Subject: Sri Lanka's Education : What authorities need to do

May 22nd, 2007 - Posted By Dilanthe Withanage

 Startling Figures of the GCE O/L 2006 results ·

 52500 candidates sit for GCE O/L. ·

48.7% pass ·

 51% fail · 21813 candidates fail all subjects

(4128 from Colombo District), (3564 from Central province), 3404 (from Southern province) (2668 from Sabaragamuwa) (2277 from Uva) (2056 from North Central) (2039 from North Western) (773 from Eastern) and 704 from Northern province. ·

47 schools and 40 pirivena institutes did not have a single student qualifying for the GCE A/L

(9 schools in Colombo), (3 schools in Homagama), (3 schools in Jayawardenapura), (12 schools in Galle, (7 schools in Ambalangoda), (13 schools in Ratnapura) ·

Of the 258,975 who sat the English language paper 63.18% failed ·

Of the 259,263 who sat the Mathematics paper 57.37% failed.

90% failed the (compulsory) geometry question ·

Of the 258,948 who sat the Science paper 51.65% had failed to secure even a simple pass.

What & who created this mess?

While there is no single source to the mess that has resulted the initial responsibility does lie with the Government’s education policy which has become a hobby horse of the Minister in charge and his Secretary. New syllabuses are introduced, structure and text books are changed, subjects that the teachers are clueless to teach, recruiting teachers who are not competent or even passionate about teaching & giving them jobs just to satisfy a political constituency – these are only some of the ills that have prevailed. These ill-considered decisions have over the years piled to create the drastic 2006 results with more surprises likely. Changes come suddenly that by the time the outstation schools are sent circulars on it a completely new policy has been once again introduced. Can we then blame these children for the mistakes that the adults have made? A thought that prevails amongst most is that the policy makers themselves are too old to see the needs of the younger generation or not concerned as they have alternate avenues for their children to pursue. We can well perceive that despite the startling figures those from the Colombo district who are rich enough will immediately afford another avenue for their child to pursue. That leaves the bulk of these failed children in the lurch. Mind you most of these children come from parents who juggle through the rising cost of living just to educate their children hopeful that they will at least have a better future. A country’s education system must meet the ultimate needs of the society that we live in. Age-old learning practices have no place in a realistic world. Educations forget that ultimately these children either enter university or secure jobs. In either case, combined with theory of education plenty of practical and common sense thinking needs to be nurtured during the early years of education. This is very much lacking in Sri Lanka. Our students are only taught to memorize notes, reproduce them in exams and aim to score top grades. Today people are not judged by the results on their educational papers. Therefore, we need to see that while the school syllabus is covered an equal amount of time and energy needs to be utilized by schools into programs that encourage children to think for themselves. It may be well and fine to always leave the blame with the politicians but when it comes to education, those in the education ministry as well as all the Principals, teachers and most of all the infamous consultants of education must shoulder equal blame. It is their inability to correctly present the mistakes of certain policy decisions for pure political mileage that have created the mess we are in today. To safeguard their position & perks they continuously “nod” in affirmative to all the wrongs that eventually become introduced to the education system of Sri Lanka. But then, in Sri Lanka is education important after all?

A joke often circulated is why study when one can easily become a politician today even having failed all 10 subjects in the GCE O/L and then preach to the public the importance of studies! But can all 21,813 students who failed the GCE O/L get cabinet portfolios? While taking the 2006 results as a wake up call, the Ministry of Education is earnestly requested to look at the figures in a realistic framework. Questions need to be realistically looked at and solutions need to be worked out.

