The teacher has failed, not the child

By Prabhakar Timble
07 May 2011 11:36 IST


Pass upto Std. VIII bindaas!; All pass upto VIII!; No Examinations upto VIII!. Such headlines in the media convey a negative and regressive meaning of a very positive and much needed approach to education of children. The Times of India (Goa) has aptly titled “No fail policy comes into force in State”.

I got a phone call from my teacher colleague in the morning. He was worried about the future of education with such a policy. He was shooting query after query.

Does it mean no examination? Does it mean allowing copying in exam to enable all to clear? Are we moving to teacher-aided examination? Does it mean namesake examination? Is this not dilution of educational standards?

He went many steps further. Where is the need to teach? Where is the need to read and learn?

To my mind, it means nothing of the above. In simple terms, it is a no-fail approach to education of children. Children just cannot fail at least up till the middle school of education.

Basic education is the need of all. Basic education can be imbibed easily and naturally by everybody. I would say that it can be learnt even without going to school. Still, parents send children to school. They also engage them in tuitions. They supervise their studies and homework. They put all types of fear of future in the young minds. And yet the children fail.

Maybe 20% of parents may not be doing all this. That does not mean that even such children are so weak as to fail.

The main reason of failure is that teaching and learning is not done in a atmosphere of joy. The methodology of teaching is not conducive to learning. At the primary and middle level, it should be game and play methodology. The method if appropriate, the result cannot be any other except learning. If some children have fallen short to assimilate, it is either failure of methodology of teaching or failure of the examination system. I do not agree it is failure of the child.

When I buy a dozen cocoanuts at Rs. 10/- per piece, I expect all to be fit for use. If I find deficiency, I return and ask for replacement or refund of money. If I buy an electronic item and if it fails, I ask for replacement, refund or repair.

It is only in schools that we do not ask for repairs. The no fail policy assumes that the teacher and school to ensure that every child is made fit for that level of learning.  I would take this as a step demanding value for money spent from schools and teachers. Money may be invested by parents or by the government.

All children cannot be the same. It is natural to expect that the level of grasping and understanding of every child would be different. But, definitely all children have power to understand, grasp and learn. It is for the teacher to follow the appropriate method to ensure that all the children have grasped.

Examination is nothing but evaluation. It is to test the level of learning. It is also a method to get feedback on the gaps in learning. If a child has not reached the minimum expected level in evaluation why stamp the child as a failure? Most often, re-evaluation and supplementary test would enable the teacher to learn that child has grasped. It will also enable the teacher to understand the gap in learning so that teacher can reinforce the gap and evaluate once again.

Like many others, I have always felt that we have an examination system in place. We do not have an education system in place. We do not have appropriate methodologies of teaching to reach out to the level of the individual child. We mistake examination as education.

Examination is one method of teaching and learning. There is still potential to learn and face an evaluation without losing a year or dropping out from school. Why turn young assets into liabilities? Why make the potential winners as losers? Why make the otherwise successful into young failures of a uniform school curriculum?

The ages of 6 to 14 are formative years. They are the years when the mind of the child is on fire. It is parched and thirsty for learning anything new. It has the natural gift to absorb anything.

During these formative years, we have seen children working and earning livelihood for their families. We have seen them living on street without a roof. We have seen their creativeness in every small thing. We have seen the natural hunger to assimilate anything new. Those who naturally learn to earn, are they not able and fit for a school curriculum!!

The school walls are not iron bars of prison cages. The lively children are not criminals and under trials. Today, even in prisons the focus is on reformation and restoration. To condemn a child of 14 as a failure is to invite the gates of crime and prison to an adolescent. A dropout and a child stamped as a failure in the school is a fertile semen of crime. If a child fails, remember, it is the teacher who has failed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

My thinking would have been identical, if I had the knack for writing. The concept of education at primary and middle level, is continuous appraisal and finding out weaknesses and remedying them, without hurting the mindset of the child.

- Ludovico, Old-Goa | 09 th May 2011 18:34


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