‘No detention policy’ a litmus test for Govt run schools

Srinagar: Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar’s , instructions to  educational institutions to do away with the practice of barring the students from appearing in 10th and 12th class examinations by screening through the dreaded ‘Golden Test has put life into the rule for no detention policy on the basis of soi-disant ‘Golden Test’. Through this instruction,  the Minister for Education, has given voice to the pleas of deprived students who were compelled to appear as private candidates for  board exams.

The order from the minister came when almost every high school across the Kashmir valley had gone through the  sieving process of students by using the ill-famed Golden Test. The Golden test instead of being used  merely a preparatory test to check the preparation of the students for the board exams was used as a strainer which put the educational trajectory of many students in jeopardy.

 Although most schools have started implementing orders of the minister but there are a slew of institutes which are reluctant to follow the norm. Also, most of the institutes are yet to receive the circular issued for the no detention policy on the basis Golden Test.

It is noteworthy fact that the malpractice of conduction of Golden test came into spotlight this year following the mass promotion up to 9th and 11th class. The decision was taken in view of the large number of educational institutions being closed down due to unprecedented floods and heavy rain fall in September, 2014, particularly in the Kashmir Division and winter zone of Jammu Division. The screening for private and regular candidates which used to take place in 9th and 11th classes took on conduction of Golden Test this year bringing the malpractice into the limelight.

When this reporter spoke to some in-service and retired teachers to understand  the reality of the  sorting process of students none among them agreed to talk on record. However, off record they shared some interesting ideas and insights  about the screening procedure. “Earlier, students were being promoted from 9th to class 10th on basis of presumptions of teachers. Class 9th and 11th acted as checkpoints and only those students were admitted as regular candidates to following classes who teachers assumed would perform well in the board exams.” said a High School teacher.

Explaining further, he said “we would make a rough result for class 9th and call the parents of the students telling them either their ward has to repeat the same class or appear in class 10th exam as a private candidate,” said a teacher wishing anonymity.

Extrapolating from the past, despite  conducting Screening tests of  students, government schools are showing poor results. As per official records, in  the 2014 session ,  71 out of 1040 government schools managed 100 percent pass percentage while as 27 Govt. schools recorded zero pass percentage in class X. Usually, in such conditions, the department stops the increment of school teachers. This was responsible for generating perverse incentives amongst teachers.  “The process of screening is aimed to show better results in board exams in order to get increment in the salary,” said a retired headmaster who said he did not want to stand against his fraternity by disclosing his name.

“The government schools usually bear the brunt of teaching below average students who don’t even posses basic learning skills and are likelier to fail in the board exams and the teachers in order to save their skin are prompted to go for screening tests,” said the retired headmaster.

“The rule for no detention of students on the basis of Golden Test performance is the not a novel one. It has been there in the rule books of education department since ages but it was scarcely implemented on ground level,” the retired headmaster added.

 For students appearing in board exams as private candidates is  the first step to failure. “Appearing for the board exams as a private candidate is always discouraging; it considerably brings down the confidence of the student,” said a high-school student Zahid Farooq Khan.“On the ladder of the failure, being a private candidate is the first step as it gives a feeling of segregation and disapproval,” said Zahid.

Some teachers also blamed parents for their negligence in supervising their children, “We hardly get any response from the parents when they are communicated about the weaknesses and non seriousness of their children in the studies,” said a teacher.

“The communication gap between the teachers and the parents is the main reason for the underperformance of their children,” the teacher added.

“It is easy to blame the students for their nonperformance but one should also look into  the deplorable conditions under which they are supposed to acquire knowledge. Think of children who study in schools with absentee and unqualified teachers, no electricity, not even drinking water and toilets. How could they be expected to stand on equal footing with those who take education in private schools with qualified and right teacher-taught ratio,” said Jasmeen Akhtar a lecturer who teaches at a B.ed College in Baramulla.

Many people expressed dismay over the non seriousness of the government teachers towards their students. “Most of the government teachers are teaching at private tuition centers where they are providing quality education to the students but don't give their best to their classes in the schools,” said Tanvir Ahmad whose daughter is admitted in a Government school.

“Most  teachers do an 'all-nighter' to prepare lessons for the private tuitions but they don’t have time for the pupil at schools,” he added.

Now if the rule gets implemented on the ground level,  the school authorities will lose the choice of picking up the best lot to show the wanting results and it will be a litmus test for the government run schools which will bring forth the quality of the education imparted by the teachers. Also, it will propel the teachers to work on the students who were left at the mercy of private examination for their own welfare.

The education department should also ensure that extra classes are conducted by the teachers in government schools for students who are lacking at certain levels. 

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