When the human resource development ministry opted for the system of automatic promotion to school students till Class VIII under the Right to Education Act, it probably had an ideal academic atmosphere in mind at the pre-college level. It was believed that the students would be guided though the lower classes by well-qualified, dedicated teachers till they sat for the first real competitive test in Class IX. The idea was to avoid the burden of heavy school bags and enable the tender minds to gradually become acquainted with the various subjects instead of having to prepare for examinations two or three times in a year from Class I onwards.
What the ministry overlooked was the mundane fact that schools in India, especially the relatively inexpensive ones run by the government, were hardly the sylvan groves of academe where the emphasis was on developing both the mind and the body. A large majority of them had poorly trained teachers who had drifted into the profession despite the poor pay as they had nowhere else to go. As a result, the continuous evaluation tests mandated by the Act have not been noticeably successful.
As the students grew older, they were more interested in skipping classes than in studying in classrooms or libraries or at home. The absence of examinations made such truancy all the easier till the Class IX tests made them realise their folly. A parliamentary committee has asked the ministry, therefore, to reconsider the policy of automatic promotions if only because some of the parents are transferring their children to private schools because of the decline in their learning abilities. A middle ground has to be found, therefore, between the earlier practice which put excessive academic pressure on the students and the present no-tests routine where Class VII and VIII students cannot do simple arithmetic.