Should Students be Detained?


“The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) has decided to constitute a committee to revisit the ‘no detention’ provision under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009,” says a newspaper report today [The Hindu, June 8, 2012]. 

Should free and compulsory education mean un-assessed education?  Is assessment a bad thing?  Is it necessary or even good to promote all students up to class 8?

Before I proceed with the answers, let me point out that ‘all promotion’ has, in practice, been extended to class 10 along with the implementation of what is called CCE (Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation).  In March 2011, when the first batch of CBSE’s CCE students appeared for their class 10 Board exams they were given the option to write the exams either internally (in their own schools) or externally (at centres offered by the Board).  Those students who did their exams ‘internally’ would have their answer sheets evaluated by their own teachers.  Many students opted for the internal exam assuming that their teachers would be very generous.  I know of one school at least which detained about ten students in the internal exam.  When the result was sent by the school to CBSE, the Board returned it asking the school to promote all those students.  The students were promoted.  CBSE gave them mark sheets accordingly.  But all those students fared miserably in class 11 and in March 2012 they failed to secure even ten percent marks in class 11.

This episode carries an important lesson.  If you push somebody up the tree, he/she will fall down the moment your supportive push is removed. 

The ‘all promotion’ policy does not really ensure the welfare of the students.  On the contrary, it prompts the students to take the potentially dangerous view of life as a smooth process.

Life is never a smooth sail.  Imagine yourself in a raft that is flowing smoothly over a gently flowing river.  You have nothing to do but relax; the raft just follows the current.  You fall asleep because you have nothing else to do, unless the view of the riverside can keep you enchanted and awake.  While you are asleep, the river springs a surprise.  A boulder appears.  Your raft runs straight into it…

I view assessments as the small obstacles and problems that the river should offer in the course of our rafting so that we remain alert and learn (and enjoy) the skills of real sailing.  

Is our education system doing any service to the students by removing that tool called assessment (test, examination, or whatever else one may call it)? 

Assessment enables one to know where one stands, how much one has mastered the skills necessary for life.  It also acts as a motivation for those who are not naturally motivated to master the skills.  It offers challenges.  It can be an adventure; it can be fun; it can be entertainment…

Why it should be viewed as a burden or obstacle is beyond my understanding.  Isn’t it better to keep back the raft until one masters the basic skills of rafting than let him/her take the risk of perishing in the river?

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7 Responses to Should Students be Detained?

  1. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    I am not for “No assessment”. But, I am also not for the kind of “exclsuively exam” based assessment. I don’t know what it could be.


    • matheikal says:

      Raghuram, CCE has already replaced the exclusively exam-based assessment with a system that assesses a student’s abilities in various fields like sports, arts, music, etc. Every skill revealed by a student is awarded marks. But Indians have a way of misusing everything. This system is being misused to award marks freely to undeserving students just to make them pass. Even the Board encourages teachers to do that!

      Systems fail to work in our country… tha’s the main problem.

      Exams, written or oral or even practical, need not be a bad thing at all. In fact, they can be made highly effective if we want. But who wants it?

      • Raghuram Ekambaram says:

        This is a long standing suggestion from me. It is easy to recommend to make mugging not remunerative in exams, but I have never heard anyone (except me) say how it can be done .

        In the olden days, when we used FORTRAN language in engineering computing, we had different formats for printing data (inputs and results) and one of them was format-free that merely gets the number out of the computer with no structure.

        If the students do not know what will be the format of the exam – how many two mark questions, how many five mark questions, how many essay type questions, whether there will be any multiple-choice questions, whether there will be any that are not multiple-choice type at all , leave out some sections but without any hint as to what will be left out (no patterns and for all purposes random), any permutation / combination of all these – what can the students do except STUDY THE SUBJECT and damn the exam paper?

        Ask your students. They will dread this suggestion. Ask them why they are afraid? And, they will not be able to give a cogent answer. The only reason will be students are afraid of uncertainty. Now, the only way to respond to uncertainty is to encircle it! This is the source of their fear.

        I will be the first one to say that devising such a system will be difficult and keeping bias out is more so. But, in the interest of wholesome education will the educator community not be welcome to the suggestion and try to make it work? Or, they are happy in merely mouthing what should be and doing nothing about it?


  2. d.Nambiar says:

    I think I agree with you on this. If I’d been asked this question a few years ago, I’d have disagreed. What I see now is that the system that we went through works for our country/countrymen.

    Our schools might be tough. But yes, it does make us tough too — to fight our way through higher education. And that, I believe is the reason why Indians impress the rest of the world, today.

    ‘If you push somebody up the tree, he/she will fall down the moment your supportive push is removed,’ makes sense to me — totally.

    • matheikal says:

      DN, we may end up going back to that old system in toto. Sometimes the traditional methods turn out to be classical!

      I’m for retaining the traditional system with modifications. The way we conduct the exams should change. It should not encourage mugging up. Exams should check the actual assimilation of knowledge and skills.

  3. makpossible says:

    Sir, after reading this post last week i happened to meet a boy who was in grade 10. I did ask him this question and his answer was NO. Students must be put to test was his words.

    • matheikal says:

      That’s good news, Mak. Even in my school quite a few students of class 10 opted for the external exam. That’s a good sign. If students become aware of the need for regular assessment, they will take it seriously and it will do them good.

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