1. I do completely agree with you that strict mapping of learning outcomes to academic year is not efficient. Some do take time to learn and should be given such opportunity. We do this in all other forms of learning — music, sports etc., where taking a longer time to cross a particular stage is not considered a taboo. Somehow that didn’t spillover to the setting of schools.
But, my overall point is different. It’s that the debate over NDP in Indian case is attacking the problem from wrong end because the key assumptions behind ideal scenario discussed above don’t hold in Indian case.
There are equally convincing arguments on both sides and we can debate any longer, by having appropriate assumptions.
For instance, someone can counter argue to your point on increasing exposure time to prevent cascading of gaps, as follows:
Repeating grade to provide exposure presumes that in the previous academic year, teachers have done everything they could from their end and the reason for gaps is that kids got short of time.
This isn’t true in Indian case. The reason for learning gaps more often is that teachers didn’t do what they were supposed to do. When there is no teaching happening only — by teaching I mean addressing personal needs of student — then repeating a year isn’t going to help much.
We should hence focus on the teacher aspect — restructure our curriculum- learning methods and so on. After doing all this, if learning gaps still persist in some students, then they can be held back for an year. Without ensuring the pre-requisites of teachers’ efforts and learning methods, holding students back is ineffective, immoral and inappropriate.
In other words, before retaining student for an year, we should ensure that the non-student causes for learning gaps are all addressed reasonably.
As I point out, even when NDP was not in place, only 5–6% students were being detained. That’s not much and is highly contradictory to learning outcome surveys that find students several years behind. It shows the futility of obsessing over that policy.
One can even point out the dropping out from school as “holding back an year” is seen as a sign of “non-suitability of students to studies”; caste equations in villages that result in upper caste teachers threatening lower caste parents to hold their kids by an year- and so on.
We can now counter argue all the above points. This isn’t going to end! We should hence shift the axis of debate. It’s better to leave it to schools to do what they want, but ensure kids learn. If we don’t do that, NDP serves as a useful alibi for non-performance of system.
2. On the impact of text of questions on performance: I do agree. Language gymnastics in questions can hamper students’ performance.
But, such effects are worth considering only in assessments that test higher level skills (HOTS :D). In assessments like ASER, questions test basic skills. There is no text in the questions. Just simple numbers with mathematical notation (14 + 19 = ?). The results are poor even in such assessments which is the reason for greater worry!
Having said that, one should be worried about comprehension skills too, if they can’t comprehend simple text like “more”. In this fast moving age, when kids of 8–9 years are doing coding in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning etc., if kids can’t comprehend standard text, it’s a cause for worry!
Ability to comprehend is a crucial skill because it gives access to books, which opens up one’s minds! We should be equipping them with such skills.
While we can definitely consider removing the effects of comprehension skills in Math questions for the sake of analysing assessments, we should be worried about lack of comprehension skills that it indicates. It shouldn’t be brushed aside.
Looking forward to learn from your experience in Haryana.
“Appreciate your taking out time to reply to the post” :D :D