June 16th, 2020 - Posted By Yureshya Perera
EFSL held a Policy Dialogue on Reforming the National Examination System with educationists, school administrators, university academics, and teachers on June 13th. [Link to Zoom recording here].
Dr. Sujata Gamage presented “An Assessment Framework with Built-in Accountability for Reforming the National Examination System in Sri Lanka”. The framework included the progression of a child form early childhood education, primary and secondary education, to further education leading to tertiary certificates, diplomas, advanced diplomas, and degrees. She noted that students dropout and go ‘off-the-radar’ of the policymakers and the public at various stages of education. After age 18, only 7% of a given youth cohort will gain access to higher education, while the other 93% are ‘off-the-radar’ for all practical purposes. The lack of accountability on the part of authorities is a clear gap that needs to be addressed.
The framework introduced also the idea of an aptitude test carried out at each key stage of education after Grade 5, 9, 11, and 13, covering the literacy, numeracy, and the general cognitive ability of a student necessary to proceed to the next level. An optional second part of the same aptitude test which is more cognitively challenging can be used at the end of Grade 5 in lieu of the present Grade 5 scholarship examination. Since the aptitude tests will not require any rote learning, the teaching-learning process will not be corrupted, as presently evident. During the discussion, it was noted that the competition to succeed will continue as long as disparities in schooling exist.
Dr. Upali Mampitiya, Senior Lecturer at OUSL and a former Chairman of Academic Affairs Board of the National Institute of Education, expanded on the assessment framework with a presentation on “Redefining Senior Secondary Curriculum for Tomorrow’s World.” He noted that Sri Lankan schools spend 90% of their time preparing students for the GCE (O/L) while the internationally accepted minimum for that examination is 35% of the hours spent in school over a two-year period. Schools across the world use up to 50%-64% of their teaching to the GCE(O/L) curriculum with 5-6 core subjects, and leave the rest of the school time for giving their students general or transversal competencies by way of a ‘whole curriculum.’ The general competencies are to be acquired through activity-based with assessments limited to summative assessments based on student project reports, field notes, and portfolios.
The place of religion in the core curriculum, reasons for dropouts, the expected outcomes of this policy framework, what will be included in the aptitude exam, the necessity for literate and numerate individuals with ability express themselves in the fieldwork to be maintained by students going onto vocational training were some of the issues raised by participants. A policy brief will be prepared after taking all views into consideration and will be shared widely.