The biggest disservice a teacher can do to a student is to make him or her anything less than a ‘good student’. Any worthy teacher will be able to define what a ‘good student’ means. The fact that a student is a child, a minor, means that she cannot help herself but needs outside help as well as a different kind of motivation to stay put in the class and the school. A teacher has the moral responsibility of shaping up the soft clay under his aegis into a wonderful piece of art that may one day inspire another generation of art and artists decades later. The contribution has to be holistic and empowering that meaningfully transcends mere bookish knowledge, the one that touches all aspects of life and persona of the students.
The current noise around the No-detention policy is equivocal, some people advocating its continuation while an equal number against it. Well we have seen the policy in action in the last eight years and also have a great deal of results such as learning levels, comprehension and numerical abilities to measure its performance efficacy. Are we any better today than what we started with? The yearly ritual of collating and filing the ASER (Annual Status on education report) has a lot many insights to stun the erudite who favour the NDP. The report paints a very pessimistic view of the progress that our students are making after the implementation of the NDP. It tells us that the learning levels have plunged deep down the valley and there is a very little or no hope of recovery under the existing policy. I will present a fair case supporting the downfall of the policy. If majority of students are unable to acquire knowledge that is contained in the prescribed books for a particular class, enhance or hone existing skills and create new ones, the purpose of education is lost. Painfully, the duration of schooling, which spans almost fourteen years, is long enough for it all to go waste without an iota of improvement or acquisition of new skills. Some people who are for the NDP are confusing the issue. They think making a child burn midnight oil (in taking tests) is a kind of punishment and an act of thorough thoughtlessness on part of those who advocate NDP to go. My submission is that by removing the NDP we are not punishing the student, on the contrary, we are helping her to learn the essential and critical lesson about ‘how to acquire knowledge’. There is only one way, the hard and painful way. Can we counsel a student to study less and no more since it tires her? Unless there is some element of slightest of fear of failure, the mind wanders and gets distracted. To prove my point, I urge you to put yourself to the test. Reading morning newspaper is an activity most of us do without a forethought, almost perfunctorily. Can you recall just five news items you read in yesterday’s newspaper? I am sure most of you would fail miserably. As an adult, we should be even more skilful at remembering what we read in the morning newspaper than a student of class 7. Still we can’t recall what we read yesterday. If you read with a purpose (either of acquiring knowledge or taking a test) the mind becomes more alert and efficient at handling what is being read.
The fear of failure in exam makes a student read books carefully and seriously, maintain class notes, ask questions, clarify doubts, take less leaves, go into the details of the topic or a subject and grasp even the finer details. This is what we call active learning which makes a student retain the knowledge over a longer duration of time. Such knowledge becomes ingrained and can be relied upon in times of need in practical life situations as well. After all, a student derives strength and inspiration from superior performance and not from thin air. Give an opportunity to the students to take test and showcase their results and revel in their personal achievements.
There are some more reasons why NDP should go restricting it till class 5. Under the NDP, students scoring low grades while remaining in the next or higher class, make the batch of students less homogeneous. In a heterogeneous batch, the teacher has difficulty teaching the entire class together since fast and slow learners are seated together. The fast learners become dissatisfied with the slow pace of instructions and slow learners are not able to cope with the high pace with a result that a teacher becomes less effective. The second argument is that the top and average performers who could have become even better with some extra efforts find no incentive to do so. Therefore, there is general deterioration in the quality of learning and education with a result that the average class marks take the hit suggesting ‘the group’ as a whole under performs.
Saying it is the failure of our system for poor performance of the students in the current policy of NDP could well turn out to be the greatest joke with the lives of millions of students since they are doomed to remain mediocre. All round failure of students, as confirmed by dipping levels of reading and comprehension skills, is a reality that no one can argue about. Do we still want to carry the NDP and expect to empower the students? The NDP has already done a lot of damage as is evident from poor performance of students which is not showing signs of improvement. The ultimate truth is that even if we retain the NDP, as proposed by the zealous lot, the students are the ultimate sufferers. Without taking tests and scoring decent grades, the fundamentals of the subject may not have been grasped well. With poor subject fundamentals, the foundation remains week, they do not feel confident in picking up subjects of their choice in class 11 rather choice is exercised by default. Among the variety of reasons cited by students while making a choice of stream or subjects of study are ‘can’t study physics, therefore science is out of question’ or ‘can’t study maths therefore science and commerce (with maths) is out’. The first casualty will be those streams of study namely science – medical and non-medical, that rely heavily on such conceptual and fundamental knowledge. Therefore, students have no choice than to pick up other streams (though these are still their own very choice).
But my point is, did we make the students understand the intricate concepts through hard work and practice them too. Only when they have grasped the concepts in maths and science in lower classes, we ask them to express their choice of subjects in class 11? Unless it happens, when they grow as adults, they will remain mediocre performers in their professional careers too. By any measure, the day is reasonably far away when the system will improve and the teachers will make a ‘bigger than life’ contribution in the child’s learning and success. Till such time, the imperfections of the system should not be allowed to take a toll on learning levels of our young ones. We should let the NDP go (restricted till class 5) if we want to make our children improve, grow and prosper.
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