Who Should Be Blamed For The Death of a Teacher?

Mukesh Kumar’s Identity Card/Image Source: NDTV
Last night, when I was chatting with my all time favorite teacher and now a facebook friend, S. Gupta, I realized the agony, a teacher faces, nowadays. He teasingly said, “Glad you didn’t stab me when I gave you the beating.” In a moment or so, I typed down as soon as I realized his wisecrack aimed at me, “Glad you apologized on the same day otherwise story might not be the same.” He got my quip and replied with haha and a laughing smiley but he went offline afterward. I thought, he must have been engaged with something important otherwise he will continue the chat. Assuming that is the case, I decided not to disturb him.

On Monday, September 25, 2016, in a shocking event, two students mercilessly stabbed Mukesh Kumar, a Hindi teacher in a Delhi government school. He was admitted to a nearby hospital but not able to survive. Delhi Police caught both students who were involved in this heinous act within an hour. According to reports, one of them is above eighteen and another will be in next two months. The only reason they committed such a heinous act because Kumar did not allow them to write exams as they were expelled for low attendance.

After the Monday event, the teacher community is in a chronic shock, and they went for a protest demanding protection and a quick change in government education policies, especially No Detention Policy. Teachers also boycotted ongoing classes and sessional exams.

Some teachers complained, “death threats are common nowadays but they have never anticipated that something will happen of such a magnitude.“ They argued, the event is the result of No Detention Policy, thanks to which they are helpless to promote a student even when he is not worthy of promotion.

The story started back in the year 2000 when Government of India imposed the ban on student corporal punishment. It was a landmark decision and thanks to which many innocent students like me escaped from thousands of beatings. Humor aside, the decision helped to curb down school drop out rate. More students got enrolled and able to complete their necessary education. Government policies like mid-day meal and Right To Education act gave the boost to the mission.

Everything was going well until Government flags No Detention Policy along with RTE act. The act, which was passed to ensure maximum school participation and minimal school drop rate, turned out counterproductive, thanks to No Detention Policy. According to NDP, the students get promoted to next class, even when they fail to secure minimum passing marks.

According to teachers, NDP has made it difficult to them to ensure minimum learning skills among students. Students have acquired nonchalant attitude toward studies, as they know, they are going to be in next class, somehow. Guardians seem not to bother about their ward progress for the same reason. In a survey done by Pratham, a non-profit educational organization, most of the class V students in rural India do not have reading ability of a class III student.

The different surveys by various Government institutions report the diminution in the quality of education and combinedly, they have pitched for scrapping down no detention policy. On 31 December 2015, Vasudev Devnani panel recommended the same. The major panel recommendations are as follow:

1. Compulsory state level exams for Class V and VIII.
2. No Detention Policy should be limited to Class I to IV students and can apply to VI and VII students.

However, a section still believes in NDP, and argues it is not the failure of policy, it is the failure of system and implementation. According to them, for implementation of NDP, we need to achieve optimum student-teacher ratio. In a country, suffering from teacher deficit, we implemented NDP copying the West, while not accessing our resources. NDP need to be implemented in a phased manner, states that have good student-teacher ratio can serve as model states and later the policy can be implemented in other states when their student-teacher ratio reaches the optimum level. According to them, we still have a chance to better implement NDP than totally discarding it.

Now coming back to the present moment, Do we really need to scrap NDP? In addition, is NDP the sole cause of Mukesh Kumar death? The answer to the first question is a big YES. The need of the hour is to scrap down NDP because we do not have resources to make NDP functional and we do not have more time to compromise with our next generation. For the second question, we cannot put the whole blame on NDP as we, the society, are also responsible for Mukesh Kumar death. We, parents and society, have failed ourselves and our kids. We are lost somewhere in the rat race and we have lost our kids somewhere in that race. However, it is not that late, all we need to take a break and consider our options again.

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