NEW DELHI: In an important development, the Lok Sabha passed a Bill to amend the Right To Education Act, allowing states to detain children in Class 5 or Class 8, or both.
Earlier, schools could not detain or make any child repeat a class until Class 8. The amendment, to Section 16 of the Act, takes away the important “no detention policy” which was enforced in 2010.
Now, if a child fails in the exam, he or she will be given additional instruction and made to take the re-examination. If the child fails again in the re-examination, the government will decide on whether to promote or fail the child.
While moving the bill in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said the policy had been brought as it was felt that compelling children to repeat a class was demotivating, often forcing them to abandon school.
This amendment has been in the centre of the public eye for a few years now. Activists and educationists argue that diluting the bill will lead to further changes in the Right to Education Act, which is a fundamental right.
“Some argue that automatic promotion reduces incentive for children to learn and for teachers to teach. Others argue that detaining a child leads to dropouts and does not focus on the systemic factors that affect learning such as quality of teachers, schools, and assessment,” writes PRS Legislative research, an organisation tracking the functioning of Parliament.
Replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (second amendment) Bill, 2017, Javadekar said that it will be at the discretion of the states whether to continue with no detention or not.
The states, he said, will decide at what level and who will conduct the examination, the minister said.
"It is a broken education system. We have to rebuild our education system," he added.
Teacher training, quality and accountability are also important, said the minister.
While moving the bill in the Lok Sabha, the minister said, "It is a very important legislation and a majority of state governments supported this Centre's proposal. It brings accountability in our elementary education system."
Referring to the no-detention policy in the Act, the Minister said "schools have become only schools for mid-day meal as education and learning are missing".
"The education system is like an inverted pyramid and adequate focus has not been given to primary education," he said.
Though the Bill has been passed, it is still unclear as to who will conduct the examination (which may lead to detention): centre or the school.
"This bill needs clarity. It should be clarified that whether the Centre or the states will conduct the exams," said Congress MP KC Venugopal.