The Grade Five exam with its imperfections is still a useful mechanism to level the playing field in an inequitable education system which cannot be reformed anytime soon. Succeeding governments to their credit have made efforts, and continue to make efforts, to remove inequities through various initiatives, which are more or less similar but implemented under different names such as Navodya Schools, Isuru Schools, Thousand Schools and now as the Nearest School is the Best School. Education is not an island. It reflects inequities in society. Reforms take time. In the meantime, parents will find ways through bribes or whatever means to get children into popular schools, with or without the scholarship.
My suggestion is to keep the exam but change it as follows:
- Do away with Paper II that tests subject knowledge
- Sharpen paper I to correctly select gifted children
- Introduce an essential competency component
- Rank the schools, not the children on essential competencies
- Continue the nearest school best school initiatives
- Base all decision on evidence
See http://www.ft.lk/columns/Grade-5-Scholarship-Examination–Make-it-smarter–abolish-not-/4-675521 for the full article.