With all 62,303 k-12 schools in Tamil Nadu (pop.72 million) shut down since March 16, prior to the national lockdown decreed by the Central government on March 25 due to the danger posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the state government has announced promotion of 7 million classes I-IX children to the next grade without their having to write any examinations.
This decision represents a U-turn for the government. Last September, the state’s AIADMK government following the lead of the BJP government at the Centre and amendment of s.16 of the Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which prohibited any examina tions and automatic promotion of all classes I-VIII children, had re-introduced public exams for classes V and VIII children in the state and abolition
of no-detention provision.
“The government’s announcement of automatic promotion of students to the next class has come as a welcome relief. The Covid-19 outbreak has already generated panic and fear across the state, and forcing children to prepare for exams would have caused them greater anxiety. This decision has come at the right time. At the same time it is the responsibility of parents to find ways to ensure that children learn at home on a daily basis so that they are prepared for the next higher class,” says Arumainathan, president of the Tamil Nadu Parents Welfare Association.
Although this decision has been generally welcomed, the state government’s extension of promotions to class IX students — the pre-amendment RTE Act covered classes I-VIII (elementary school) children — is being questioned. A large number of under-prepared students will enter class X and will be obliged to write the class X school-leaving board exams next March/April. The apprehension is that a large percentage will fail the class X public exam of the state board next year.
“The current policy allows schools to detain academically weak children if they perform poorly in class IX.
Once the schools reopen we will hold remedial classes for classes X and XII students to prepare them for the
2021 board exams. Right now because schools are closed we are finding ways and means to teach our students on online platforms. But online learning is less effective than classroom education. Secondly, children from low income households don’t have digital devices and Internet connection.
Therefore, the closure of all schools since March 16 has caused children great stress and anxiety,” says K.
Radha, founder of the Little Oxford Matric Higher Secondary School, Chennai, affiliated with the Tamil
Nadu State Board of School Education Dr. K. Palanivelu, professor of environmental studies at Anna University, Chennai, concurs. “In this crisis situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision of the AIADMK government to promote all students of classes I-IX is correct. However there is a possibility that many students won’t touch their books at all. The process of preparing for public examinations is important as it improves students learning capability. When classes resume teachers should teach intensively and continuously test children to ensure they don’t fall behind,” says Palanivelu.
Shivani Chaturvedi (Chennai)