Advait Vartak, a Class 8 student of Parle Tilak English Medium School, Vile Parle, will soon cut down on his extra-curricular activities and start attending coaching classes.
Having had no pressure to pass an exam for the last two years, Vartak will now have to prepare for a more rigorous routine in Class 9.
In 2010, the Right to Education (RTE) Act stated that no child could be held back in any class or expelled from school till Class 8. However, principals, teachers and parents are unanimous in their opinion that this no-fail clause has done students more harm than good.
“Children take academics lightly for a good part of their education and are then suddenly expected to come back on track after Class 8,” said Sangeeta Dumane, teacher at Kapol Vidyanidhi International School, Kandivli. “There are serious gaps in their understanding of basic concepts and the burden falls on the teachers to ensure that the school has a 100% pass record for the board exams.”
“By stressing on the fact that students cannot be failed, the Act is only encouraging students to take academics lightly,” said Abha Dharampal, principal, Utpal Sanghvi School, Juhu, who thinks that the no-fail policy was implemented hastily.
While students can breeze through their studies till Class 8, many find it difficult to cope with the academic pressure ahead. “I will now have to put in more hours every day to study,” said Vartak, who has had to give up his cricket coaching to make time for academics.
School counsellors are now dealing with regular cases of Class 9 students showing symptoms of ‘exam fear’. “Every week, I have at least two children from the higher classes complaining of headache and nausea,” said Shilpa Sharma, counselling psychologist, St Francis D’Assisi High School and Junior College, Borivli. “The transition is tougher for the weaker students and in addition to remedial classes, they have to be given motivational and self-development therapy.”
Parents are dismissive of the policy, too. “It is on the basis of the child’s performance in a subject that the parent can direct him towards a particular career,” said Meera Nair, whose son studies at Vibgyor High School, Goregaon. “We can’t let our children take their formative years lightly since they will have to appear for so many competitive exams later in life.”