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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Abraham

No Child’s Play…

Why the concept of promotions till Standard 8 won’t work...

The article first appeared on Progressive Indians For Change [ ]

It is a rare moment when both the Government and the Opposition support a Bill in unison. Hence, it was a welcome change to witness an intelligent debate on the Right to Education to Bill this Parliament session. Apart from some valuable comments and deliberations made, an important issue raised was the Government’s resolution to promote all students till Standard 8. I too share the concern of those Members of Parliament who are of the view that the decision to promote all students till standard 8 will prove detrimental to the quality of education and the quality of the students which will ultimately affect the overall output that the country will have to deal with a decade from now. To establish my case I will not resort to statistics and inconsequential rants but instead adopt a more objective and scientific approach. None can understand a child like a Psychologist can. Hence the aim today is to give you a more balanced view as to why a student cannot possibly thrive in this environ. Freud defines a child as, “The human infant is a striving organism with but limited capacities for satisfying of needs.” Emphasise on the words ‘striving organism’. A child in poetry has been metaphorically compared to wet mud and clay that can be moulded and shaped, a clear implication that each one must start from point zero. Thus, there is no specific mathematical equation or set blue- print for the development of an infant. In India, unfortunately we expect the blue- print nonetheless. There is extreme dependency on educational procedures which enjoys better reception rather than the holistic approach towards learning. As teachers, the two important questions come up in Child Psychology are: 1. What is the lowest maturational level at which a child can successfully acquire a skill? 2. Should a particular learning situation be immediately introduced as soon as the child is ready for it or should it be delayed in favour of another learning situation that will better promote his present and long term psychological adjustment? Human infants grow and develop rapidly which is why these questions are essential while dealing with students especially in their ‘Formative’ years. In the current case the latter is of essence. Having said that, now apply these two questions practically. In an ordinary scenario, the ideal division of labour would be a combination of the policy makers, and educational philosophers to prepare a proposed outline of the curriculum. This is later practically implemented in the form of lesson plans that the Teacher prepares keeping in mind the immediate and long term needs of the student every year. A child is dependent on various extraneous factors to take his first steps in learning and hence the quality of the syllabus, attitude of the parent and teacher all play equally important roles. Now take a hypothetical situation where students Y and Z are asked to study the Alphabet and Arithmetic. In due course of time it is made amply clear that there is a visible disinclination for Y towards Arithmetic and Z has distaste for Alphabet. Ordinarily, an under-performer would have the Teacher guide him/her through this problem and IF all fails the child is kept back and asked to repeat the year not to demean or kill his/her confidence but instead to challenge him/her to be a better performer. However, now we are at a stage where the child and the previously neurotic parent are relaxed because they are aware that demotion is not on the Agenda. The teacher may or may not try to boost the child to overcome this impediment because she does not feel the need to. The measurement of anxiety is visibly declined but at what cost? The student’s basic foundation of learning is completely wobbly and chances are that the poor child will not realise his deficiency till he reaches standard eight where he is in for a rude shock. Suddenly he is exposed to the fact that he has not been responsive to the classroom training and there is in fact no one to blame. The entire idea of the system of education for imparting knowledge is lost along the way simply because the student has not been encouraged to work on his strengths and weaknesses thus directly affecting his Creativity and Expression which is a permanent damage for overall growth. The point I am driving at is that the ‘Quality’ education that we are aiming at cannot be achieved without a substantive base. And this base lies in the concept of Promotion and Demotion. The elementary school child’s development has a long term effect on his entire life. All children go through a number of stages but there are differences between children within each stage. There are also differences in the length of time it takes for children to move from stage to stage. On this backdrop the concept of ‘blind- promotions’ is bound to hinder the Education process. Here I introduce the point that a socially mature child’s growth and development may not be stunted in either of the situations described above. However, in a land with a population of 1.2 billion people not everyone who makes it to school has a social, economic or personal background that allows him to mature at the same rate. Another major impediment is the practicality of the application of this policy with slow learners. For slow learners the ‘No demotion till standard 8’ may come as a relief but the more important question is, for how long? It is essential to understand that the ‘maturation’ variable is extremely important when dealing with the experiments dealing with child- development. It sets the ultimate limits of achievement and determines the rate of learning and acculturation. A systematic analysis of the situation will give you a clear picture that a child’s adequacy in terms of Knowledge and Advancement is severely hampered if he does not know his own strengths and weaknesses. One can only progress when one is given sufficient time to work on personal limitations. With the blind promotions you are hampering the student’s development psychologically for the sake of a policy that is but an experiment. Before I conclude I stress on the need on the need for two important additions to the current system; firstly, the need for more child psychologist teams to work with the Education Department. Secondly, it will be appreciated if the curriculum prescribed is a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical application rather than one solely based on textbook rote learning. Maturation and learning are inextricably inter- woven. An Educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to evade the basics and focus on it in a later stage of his or her life where chances are higher that the yearning for knowledge will have perished. In conclusion I quote Peter Marshall who wrote, "Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything." We must ensure that the idea of ‘Knowledge for all’ is the essence of the rubric of the education system. With the introduction of this No-Failing/ Blind promotion policy one can only envision a Mirage of Quality Education and nothing more.

Image Credits: Aikaterina Photography. Copyright Protected

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