23 October, 2017

Axing The Scholarship Exam And The Rajapaksa-War On Middle Classes

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away – a man is not a piece of fruit”. – Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman)

Social mobility is a capitalist thing. During the much eulogised feudal past, men and women were prisoners of the geographical and social loci they were born into. Capitalism liberated them from that servitude, even though the break happened as a brutal wrench which created its own particular miseries and discontents.

In Sri Lanka, the Grade 5 Scholarship Exam has played a socially-progressive and politically-stabilising role as a key enabler of intergenerational social-mobility.

mahinda-f-colombotelegraphThe Scholarship Exam was one of the few ways in which intelligent children from underprivileged/rural backgrounds could take the first critical step away – and up – from their natal-state. It enabled the cleverest children of each generation to gain admission to well-facilitated national schools. This gateway to a better education provided a much needed strand of equalisation of opportunities to an unequal land.

The Scholarship Exam imposed a measure of plurality on ‘top-grade’ national schools by preventing them from becoming the exclusive preserve of children from affluent backgrounds. De facto ethno-religious apartheid (the literal meaning of which is apart-hood) is one of the major unattended problems in our education system. The Scholarship exam marginally reduced class apart-hood in our top public educational establishments by making it compulsory for them to admit the brightest students from less-privileged schools every year.

Without that gateway, many a talented student may never have escaped the trap of lack of opportunity. And the country would have been poorer without the utilisation of their intelligence and capacities.

All that will change from 2016.

The Rajapaksa regime has taken one more step to mire Lankan society in a state of rut by abolishing the Grade 5 Scholarship Exam.

The Siblings seems to have an inborn genius in presenting something as its opposite. A war was turned into a ‘humanitarian operation with zero-civilian casualties’, open prison camps into ‘welfare villages’ and a witch-trial into a legal-impeachment. Similarly the abolishing of Grade 5 Scholarship Exam is being presented as a student-friendly measure. For several months, various government politicos and officials lamented about the pressure imposed on students by the exam[i]. The Human Rights Commission (which was reduced to a presidential-appendage with the 18th Amendment and is filled with handpicked Rajapaksa-appointees) joined the cacophony and dubbed the Exam as a violation of children’s rights[ii]. Gradually an artificial consent ‘on the need to abolish the Exam for the students’ own psychological good’ was manufactured.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana, who gave us such peerless gems as ‘Rs. 7500 is enough for a family of three’[iii], then came up with another marvel: the raison d’être of the Scholarship Exam will vanish by 2016. In just one year, the government will equip 1000 secondary schools with best facilities and best teachers and bring them abreast top national schools[iv]. After that not a single student from a rural/underprivileged background will apply to enter a national school.

One of the most socially regressive measures ever considered by a Lankan administration is being presented as an avuncular step motivated by loving kindness. It is the ‘Humanitarian Operation’ all over again.

Every year, with the results of the Scholarship Exam, the cut-off marks for all popular national schools are given. This year five popular schools were initially excluded from the list[v]. According to Dr. KN Wijethunga, Director, Schools Affairs Division of the Education Ministry, “a sufficient number of students could not be admitted to grade six of these schools as some other students had been admitted from outside to these classes due to various people using influence and hence these classes had already been filled up – with 50 to 60 students in each[vi].

In other words, national schools are being stuffed to the brim with children from families with money, connections or both. After all, the Rajapaksas do need to reward their acolytes for a lifetime of subject-hood. Placements in top schools for their offspring would figure high in the list of rewards desired by the regime’s servitors.

The Scholarship Exam is the only remaining obstacle impeding the transformation of national schools into exclusive preserves for children of well-to-do/well-connected families. Once that is abolished, all placements in top national schools can be made available to the children of the new elite.

And the ‘law of accumulated privileges’ can rule supreme, adding rigid class-divide to other fault-lines.

Social Immobility and Familial Rule

Familial Rule cannot take root without society becoming infested with feudal ideas and values.

Does Familial Rule also require feudal/semi-feudal structures?

In the new state configuration which is coming into being, divides of every sort will be made more stark and impermeable. And for most Lankans, politics will become the only path of advancement available. One’s political affiliations will determine one’s economic prospects, social state and the future of one’s children.

