On Wednesday, parents of a group of class X students of a private school in Santhome were summoned. They were told that their children’s performance was not up to the mark and that the students could stay at home till the public examinations, or their influence “would spoil” other students who studied well.

However, parents got a call from the school in the evening, saying they could send their children to school from Thursday. “We don’t know what happened in between. But the warning we got in the morning was quite severe,” said a parent who did not wish to be named.

With less than a month left for the board examinations, some schools are going paranoid to the extent of threatening students that they would not be allowed to take the board examinations, if they did not show considerable improvement.

However, according to a senior official in the Directorate of School Education, schools cannot prevent students from appearing for the public examinations on grounds of “poor performance”.

“Schools have no business using that as a threat. If we come to know of such instances, we will take action against those schools. Such practices stem from schools’ obsession with 100 per cent pass and centums,” he said.

Principal of Sivaswami Kalalaya, G. Neelakantan, says the Central Board of Secondary Education, too, does not empower schools to penalise students that way. “It is sad that many schools and parents do not know this. Though there is a requirement of 75 per cent attendance, schools can recommend cases of students with 60 to 75 per cent. So, only those students who have an attendance below 60 per cent have a real problem. Another ground for such penalty is moral turpitude. Poor performance is not valid as a reason,” he adds.

On ways to motivate students, Mr. Neelakantan says there are two basic things to look at — where students stand and where they can be. “If a student who can score 45 is scoring 35, he should be told how he can get those marks. If a student capable of scoring 100 is scoring 90, he can also be motivated to get those 10 marks,” he says.

But ultimately, if a student is not interested in passing, one can only tell him he ought to be interested. “Threats won’t work,” he adds.

According to a parent of a class X student in another private school “my son’s teachers have branded a few classmates of his “call parent cases”, and met the parents to warn them. And it’s not like students scoring high are spared. A girl who scored 98 was yelled at for losing 2 marks,” she adds.

Some schools, on their part, seem to have a different kind of pressure. A government school head, on condition of anonymity, said how a few Education Department officials put tremendous pressure on them to ensure they had a 100 per cent pass. “We have to be really strict with the children or they will not take the examinations seriously. If all students in school do not pass in the final examination, I will be taken to task,” she said.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012