New Delhi: The country's premier advisory body on education on Wednesday strongly favoured revocation of no-detention policy up to class VIII and bringing back class X board exams but the government seemed in no hurry to implement them as it asked the states to present their views in writing.
The newly reconstituted Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), in a day long meeting, unanimously resolved for re-introduction of classes promotions in keeping with the recommendations of a CABE sub-committee report, contending the no-detention policy has adversely affected learning outcome.
However, HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who chaired the meeting, stuck a cautious note saying her ministry will take a "comprehensive view" only after receiving the formal writings from the states.
"All the state Education ministers unanimously appealed to revoke it (the policy). But all should give us in writing within 15 days to a month," she said, cautioning that any speculations right now will only give rise to confusion among students.
The decision, if implemented, could take it own course to be put in place as Parliament would then have to amend the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act.
Both the no-detention policy and making class X board exams optional were introduced after the enactment of the Act in 2010.
Irani replied in affirmative when asked if class X board exams would be brought back if the no-detention policy is scrapped.
"This is a part of the whole approach. One can't have a piecemeal approach. One has to have a holistic approach," she told reporters here.
Sources though said the CABE agenda did not include discussions on the class X examinations as the deliberations largely centered around bringing back class promotions up to class VIII.
The sub-committee report on no-detention, which was prepared under the then Haryana education minister Geeta Bukkal during the UPA government had favoured review of the policy, concerned over the dwindling educational standards.
"We need to stop, re-assess and then move forward. At this stage, it would be prudent to reiterate the need for assessment of the learning outcomes and make it consequential by linking it to promotion or otherwise to the next class beyond grade 5," the committee had said in its report.
A few states have already repealed the policy, which had come into effect with the implementation of RTE by bringing in necessary amendments to the state rules.
According to a government statement, there was a broad consensus at the meeting, with the state governments being "unequivocal" in suggesting that the no-detention policy be "revoked".
"Education ministers, representing the states and CABE members unanimously agreed on the need to do so. However, the government proposed that the state government should formally provide their views in writing within 15 days to the HRD Ministry which would consider the next steps, based on these recommendations," the statement said.
The meeting was attended by 19 Education ministers, officials from 29 states and heads of autonomous bodies besides nominated CABE members who include distinguished peoples from different disciplines.
The meeting did not arrive on a consensus on the much debated move to extend RTE up to class X and down to the pre-school level (nursery).
"A subcommittee was formed in 2012 to consider the proposal. It has not completed its work. Since it has not completed its work, state representatives present today demanded to reconstitute the subcommittee. It won?t be apt to comment on the same right now," she said.
The CABE meeting had a lengthy deliberation on the proposed new national education policy and emphasis was laid on finishing the first draft by the year end.
"The consultation process has begun in many states under the new education policy. It was expressed that the entire process be completed at regional-level so that representatives of Centre and states discuss at least first draft (of the policy) at national level in November. So that the first draft is prepared/finalised in December," she said.
The Minister would be travelling across the country in September to continue a process of two-way engagement and dialogue.
Coming back on the vexed no-detention policy, Irani said views were also expressed by the Bihar Education minister P K Shahi who was part of the sub-committee and shared his experience on how the policy was affecting the students ability to learn and concerns expressed by both parents and teachers as well as students.
States also presented their views on reducing the weight of the school bags as the issue had a direct bearing with the mental and physical aspect of the little ones.
"There are best practices followed in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. They shared with us how they reduced weight of books semester wise. Some people rightly though that there is need to change teaching methodology. Some states felt students take reference books, which need to be stopped.
"So, after this general discussion, we have decided we will send a template to all states which should tell us what template or guidelines they are going to prepare so that students get relief," the HRD Minister said.
It was decided that a special meeting to discuss about teaching, teacher training and recruitment will be held by the HRD Ministry with state ministers in early October.
Asked about charges of saffronisation of education, Irani said as a minister, she has received consensus from from parties across the spectrum on matters of education policy or on bills.
"We don?t want to engage in politics in education sector. Hence, whoever kept his/her views before us, I did not look at it from political point of view.
"And I insist, be it my discussion with Education ministers irrespective of which parties they belong to, or discussion on bills related to education in Parliament, I have only experienced consensus during the past one or one-and-half year," she said.