The Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recently invited comments on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017. An amendment is sought to be made to Section 16 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which prohibits schools from holding back or expelling any student till they have completed an elementary level of education i.e. grade 8. Through this amendment, this prohibition on holding back and expelling (popularly known as the No Detention Policy) will be partially done away with.
Currently, students up to grade 8 are evaluated through a system of ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’ and cannot be made to repeat a grade. If this section is amended, schools will be required to conduct exams for students in grades 5 and 8. If they fail this exam, they will be given additional instruction and required to give a re-examination within two months of the results being declared. If they fail this re-examination, states must frame rules/guidelines to prescribe whether they will be held back in the same grade. However, they will still be prohibited from expelling students.
Based on a survey of available data on educational indicators (including drop-out rates, retention rates, transition rates and learning outcomes), we found that there is no clear evidence to show that the No Detention Policy has caused a deterioration in education outcomes. Any such deterioration may be attributed to a variety of factors, including high student-teacher ratios and insufficient school infrastructure. We therefore recommend that no amendment should be made to the provision unless rigorous evidence is available on the impact of the No Detention Policy. If such an amendment is to be made, it must be based on the research findings of the National and State Advisory Councils. Further, it must contain sufficient safeguards: a sunset clause, a prohibition on the use of terms such as ‘pass’ and ‘fail’, and must be accompanied by detailed detention regulations.