Class war

R Srinivasan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on November 21, 2014

The axing of the Class X Board exams is probably the best thing Smriti Irani’s predecessor Kapil Sibal did during his term in office.   -  The Hindu

The Government should first get the basics right in education

Perhaps because she was unfairly targeted for her lack of educational qualifications at the start of her tenure, Education Minister Smriti Zubin Irani’s subsequent actions — some downright bizarre — have gone virtually unremarked upon. This may well have given her, and her government, a sense that there is popular endorsement for their actions.

Which would be quite far from reality. While the education sector in India is indeed in need of drastic reform at the moment, what it definitely does not need is the kind of marginal tinkering that the HRD ministry has chosen to focus on. Unfortunately, with the Opposition in disarray, and a politicised and politically divided academia both unwilling and unable to come up with a coherent response, there has been no debate, or attempt at consensus formation, before sweeping decisions affecting the lives of lakhs of students are taken.

Virtually the very first action of her Ministry was to bring back the three-year degree programme in Delhi University, one of the country’s premier academic institutions. A case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if there ever was one, since the only thing wrong with the four-year programme was its content, which was eminently correctible.

Then there was this quixotic decision to stop teaching German in government schools (though the shadowy group behind such decisions has threatened that private schools are next). Ramming Sanskrit and other Indian languages down the throats of school students is not the way to teach them appreciation of the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity, and axing foreign languages is definitely not the way to skill the workforce for a globalised tomorrow.

Now, there’s the plan to re-introduced board examinations in the 10th Standard, the axing of which was probably the best thing Irani’s predecessor Kapil Sibal did during his term in office. The system of continuous assessment and evaluation, if implemented correctly and sincerely, is far superior to an incredibly pressured Board exam which tests only rote learning and memory power. That this will be “preparation” for the 12th Standard exams is specious reasoning. Have we forgotten the incredible trauma experienced by millions of 16-year-olds, and indeed, the shameful incidents of child suicide brought about by exam stress, so quickly?

The way to regain India’s lost glory in learning is by focusing on getting the basics right, and improving quality all around, not by turning the clock back by rewriting text books and reviving pointless exams.

R Srinivasan, Senior Associate Editor

Published on November 21, 2014

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