The Tamil Nadu government issued a circular on Friday, announcing the introduction of board exams for students of class 5 and 8 from the ongoing academic year. Students who fail the examination will have to take a retest two months after the declaration of the results. More importantly, the government has done away with its no-detention policy till class 8. The circular permits schools to hold back those students in class 5 and class 8 who fail the re-examination.
The School Education department has been mulling over the introduction of these exams for close to a year now and a proposal for the same was even made in the recently drafted National Education Policy of the Centre. According to a circular issued in February to all district education offices, the question paper for these exams will be common across schools in Tamil Nadu. As of now, schools following the Samacheer Kalvi syllabus in Tamil Nadu have the liberty of setting question papers till class 9 within the school itself.
The syllabus for the exams will be the portion taught in the third term, with general questions taken from the portion taught in the first and second term. As per the memo, each paper will be for 60 marks and will be held for two hours.
While the state government's recent circular does state that no child shall be expelled till completion of elementary education, some educationists and parents have in the past have expressed worry over the detention of students in their formative years. An amendment to the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2018 allowed schools to detain students in classes 5 and 8. Until this, the RTE Act didn't allow detention, and students between class 1 and class 8 could go to the next grade without having to pass the exams. Education is a subject under the concurrent list, and with the RTE amendment, the TN government can detain students in class 5 and class 8.
However, there have been arguments in favour of the public exams and the benefits it could have in training students for class 10 and 12 exams.
It was in a similar move in 2017 that the Tamil Nadu government introduced board exams for class 11. The reason cited for this was the importance of class 11 syllabus for competitive exams. Many schools allegedly skipped the portion for class 11 altogether and focused only on class 12 to push their students to secure state-level ranks in board exams. The introduction of board exams for class 11 was aimed at breaking that trend.