 It is now time for damage-control but please not another Minister for Disaster in Education! ·

True Sri Lanka needs teachers – but it does not need teachers looking for jobs and neither does Sri Lanka need teachers to fulfill promises made by politicians to win votes. · Competencies in Students & Teachers – if the 2006 results reveal that children are not competent it is because the teachers are not competent either. Not only are some teachers not competent to teach there are also many others who don’t know the very subject they have been given to teach and neither do they show an interest in learning. So what can you expect from teachers who simply teach what is in the syllabus gives without even finding out anything more on the subject? ·

Innovation and creativity – rarely can one teach such subjects but the western education systems introduce certain crafts and simple exercises that bring out a child’s creativity. Has the Ministry of Education ever thought of looking into this and finding out ways to nurture the creativity of a child through the different grades of study? Fancy syllabuses are useless and only subject to paper appeal. · Tuition classes spring like mushrooms throughout Sri Lanka. One would then expect excellent results. But then if the results reveal the poor state of affairs in the Education Ministry it also portrays the façade behind the tuition craze too. Ignorant parents today spend a bulk of their income on these classes. Some parents even send their children to tuition teachers for every sub-topic as well. Then there are also tuition teacher to cover homework given by schools. I suggested a while back that if the parent and the child cannot let go of the emotional attachment to tuition to counter the time/money spent on the road by introducing a separate tv channel, to get the best teacher for each subject (per different grade) and have them run through the syllabus on tv as though teaching a class. These could even be turned into CDs/Videos etc so that children could replay it when in doubt. The tv channel could even open an email system where feedback and questions could be diverted to the teachers. The private sector and banks can take a part in this as part of their social responsibility. · Let us now take the children; they too need to take accountability for their results. A syllabus for any grade is designed to be completed within a stipulated time. Provision has been given for all the extra curricular activities that schools are often involved with. While there are textbooks, there is also ample more avenues to learn something extra about what is in the textbooks. Today unlike during the yesteryear times of education, all one needs to do is search for information and it is available. But do children explore all possible avenues of learning? · Then there is the craze to run off for tuition. Quite often one sees that the tuition craze is really a means to show off ones latest fashionable attire, to meet and mingle with ones friends from both sexes, to sometimes play truant and occasionally see a film while one’s parents think that their children are glued to the books and listening intently to their tuition teacher. Many will have solutions and as a Ministry we can understand that everyone’s solution to the crisis cannot be answered. But, there is reason enough to realize that the Ministry needs to urgently sit down and address each point seriously. We are after all dealing with the future generation of Sri Lanka. As a nation it is our duty to see that all children should not only have a right to education but good education that would make him/her a good human being. Bringing in storming solutions is not the answer. Phase out the exercise so that children throughout the country will not be too affected by adverse changes in systems. Involve people, obtain their thoughts too. But please don’t wait for years to implement. The end need is not to gain political mileage but to ensure that Sri Lanka has a younger generation of “thinking people’ and not those who will get others to think for them.

Shenali Waduge

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4 comments on “Subject: Sri Lanka's Education : What authorities need to do

  1. Dilanthe Withanage


    Appointing a Minister for Disasters in Education or to gazette Education as a subject under the Ministry of Disaster Management ? . Interesting to debate.

  2. Kularatne


    Policy makers in our country, who enjoyed free education system at its best, today dancing in to the tunes of foreigners. The system for last 40 years has produced a set of administrative pundits, who got their post for their luck. Today they are the people who run this country. The students who excel in mathematics, physics, chemistry, subjects where logical thinking is needed, are neglected throughout the system. The very few places available in universities for these streams are lucky but the balance is kept idle. The students read for history, political science etc have become the administrators of our country.I think this is the main reason for our country is still under developed.
    The education system still has no way to select the cream and make them our country’s assets. Today this set of students are leaving country for better prospects in European countries.

  3. kanthi


    “Today unlike during the yesteryear times of education, all one needs to do is search for information and it is available. But do children explore all possible avenues of learning? ” who are you talking about? the 0.0000sothing percent in the country that have access to internet?

    The problem with the s l education system is that evey tom dick harry and jane think they can get involved in it – this includes the people who are in the ministries as well as the colombo middle class who thinks that they can go around talking about it to their neighbours and writing to forums.

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