Absolute monarchs do not want independent citizens; they need dependent subjects. Already recruitment to the state sector has been re-politicised. The informal sector is being undermined, in diverse ways. A key aim of the Jana Sabha system was to totally politicise the allocation of resources regionally; had it been implemented, unelected Rajapaksa-appointees, rather than elected parliamentarians or provincial/municipal/local councillors, would have decided which area should get what facility. That would have enabled the regime to legally punish those localities with a preponderance of opposition voters by starving them of resources.

With the abolition of the Scholarship Exam, the regime will be able to reward acolytes by admitting their children to popular schools and punish opponents by denying their children access to a better education.

In the consequent new order of totally politicised school admissions, underprivileged families will have to become suppliants of politicos to be able to send children to national schools. It will be one more way in which the Rajapaksas can control people. Children of parents who are unwilling to prostrate themselves at the feet of some politico will not be allowed into a national school, irrespective of how talented they are. Parents will be compelled to forego dignity and decency for the sake of their children’s education.

The societal sector most affected by this retrogressive step will be the middle/lower-middle classes, especially from rural areas. This is a natural Rajapaksa constituency, one of the mainstays of the Rajapaksa politico-electoral base. The Siblings are not only threatening the minorities and destroying the homes/livelihoods of the urban poor; they are also undermining the future prospects of a segment of society which believes in the myth that the Rajapaksas will usher in an era of plenty for all, just as they defeated the LTTE.

Noam Chomsky’s description of the modus operandi of anti-democratic elites is perfectly applicable for Rajapaksas: “first we violate the rules to climb to the top, then we kick away the ladder so that you cannot follow us….”[vii]

The unequal, unjust and divisive direction in which the Rajapaksas are taking the country is perfectly clear. Only two uncertainties remain. Will the Sinhala-middle classes understand that the Rajapaksas are their enemy? Will the Opposition fight this most dangerously retrogressive measure?

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    Many thanks once again Thisaranee for exposing the SPIN that the Rajapaksa Dictatorship uses to distort reality and fool, distract and rule Sinhalaya Modayas – who vote for them!

    The uneducated and corrupt Rajapakse brothers are good at spin because they are bad at analysis. If there is a small problem their solution is to THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATHWATER. Getting rid of the Scholarship exam under the guise of child-friendly education, when they do not knwo the first thing about EDUCATION and child friendly is a buzzword they picked up from UNICEF – is one such exercise.
    Well, it is the Sinhalaya modays who are a jealous and envious lot that will suffer because minorities have already left the system with this new brainchild of the uneducated and corrupt Minister of Education..

  • 4
    1

    The abolition of the Gread 5 Scholarship exam is to cover up the POLITICAL interfearence and corruption that is spilling over and cannot be contained in the Education Sector in Lanka today. By abolishing the grade 5 scholarship exam it will be instead possible for politicians, military and politically influential people to get their children into the best schools at grade 5 rather – than the brightest poor students.

    Because Jarapassa has NO EDUCATION he is trying to destroy the education system and the IDEA of MERITOCRACY in order to promote family bandism and cronyism. Destroying the education system is a systematic policy of the regime to turn Sri Lanka into a HUB of IGNORANCE and RENTIER CAPITALISTS and thus perpetuate the Jarapassa military dictatorship.

  • 4
    1

    Great Stuff Thisaranee – keep it coming!

    Ha, Ha Ha, Sinhalaya Modayas are experiencing a Jarapassa HUMANITARIAN OPERATION – for which the Commander in Chief is that uneducated moraon Banduala the clown!

  • 0
    8

    Ms T says stopping the War and eliminating Terrorism was bad for the great majority of the inhabitant population who happen to be the rural poor.

    The same Ms T now says stopping the G5 Scholarships is bad for the same great majority !!!!!

    Does this mean that not stopping the War and not stopping the G5 Schols have the same outcome ?..

    Wouldn’t our great majority be totally confused?.

    • 4
      1

      KAS,

      The dastardliness with which you were conceived and saw the light of the world does not permit you to see the facts so clearly set out in the most plain language. On one wonders why you wrote those nonsense given the ill bread origin of yours.[Edited out]!

