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Law Ministry clears HRD move on no-detention rule up to Class 6

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THE LAW Ministry has approved a proposal by the HRD Ministry to revise the “no-detention policy” and implement the pass-fail system from Class VI in schools across the country, The Indian Express has learnt.

In a note sent to the HRD Ministry, the Law Ministry has endorsed the amendments needed to the Right To Education (RTE) Act to implement the change — under the current no-detention policy, all students are promoted to the next grade up to Class VIII.

The Law Ministry’s note has also recommended that the HRD Ministry should have a draft Bill prepared through the legislative department for amending the RTE Act.

The no-fail provision has been laid down under Section 16 of the RTE Act and prohibits schools from detaining or expelling any student up to Class VIII, until the completion of elementary education. Compelling children to repeat a class, it was felt, was demotivating, often forcing them to abandon school.

In 2012, the HRD Ministry had stated: “The ‘no detention’ provision is made because examinations are often used for eliminating children who obtain poor marks. Once declared ‘fail’, children either repeat grade or leave the school altogether. Compelling a child to repeat a class is demotivating and discouraging.”

In 2015, a panel constituted by the Ministry preferred a review of the no-detention policy following appeals by various states that wanted to revive the pass-fail system. The panel underlined the negative impact of the no-detention policy on the academic performance of students, and took into account concerns raised by state governments over huge failure rates in Class IX when children had to appear for exams.

Subsequently, the Ministry moved to amend the RTE Act to revive the pass-fail system from Class VI. Since this required changes in the relevant law, the HRD Ministry wrote to the Law Ministry, raising queries over amending Section 16 of the Act.

In its letter, the HRD Ministry pointed out that the relaxation under Section 16 had adverse consequences since children were becoming undisciplined without the fear of failing, which was affecting the quality of their education.

The proposed amendment in the Act by the HRD Ministry states that “no child in school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till completion of Class V”. Section 16, as it stands today, provides for no detention “till the completion of elementary education”.

In its note, the Law Ministry said that “there appears to be no objection” to this amendment since it is related to a matter of policy. It also approved inserting a sub-clause in Section 38 of the Act to empower “appropriate governments” make specific rules for implementation.

But the Law Ministry has red-flagged one proposal by the HRD Ministry — to authorise an appropriate government-designate officer at the block level to maintain the record of every child detained, and other details relating to the head of the school and teachers.

The Law Ministry noted that the RTE Act did not define or provide for a “block-level officer” for the purpose while Section 24(d) of the Act mandated teachers to asses the learning ability of children.

“In the proposed formulation, a block-level officer is designated to discharge the function of teachers. It is not clear as to whether proposition of entrustment of duties of teacher to a block-level officer is as per recommendations of sub-committees and what is the objective, which is desired to be achieved,” states the Law Ministry’s note.

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