Review on the General Education part of the Re-Imagining Education in Sri Lanka Reform proposal


Posted on December 28, 2020  /  0 Comments

Published by Coordinator on behalf of Mr. RC Perera (rclarance@yahoo.com)

Early Childhood Education (ECE)

· It starts with Early Childhood Education (ECE). Under the ECE issues it talks about feature such as subject oriented teaching, administering written tests, untrained teachers, etc.

· Those issues are ok. But why the teaching is subject oriented? It seems they have not gone into that.

It happens due to two reasons.

· Yes, there are lots of home based small pre-schools conducted by the untrained teachers who do not have the slightest idea of the aims of pre-school education. But there are lots of trained (eg. trained under Open University courses, well-established Montessori courses) pre-school teachers now.

(a) According to most of these trained pre-school teachers, the parents expect their children would master the alphabet and writing and basic arithmetic at the end of pre-school education.

(b) As most pre-schools are being conducted on a commercial basis the pre-schools are compelled to cater to parental expectations, otherwise they will loose the demand for their pre-schools and will have to face the financial loses.

· This is the ground reality. Most of these teachers say although at the out set they convey the message on pre-school education aims it has no impact due to the information parents get about the competitions children face in schools.

So what is the solution? Without finding solution to that issue the other proposals will be meaningless.

Looking at a problem without looking at the whole system or the whole picture will not provide solutions. Instead, the whole (school) system has to be taken into account to find solutions.

Suggestions:

· If the state could transform the primary schools to exam-free, joyful education (as described in the suggestions given on primary education) then the subject orientation of pre-schools could be eliminated. But that would take long time to see the actual implementation in all the pre-schools of the country. The other solution would be to include pre-school education in the school system as suggested below.

· Why can’t the state take the responsibility of pre-school education? Instead of spending large amounts of money to prepare a curriculum and train pre-school teachers, etc. Why not add another year (kindergarten) to the school system and implement a uniform system of pre-school through out the country? Admit the children from age 4 to the nearest school. Parents would like that. That would ease the financial burden of parents also. Then pre-schools will could come under the school system.

· On the other hand spending large amount of money to upgrade the present pre-school system what is the guarantee that all of them will implement the pre-school programme as expected.

· The qualified teachers could be recruited to the kindergarten classes.

· Existing pre-schools could be made child care centers for children under 4 years old. They might not attempt to be subject-oriented as the parents would realize kindergarten class in the new system is not subject-oriented. However the state should take measures to regulate and supervise the child care centres with the assistance of the local authorities.

Primary Education

Issues identified are on the whole satisfactory. Especially about the heavy subject content and the lack of learning opportunities that recognize strength and develop their full potential. Abolishing the Grade 5 examination is also note worthy.

Under the proposals it is commendable to start with the statement that “Recognize all students having unique talents and abilities.”

But with the proposal to replace Grade 5 examination, that commendable statement will go for a six. According to the proposed replacement test, the objective seems to be to provide financial assistance to needy children. Why not the responsibility be given to schools to identify needy students who have the qualities the tests try to identify? The schools could be given guidelines with a format like a “Student Profile” which could assist them to identify such students. That could be a formative evaluation. Having another test AGAIN would create all sorts of problems created by the Grade 5 examination.

Then again another test is proposed to select students for admission to secondary schools. Although it is not clearly stated it looks like a test to select students for the admission to popular schools.

Until now primary students had to sit for ONE MISERABLE exam. Now they have to prepare for TWO.

This again is trying to solve a problem looking at part of the system without taking into consideration the WHOLE SYSTEM.

Why can’t they have exam- and test-free joyful education at least for the primary level? This cannot be the proper level for testing aptitudes, emotional intelligence, abilities, etc. After providing them joyful education for 5 years give them another at least 3 years basic or general education in core areas of the curriculum. So it could be 8 years of elementary education. If the suggestion given in ECE this stage can have one more additional year with kindergarten. Most of the things mentioned for testing could be covered through a well prepared Formative Evaluation (FE) framework (we could call it “Student Profile” (SP) at school level). Most of the aptitudes may be able to be identified through such an FE. If it is necessary then perhaps to have a simple test to measure aptitudes and related things.

Suggestions:

· Is it not possible to establish elementary schools separately from kindergarten to grade 8? Kindergarten will be for montessori education. First 5 years education aimed at personality development based on all the ingredients needed for it. No tests and no homework. Activity based with play singing dancing speaking, etc. which could help every child to blossom. That could be the basis for “Child Resource Development”.

· The other 3 years would be General Education with core subjects and other subjects, which could bring out talents, aptitudes, etc. that children have. Student Profile (SP) developed should be able to capture the talents, aptitudes, skills, etc. throughout this period. Rather than conducting tests, assignments, projects, performances in aesthetic, technical etc., subjects can be used to assess the above mentioned aspects of the children.

· These elementary schools with qualified teachers and necessary facilities should be for all students. According to the population distribution each divisional education area could have a sufficient number of schools as stated before with equal human and physical resources. Then competitions for popular schools also would diminish.

· At the end of the 8 years if the Student Profile (SP) of each student is completed objectively then we could expect that it would reflect to a very good extent the aptitudes, talents, skills, etc. of every student.

· This Student Profile, and if necessary a test, suggested in the Re- Imagining Education  could be conducted at this stage.

· The information of the SP and the test could be the basis for secondary level.

