No Detention Policy

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Context:  The Rajya Sabha has passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2019

What is No-Detention Policy?

  • TheNo detention policy is a clause under the RTE Act 2009 as entered in Article 16. It states:

“No child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school until the completion of elementary education”

  • The essence of the policy is that children should not be failed and detained up to Class 8. This also implies there are no examinations up to Class 8.
  • In place of examinations, the Act mandated the implementation of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) process to assess and evaluate the student’s learning.
  • The CCE assesses student progress in multiple ways and uses the feedback in the teaching-learning process. Unlike exams, CCE pattern also assesses students on the basis of their non- cognitive learning ability and evaluates them on non-academic areas.
  • The no detention policy along with CCE was implemented for the holistic development of the students throughout the year. Further, no-detention was also sought as a tool to reduce the number of dropouts from the schools. 
Social Promotion vs. Grade Retention or Detention
• Social promotion is the practice of promoting a student to the next grade at the end of the current school year, regardless of when or whether they learned the necessary material, in order to keep them with their peers by age, that being the intended social grouping.
• Grade Retention is the practice of making a student repeat a particular grade if they have not attained the basic learning level for that grade
RTE Act, 2009
• The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6-14 years as a Fundamental Right.
• The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A. The Salient features of the Act are:
1. Right of children in the age group 6-14 years to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school
2. RTE Act mandates unaided and non-minority schools to keep aside 25% seats for underprivileged children of society through a random selection process
3. It also prohibits all unrecognised schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission.
4. The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
5. Under the RTE Act, children are enrolled in the class that corresponds to their age, irrespective of their learning levels.
6. There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.
7. The Act lays down the norms and standards of Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school working days, teacher working hours.


Criticisms of No-Detention Policy:

Various states in India have criticised the No-Detention Policy on the grounds that it has deteriorated the quality of education in the country. The major concerns associated with the no-Detention policy are as follows:

  1. Poor Learning Outcomes: The Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE, 2014), National Achievement Survey (2012), the Economic Survey (2016-17) and Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, observed declining learning levels in elementary education even after the implementation of the RTE Act. For example: the ASER report states that the proportion of all children in Class V who could read a Class II level text book declined from 48.1% in 2014 to 47.8% in 2016
  2. Casual Attitude of Students: According to critics, students developed a lackadaisical attitude towards classroom teaching, evaluation post the introduction of the policy.
  3. Irregularity in Attendance: Though the gross enrolment ratio increased after the introduction of the no detention policy, there has been growing irregularity in attendance. Withthefear of failing in the classabsent,the students do not actively take part in teaching-learning process and remain absent from schools.
  4. Attitude of teachers: Critics argue that the no detention policy has led to the development of a casual approach among teachers towards classroom teaching and they are not motivated to adopt innovative methods for classroom teaching or evaluate papers.
  5. Adverse Impact on the future of students: According to critics, a flawed elementary education and poor learning outcomes will have adverse impacts on future academics of students and will hinder career development.
  6. No Significant Impact on drop-out rates:According to critics of the policy, there has been a steady decline in the drop-out rates between 2003-04 and 2014-15. It is difficult to validate the impact of the enactment of the RTE Act in 2009 and the introduction of the no-detention policy on drop-out rates

Views on No-Detention Policy- Committees and Recommendations

The Geeta Bhukkal sub-committee

Constituted by Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) in 2012, the committee made following recommendations

  • Measure learning level outcomes of all children on regular basis
  • Catalyse a ‘performance-driven culture’, reward high performance at every level
  • Introduce pedagogical interventions that complement ‘No Detention’
  • Changing stake holders mind set and preparing them for new Policies
  • Roll out No Detention in a phased manner

Prof. Vasudev Devnani Sub-Committee

Constituted by CABE in 2015, the committee made following recommendations

  • There should be an examination at Class 5. It should be left to the States and UTs to decide whether this exam will be at the school, block, District or State Level.
  • At Classes 6 and 7, there should be a school based exam for students.
  • At Class 8, there should be an external exam. If child fails then allow the child an opportunity to improve, give additional instruction and allow him to take a re exam. If the child is unable to pass the exam then detain the child.

TSR Subramanian Committee

The committee was constituted by HRD Ministry to evaluate draft New Education Policy, 2016. It observed:

  • No detention policy must be continued for young children until completion of class 5 when the child will be 11 years old
  • At the upper primary stage, the system of detention shall be restored subject to Policy of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances being offered to prove the capability to move to higher class

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The salient features of the bill are as follows:

  1. The Bill seeks to amend the Right of children to free and compulsory Education Act, 2009.
  2. It reinstates detention for students of Class V and Class VIII if they fail to pass examinations. Earlier detention was not permitted earlier under the RTE Act
  3. The bill allows for regular examinations for classes V to VIII, and if a child fails, they will be given another opportunity to appear for the examination in two months’ time.
  4. It empowers states to continue with the no-detention policy if they choose to, or conduct examinations at the school, district or state levels.
• The bill was introduced in 2017 as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017 to scrap no-detention policy under the RTE Act.
• Faced with opposing views, the bill was sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. In its 300th report on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017, the committee backed the government’s proposal to abolish the ‘no detention policy’ in schools.
• In August 2018, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.
• The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha in January 2019


Criticisms of the Bill:

  1. Damage to self-esteem: Critics of the bill have pointed out that detaining students at an elementary level will damage their self-esteem and bring social stigma attached to failing
  2. Increase in drop-out rates– Further, experts believe that detention of students at the elementary level will increase dropout rates.
  3. Dilution of RTE Act: Educationists also advocated that scrapping of the no-detention policy will lead to the dilution of other elements of RTE like admitting children in age-appropriate classes.
  4. Exposure to social evils:
  • Activists also argue that making children repeat classes may also adversely affect the marginalised children who will eventually drop out, increasing the risk of these children being exposed to social evils like juvenile crimes, child labour, etc.
  • Further, the detention will become an added disincentive, especially for girls as parents will then have a reason to marry off their girls at a very early age.
  1. Failure of CEE conflated with failure of No-detention: Critics argue that there are no concrete evidences that detention will ensure good learning outcomes and failures in implementation of CEE are being conflated with failure of no-detention policy. The CCE has failed in most schools, owing to lack of basic infrastructural and human resource capacity and awareness among teachers.
  2. Break in learning continuum: Educationists argue that scrapping of no-detention policy ignores the educational reality that children learn in a continuum, and any pass or fail categorization is a narrow and invalid simplification. 
Major Issues with Elementary Education
• Poor PTR:As per the RTE Act, 2009 Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) should be maintained in both primary and upper primary level; 30:1 and 35:1 respectively. However, as per Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE), the PTR at national level elementary schools is 24:1
• Elementary school teachers lack requisite qualifications to teach students.
• Poor infrastructure owing to lack of funds



  • Poor learning outcomes can be attributed to many factors and not solely the no-detention policy. Thus, it is important to strengthen the RTE Act with adequate attention on teacher-pupil ratio, curriculum, school infrastructure and adequate inflow of funds
  • The No detention policy is based on sound principles of pedagogy and assessment and is recognised worldwide. Thus, the implementation of the policy should be reconsidered and should be implemented alongside the framework of CCE.Teachers need to be trained, so that CCE can be implemented properly.
  • Instead of failing children, the focus should be on helping children who are lagging behind with remedial classes and extra support. There needs a diagnostic process of assessment, which can identify what and where the child has not understood so that it can be worked upon.
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