    • 2
      0

      K.A Sumanasekera – ha ha ha – wonderful spin! keep saying repeating and soon you will have the modayas believing you
      I agree with Mrs T stopping Grade 5 exam will be detrimental to those families that aspire to receiving the scholarship for access to a better education.. govt is showing that it is in the interest of the children where as that may not be what it is and instead will be another tool of control

    • 1
      0

      Just Say MOOOO, as you belong to that category..
      Or UMHBAAAAAAAh;
      Another Buffalo calf of Jarapassa Regime.
      Aney Harak Patiyoo.

    • 1
      0

      Hello, you are a Rajapaksa or you are an ass licker. I am trying to figure out why you can not understand any thing you read, or the the bad things that are going on in the country. We excuse you. May be you too are a product of the Bandula tuition class.

  • 2
    0

    “..Will the Opposition fight this most dangerously retrogressive measure?..”

    TG, what do you mean? Is it Ranil or the few? Or do you mean to emphasize the collective responsibility?

    In the absence of the sense of collective responsibility in the minds of each one of the citizens, there cannot be an effective opposition. A weak Opposition in effect means the majority have breached their responsibility UNTO THEMSELVES! If the popular opinion exists against the oppressor regime and its ways, no one can prevent the Opposition and leadership getting stronger. It is the vegetating and weak public outcry that is lacking and responsible for all this.

    One more thing, if I may opine. It may be apart-hate that became apartheid rather than apart-hood. Having said it I must admit you have the most sharpest and strongest writing style against the regime. You are in the top rung in presenting and exposing the hidden facts for public consumption. Do carry on.

    • 3
      0

      Dude Silva, The opposition is dead in the water.. UNP has drowned with it Advisory Committee going first while Ranil and Sajith were doing the tango.. so do not hope for anyone from that lot to speak up about Grade 5 scholarship exams – they are too busy back stabbing one another! The Dead LEFT is in bed with Jarapassa as are the NGO feminists who sleep with politicians – Maithree with Ranil W to cover his gay ways, and Nimo with Vasu.. There is NO women’s movement in Lanka which was destroyed by these babes masquarading as activists..

      So let us hope that Madam Chandrika Bandaranaiayakme Kumaratunge comes forward to defeat Jarapassa at the next election. She is the best of a rotten lot of politicians. But given that SInhalaya Modayas are a foolish and conservative bunch, and Sri Lankan Political Culture – govt and opposition – is rotten to the core, Madame CBK is the best of a bad lot..

      • 0
        0

        Dude, the rubbish you have written only boarders on abject mental retardedness and sycophancy to rogue characters. Chandrika [Edited out] was the one who started the destruction of this country by toppling Ranil’s government and putting in a thief in MARA to destroy the country. Ravaya editor has written a book Rogue Queen on the [Edited out] revealing the thefts she committed. These SLFP bastards are all rogues. And your love for the [Edited out] is a clear indication you too are a rogue and we have no business with rogues. How can a rogue adjudicate on UNP and its measures. It is the dreadful fear of rogues like you that spell these roguish statements for fear of future consequences rogues like you will have to undergo under a future UNP government.

      • 0
        0

        I agree. Whatever said and done CBK is the best of all the bad lot. The question is “computer jilmart”????

  • 2
    0

    Though the title of the article is Axing the Grade 5 Scholarship examination the writer has paid little attention to the exam itself.
    The main objective of the examination, when it was launched at the beginning, was to support the rural poor brilliant students who pass the examination financially and materially to continue their education in a Madhya Maha Vidyalaya, (Central School) a brain child of Dr. C.W.W.Kannangara,which provided accommodation and food for which paid by the Ministry of Education.
    With the introduction of the open economy in 1977,the main objective of the parents was to get their children enrolled to a popular school through the Grade Five Scholarship examination not the monthly stipend paid to the poor children who passed the examination.
    With tongue in cheek this examination was called ‘Mothers’ examination’ just because it has been the mothers of these children spent hours weekly at tuition classes with their children .
    Since a decade or so, preparing for this examination has been such a torture to the hapless children that some children had questioned their parents whether they would have to sit the Grade 5 Scholarship examination when they were born again after their death.
    My view,as a person who had been involved in education for several decades, is, that this examination should be held for Grade 8 students, not for Grade 5 students as this torturous examination which steals of their childhood and fun .

