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No-detention policy with parent clause

Pass or fail in examinations will soon cease to matter for annual promotions till Class VIII in ICSE schools, prompting many institutions to put the onus of detaining “academically weak” students in a particular class on their parents.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) is to soon issue a directive to the 400-odd ICSE schools in Calcutta and the districts, asking them not to detain any student till Class VIII. As of now, the only thing that can stall the directive is a legal contraindication.

“We have sought legal opinion to confirm the role of the CISCE in the implementation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. We will issue a circular to the schools on the no-detention policy as soon as we receive the green signal,” said Gerry Arathoon, the additional secretary and officiating chief executive of the central board.

Some of the city’s top schools are under the ICSE banner and each of these institutions rigorously screens students through annual examinations to ensure that academic standards are not compromised.

“There has not been a single failure from our institution in the ICSE examination over the past many years. Among other factors, detaining academically weak students in Class VIII has helped us to maintain a 100 per cent success rate. It will be difficult for us to do that if everyone needs to be promoted, irrespective of performance,” the principal of a south Calcutta school said.

Whether the CISCE issues a circular or not, detaining students ceased to be an option in Bengal the day the state cabinet adopted Clause (16) of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which states that no child should be held back in any class or expelled from a school till the completion of his or her elementary education.

The principals of some ICSE schools in the city apparently wrote to the CISCE immediately after the cabinet decision, seeking its opinion on whether the no-detention policy was binding on them.

Some schools have already chosen the middle path to maintain academic standards in their institutions without being seen as violating the law.

“Under the old system, a student who hadn’t fared well in examinations would be detained for an extra year to give him or her the opportunity to improve. Now that we can’t detain a child, we will only mention on the report card of an unsuccessful student that he/she should ideally repeat that class. We will leave it to the parents to take the final decision,” said Nabarun Dey, the principal of Central Modern School and general secretary of the Association of Heads of ICSE Schools.

Teachers fear that a large number of students might fail to clear the Class IX examinations after getting promoted year after year till Class VIII because of the no-detention diktat.

“The no-detention policy till Class VIII is a potential bottleneck for Class IX. We need to evolve a suitable methodology to ensure that every student gets proper attention in class and the slow learners get special attention,” said Terence Ireland, the principal of St James’ School.

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