“Himmat hai toh fail karke dikhao (Fail me if you can),” a student wrote in a test paper in a government school last year. His challenge to the examiner was followed by an emoticon — a heart with an arrow piercing through it."We simply laughed it off. There is nothing more we could do. And the students know it," said the teacher. The no-detention policy introduced in Delhi in 2006 and across the country as part of the Right to Education three years later, ensures that students get mandatory promotions till Class VIII, even if they score a zero in all subjects.
There are approximately 16 lakh students enrolled in Delhi government schools. “About one-fourth of all students till Class VIII, who go to the next class every year, are provisionally promoted. All we have to do is make sure that they write their papers. What they write in it doesn’t matter. Many students do not appear for the exams in the first go. So we write to their parents, call them and even go to their residence to get them to school. They can score a zero after that. They will still be promoted,” said a science teacher at a school in central Delhi. She added that students, who earlier tried to catch up on their syllabus before the exams at least to make sure they scored good, do not bother now. The situation became worse after the introduction of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation in Class IX which required students to make projects and do assignments regularly.
“Many students do not make any projects. There have been instances, when we have had to make projects for them or give them older projects to copy from,” she said. It’s not just inertia or lack of motivation that prevents students from performing. After having been pushed from one class to another all these years, there is practically no tab kept on their knowledge levels or even reading and writing abilities. According to the Urban Ward Survey by ASER last year, 45% students of Classes III to V in Nand Nagri (a sample ward) cannot even read a Class I level text.
“When a student comes to us in Class VI, we begin by teaching them how to write. We get the four-line notebooks for many of these children. They then take five to six months to learn to write alphabets and words,” said an English teacher from a sarvodaya school in outer Delhi. In a private school, a Class VI student usually begins to work on prose and poems, do book reviews and write paragraphs. “Students who come to us in Class VI after studying in MCD schools are nearly illiterate. They may have completed primary schooling but their standard is of Class I. The sad part is that they reach up to class X with the same knowledge level and then Class XII becomes too difficult for them to handle,” said Ajay Veer Yadav, general secretary, Government School Teachers’ Association.
The BJP-led municipal corporation blames the Congress for making the schooling process ‘cosmetic’.
Yogendra Chandolia, mayor, North Delhi Muncipal Corporation, said: “We get students from economically weak backgrounds. It’s anyway difficult to get them to attend school regularly. And because of the no-detention policy, they know that ‘paas toh ho hi jana hai’ (they will pass no matter what).”