The ‘no-fail policy’, which allows automatic promotion of children till Class 8, should not be scrapped entirely — this was the broad consensus at a panel discussion organised at the Hindustan Times Top Schools Conclave 2015 on Wednesday. Their reason: The policy can be retained for children in the early years, helping them overcome the fear of exams.
Held at The Lalit, Andheri, the event marked the culmination of the seventh edition of the HT Top Schools Survey 2015, an annual initiative that recognises the best schools in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai.
Manoj Nair, associate editor, Hindustan Times, opened the discussion by questioning whether the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) is right in planning to do away with the no-fail policy introduced in 2010 — because recent government surveys have shown that the learning levels in city schools were plunging — and if the policy has helped arrest the dropout rate in schools.
Panellists Father Francis Swamy, joint-secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education, which runs 150-odd schools in the city and principal, St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazgaon and Jitendra Shah, founding member of Forum For Fairness in Education, a non-government organisation, both agreed that some parts of the policy need to be retained in schools. “The no-fail policy has developed a lackadaisical attitude among students and parents,” said Swamy. “They have stopped taking studies seriously and hence are stumbling in Class 9 and 10 when they have to appear for big exams.”
“No-fail is needed at least till Class 4, later on it can be scrapped; this way children will not get overwhelmed with exams suddenly in higher classes,” said Swamy. “An American style of summer schooling can be followed by schools in lower classes, where weak children are given extra attention during the summer break.”
Shah, who has helped file more than 60 cases in the high court and the Supreme Court against malpractices in the education sector, said the no-fail policy has backfired in schools because the continuous comprehensive evaluation (CCE) pattern has not been implemented properly. “Unless schools change their idea of exams, make them open-ended and focus on a holistic evaluation of students, a no-fail policy is needed,” said Shah.
Principals said while the no-fail policy was a noble initiative because it aimed to remove the fear of exams from students’ minds, it cannot be restricted to Class 8 alone. “We need to think about what will happen to these students once they reach Class 9 and 10,” said Shubhadra Shenoy, principal, Shishuvan School, Matunga. “We have to prepare students to face competition in the world.”
Vinod Tawde, education minister, who attended the event as a chief guest, said school exams need to encourage students to think out of the box. “Currently, schools are only teaching students to think in one way, which they think is right,” said Tawde. “We need to have exams in which creative thinking is celebrated.”
In higher classes, the government can introduce subjects with varying difficulty levels on the lines of the international boards so that students do not fail in exams, said principals. “In international exams, children have three options for every subject and they can choose as per their capability,” said Vandana Lulla, director of Podar International Group of Schools.
Experts also said the evaluation should also look beyond the academic abilities of the students. Soumya Bhattacharya, editor, Hindustan Times, Mumbai, said, “The city’s top schools teach not merely the curriculum, they make her [student] into a fine human being.” Bhattacharya said HT Top Schools has become a fixture in the organisation’s calendar and aims to honour the work of teachers and principals.