It may appear a bit curious when Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar says learning outcomes from Class I to Class VIII will be defi ned in the Right to Education Act (RTE). He made this statement while addressing a seminar at Coimbatore on Saturday. The question that will naturally arise in the minds of people is whether the Act did not have such a defi nition. The bitter truth is that such outcomes were not defi ned since the Act came into force.
The primary aim of the Act was to universalise school education and to prevent the high drop-out rate in schools. Figures suggest that the new policy has achieved the objective to a large extent. One of the major drawbacks of the policy was that in the government’s overenthusiasm to minimise the drop-out rate, students were compulsorily promoted so much so that a large number of students reached the matriculation stage without suffi cient grounding in any subject. The policy was changed to allow some detention in Class VIII but its basic fl aw still remains. Every year Pratham, an NGO active in the education sector, has been publishing a report on the state of education.
A constant refrain of the reports is that an average Class V student is unable to read the textbooks prescribed for Class II and do simple arithmetic. It is easy to ascertain what will happen to such a student if he is promoted eventually to Class VIII. He will leave school without equipping himself to face the world. Since millions of students leave the education system in this manner, it amounts to a huge criminal wastage of time and resources. This can be tackled if after every class, the student is evaluated and promoted. The present system doesn’t allow evaluation of the teachers’ performance, which is equally important. Ideally, no student should leave school without acquiring the necessary knowledge. The reforms being attempted in the RTE will hopefully address this problem.