At least six schools in Mumbai have made the bold choice of passing all its students up to Class 8 — even if the government scraps the no-detention policy from the next academic year.
The schools allayed fears of poor standards saying remedial classes will keep the quality high. The schools said they were worried the fail tag will have negative repercussions on students.
The no-detention policy was introduced six years ago under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, to make learning stress-free. But recently, the human resource development (HRD) ministry started working towards getting rid of the policy, calling it the biggest roadblock to “quality”.
Some Mumbai schools, however, don’t want to return to the system of failing students. “We have no complaints with the no-detention policy and will continue practising it even if the government withdraws it,” said Savita Venkat, the principal of Bombay Cambridge Schools, SSC and IGCSE, Andheri (East).
Venkat also pointed out there was no drop in performance because of no detention. “Our results in the state and international board continued to remain 100%. There was no adverse effect of the policy on learning outcomes.”
Pawar Public Schools in Bhandup and Chandivli, Shishuvan School in Matunga, Smt Sulochanadevi Singhania School in Thane and Inodai Waldorf School in Andheri are the others in the city that has decided not to fail students until Class 8, and even beyond in some cases.
“We don’t detain students in any class. They are self-aware. If they fare poorly in one exam, it automatically drives them to strive harder in the next one,” said Bindu Chowdhary, trustee, Inodai Waldorf School, which follows the Rudolph Steiner philosophy and doesn’t hold exams till Class 8.
Adding that children learn for knowledge, not for exams, Chowdhary said, “We are teaching students to live life, which itself is an exam.”
Some schools said holding students back a grade can have a negative impact. “Failing students isn’t feasible in India, as our society hasn’t yet matured enough to take failure in the right spirit,” said Madhura Phadke, founder and principal of the two Pawar Public Schools. “The whole family suffers, as it is considered a social taboo in our society.”
Instead of repeating a grade, schools said academically-weak students will be brought at a par with strong remedial support and interventions. “We mentor students to move ahead to the next class. This is done through periodical tests of 20 marks each and a lot of help from the teachers,” said Shubhadra Shenoy, principal, Shishuvan School, Matunga
The Smt Sulochanadevi High School, which follows a flexible exam pattern, allows weaker students to write re-exams whenever they want. “We have always been following the no-detention policy, without calling it that,” said Revathy Srinivas, the school’s principal.
But a few other city schools maintain they are against the no-fail polict. Father Francis Swamy, principal, St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazgaon and joint secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education, which runs 150-odd schools, said, “This policy has led to indiscipline in schools as students have stopped being serious about exams.”