On passing or failing a student: My personal belief is that no child should be detained below Class V unless a parent feels, in consultation with the school, that it will be helpful for the child if he or she stays back in a class. It should be a mutual process, which must allow for a discussion between the class teacher, the parents and the principal.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 has taken this up to Class VIII and I support it because it has done away with the board examinations at the Class V and Class VIII levels that were practised in some states. It will allow completion of elementary education and hopefully, this will result in more people receiving education. If everyone studies up to Class VIII then there will be an increase in the number of educated people in the country.
The central government and the state governments will have to work concurrently on this issue. It is a grand scheme and implementation will take time and money. There will be a lot of trial and error.
On making the Class X exam optional: Being an educationist, I have to be practical. Education should ultimately give employment. So many new courses have come up that can be accessed once students complete Class X.
For most children in the rural areas, the ultimate dream is to pass the “Matric” examination. And this dream should not be taken away. Class X is a terminal examination for many.
On a core curriculum in math and science across all boards: The common math and science curriculum as a means for providing a common platform to all students is a good idea. But one must not forget that the states have a big say in school education and they have their own language, aspirations, aims and visions. These have to be taken into account as well.
On private tuition: There are two reasons for private tuition — for the weak students to get through and for the good students to do better. I personally feel that some children need help but it cannot be a substitute for the classroom.
In Frank Anthony Public School, the only school where I am the chairman of the board and can affect policy, there is a one-hour class after school for those students who want extra help. Private tuition should not become a parallel system of education or the black market for education.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 under Section 28 bans private tuition — “No teacher shall engage himself or herself in private tuitions and private teaching activity” — but it does not say what is to be done if a teacher does.
Some children need special help. But there are others who are put through this system just to fulfil the aspirations of their parents.
There was this boy who ran away from home and boarded a train to go to Mumbai. A couple started talking to the boy and gathered from the conversation that he was a runaway. They convinced him and brought him back and when asked why he had run away he said, “I had four tutors but when they added the fifth I ran away.”
On inclusive education: There are slow learners, children with dyslexia and numerlexia and special provisions need to be made for these children — inclusive education is one of my greatest dreams. To this end, schools should include special educators as part of their faculty.