holding consultations with the state governments, experts, parents, ministry officials and other stakeholders.

While Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were among the states in favour of continuation of the existing policy, the sub-committee said though theoreticians might have a strong case for retaining the no-detention provisions, the practical reality and experience across the country, across the stakeholders, clearly showed ground was not ready to receive this positively.

It further said that given the current systemic challenges and process inefficiencies, no-detention provision should be implemented in a phased manner with, for example, a system of state-wise assessment in Classes 5 and 8. Taking note of declining learning level outcomes in government schools, it said the misinterpretation of no-detention provision as “no assessments” or “no relevance of assessments”, low student motivation, low teacher accountability and insufficient teaching skills were the root causes.


Among the northern states, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh had submitted copies of resolutions passed by their state assemblies regarding exams in elementary classes to the sub-committee. While the Punjab assembly suggested to the Centre to amend the RTE Act to reintroduce the exam system from Classes 1 to 8 and board examinations for Classes 5 and 8, the Himachal Pradesh assembly sought insertion of a clause that the state government would provide for conduct of exams for Classes 5 and 8 till the CCE was implemented and to ensure that there was no board exam till the completion of elementary education.

The then Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had also written to the Centre to seek withdrawal of the no-detention policy, saying that there may be some disadvantages of examination and detention policy, but advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Earlier, the parliamentary standing committee in the Rajya Sabha for HRD had also expressed doubts about the policy of automatic upgrade, stating that a student may not be motivated to work hard to learn if he/she was aware of guaranteed promotion to the next grade.

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