Secondary Education

2.4 Lower/Junior Education

The point form description given in this section is acceptable.

2.5 Upper / Senior Secondary

In this it is mentioned that pre-vocational subject introduced in 1972 was “designed to provide vocational skills and job orientation.” It is not correct. Its main objective was to introduce skills needed for any vocation through any subject the school is capable to teach. Thus rural schools selected subjects related to agriculture, pottery, etc. which they have human and physical resources to teach while schools in town areas selected subject like photography, radio repair for which they has resources. Thus the misconception arose that pre-vocational subject is trying to perpetuate the social class system, which is wrong. This is a good example for authorities failing to give the objectives of a change to general public.

Coming to another point given in 2.5 the statement that our reformers should take an example from Singapore where “at the end of secondary school, an autonomous, creative and collaborative learning is provided” is commendable.

As a preamble to 2.6 Curriculum Development it says “Learn to Appreciate Others Talents” is a positive look at the necessary reforms. In it it says, “unfortunately we have the habit of appreciating only academically bright bright students in schools,” which is very correct. That has to be changed and the secondary level would be the best area to change that.

Proposals given for 2.6 is good provided they will be translated to actual teaching/learning situations.

Suggestions:

· As suggested in primary education (which was posted earlier) the grades 6, 7 and 8 could be included at the elementary education level. This would be the general education level in elementary schools with academic and vocational courses suggested in 2.4.

· At this level as tried in 1972 pre-vocational subject objectives also could be included for all the students (academic and vocational be they be Masons, Carpenters, Teachers, Lecturers, Doctors, Engineers, etc.).

· Why it is suggested to be included at elementary level because this level would be same for all the students including kindergarten and primary classes and the secondary level courses would vary for students according to their skills, talents, aptitudes.

· However this 3 years should not be theoretical but more activity-based with projects and assignments based in which could assess the aptitudes, creativity, innovativeness, etc at school level.

· This 6-8 stage could be used to asses the aptitudes, creative, innovative skills etc. given in 2.5. At the end of this “elementary level” (Grade 1 to 8) students will be more suitable for such an assessment.

· This is a stage in which “Learn to Appreciate Others Talents” given in “Re-imagining…” (page 17) put into practice.

· However more prominence should be given at this level (6 to 8) to ‘Student Profile’ as a Formative Assessment tool.

· The “Skills Passport” introduced in the “Re- Imagining Education..…” could be an extension to Student Profile at secondary level after grade 8.

· Can’t leave year 13 as an Apprentice Year or Project Year for students in Academic, Technical and Vocational students without taking out 13 year altogether.

· “Vocational Stream” is not very attractive to students and parents as most of them look at it as a stream which is designed for O/L failures. Therefore it may be good to term it for example “Technical Stream 2“ which is open for any student.

· Is it not necessary to introduce “Guidance for selecting streams based on Student Profile after grade 8″ ( for both student and if necessary for parents) and “Career Guidance” for Senior Secondary Students.

· Stream selected after elementary education should be taught for 4 years (Grade 9 to 12) then they could not be a burden for student. At present, students undergo general education up to Grade 11 and they have to specialize in new subjects (at A/L level) only in 2 years. In the past students studied basics of the same subjects for O/L they offer at A/L. Therefore they had a good understanding of the subjects they offered at A/L and they were not stressed to master them as at present.

· New 1000 National School Project also will be a money wasting ‘Patch Work’ project like the “Langama Pasala Hondama Pasala”- project of the last government. And also we can remember how Minister of Education Lokubandara in the 80s changed the Name Boards of lot of Maha Vidyalas to “National Schools” overnight. Did they have an impact on the system?

· Rather than doing this it is worthwhile to establish a sufficient number of Secondary Schools to cater to the students who come from Elementary Schools which have different aptitudes, talents, skills etc. That could have a better impact on the country.

· The Tertiary Level should follow suit with appropriate institutes, programmes, courses for students who come out from the Secondary Education Level.

· Ultimate success would rest on the economy of the country. Because if it does not have the capability to absorb the products to work force that would be a disaster.

Conclusion

· If the reformers could take a Holistic Approach to General Education System and Tertiary Education it could produce desired results.

· What I was trying to say with regard to the three stages, namely Early Childhood Education, Primary Education and Secondary Education is they should not be taken separately if meaningful reform is to be introduced. All the three levels (what I propose is school system has to be 2 levels- i.e., Elementary and Secondary) have to be taken as One System. A child’s path through these three levels has to be consistent. Inconsistent reforms could create more problems. That is what happened in most of the reforms tried out earlier.

· It is important to reform the structure of the whole School System.

· What I proposed in 2016 (as given in the chart below) as a whole is similar to what is proposed for the General Education in the Re- Imagining Education. Of course there are certain differences in time periods and naming. Only problem as I see in Re- Imagining is it looks at ECE, Primary and Secondary as separate entities.

· I have sent as a proposal in 2016 to the Authorities (Education and Political ) the diagram on the next page with details regarding each part of it. I received only a letter from the then Prime Ministers office saying it was referred to the Secretary of Education.

· Thankfully it has to be mentioned here when I sent the same thing in 2019 to the former Minister of Education (Mr. Alahapperuma) and present DG, NIE (Dr. Navarathna) both of them called me personally to thank me and appreciated the document I sent.

 

R.C.Perera

MA in Education (Sussex)

Education Consultant / Retired Director of Education

rclarance@yahoo.com

2020 December

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