    • 0
      2

      Well then lets get rid of ALL EXAMS, MORON Punchi!
      No need for GCE A Levels or O Levels! After all they are far more stressful than the grade 5 scholarship exam!

    • 1
      0

      punchsingho,

      “My view,as a person who had been involved in education for several decades, is, that this examination should be held for Grade 8 students, not for Grade 5 students as this torturous examination which steals of their childhood and fun .”

      While I have to agree with you as far as the childhood impact is concerned, by the time a child is 11 or 12, by the time the exam is taken, by Grade 5, the brighter students are still at the top, and this does not change much by the time they are in Grade 8.So by postponing the Grade 5 Exam, to Grade 8 or doing it away altogether, the Family hegemony and taking care of the needs of the cronies, well to do and those who can be bribed will continue.

      Upgrading the rural schools to higher standards, may or may not happen, and the quality of the education will not be the same. It is a national loss not to educate the brightest, because they are poor.

      In the US, they give full scholarships in College to bright poor students along with subsidized loans.

    • 0
      0

      punchsingho, “..as a person who had been involved in education for several decades,..”

      Has anyone heard of a punchsingho in education? I don’t think even a school watcher can be found by this name? And this punchi rascal comes and lectures on education! What bloody nonsense! This bugger is a paid monkey of the regime who is writing muck for a living. And no one is impressed. And who is this wiz kid who inquired about next life Grade 5 examination? It appears this bugger has taken an over-doze of the tablet today!

      • 0
        0

        Mr.Silva!
        I am sorry to say that your language shows that you come from an uncultured family background.I use a pen name because I do not want to expose myself to the agents of this undemocratic regime as I make comments from time to time against the totalitarian trends of the present rule.

        As I have been involved in education nearly four decades I know that Grade Five scholarship examination is a licensed violation of rights of the children.Some grown up fellows such as Mr. Silva are not aware that a child should have adequate time to play with his friends daily as it is essential for him/her to be a healthy child physically and mentally and also to be a person with a balanced personality when he is an adult. The child is deprived of that freedom at least for two years since parents start to send these innocent children to tuition classes as soon as they begin to receive education in Grade Four.Some tuition teachers conduct these classes for well over four hours at a stretch.There are teachers who conduct these classes even at night.

        Indeed, poor brilliant students should be supported by the state to pursue their education in a well equipped school.The state should ,not only provide a better school but also give a stipend to the brilliant who come from poor families .With that on mind I proposed that this examination should be held not for Grade Give children but for Grade 8 students as they are a little grown up and slightly matured to face a national level examination.

        • 0
          0

          Mr. punchisingho,

          The laundry operator of the regime, K.A Sumanasekera says: “Ms T should make this an addendum…..if Punchi agrees …”

          And you keep dangling the “stress factor” and “at least let us postpone if not shelve” bait!

          And the regime is desperate to pacify the self-betrayed traitors by bribing them with popular school admissions of their spoilt, overindulged and stupid children. If and when these political gasgembas are disappointed the regime finds it difficult to keep them on tether like goats resulting in Opposition side getting stronger and regime weakened.

          And the rogue MARA has more faces than even God Katharagama and it could be anyone in internet forums impersonating itself as the purest of pure gold! I find stark parallelism among all these scenarios and your point of argument and drew the conclusion you are a proxy of the regime in collusion with the regime’s ulterior motives. And your weak arguments will not save the day for you either!

          I don’t really understand what you have done for 4 decades in education sector because what you have proposed is utterly preposterous and immature.

          As you rightly said Dr. Kannangara had a vision as to how the education system of the country should evolve and be developed. Apparently, the Central Colleges or similar educational facilities/centers should have been strengthened and developed in keeping with those noble aspirations of Dr. CWWK. Not only the Central Colleges but other subordinate schools as well must have been synchronized in adequate proportions. If it happened the parents would not be in such a terrible life and death desperation to get their children admitted to a popular schools because they are confident that even the village school is a decent place to get education. With good teacher enrollment, training and administration facilities and systems free of politics, provision of adequate resources and infrastructure for same, bringing in timely and demand oriented changes to curricula, subjects and methods and systems of teaching the “awful stress” of the “child and mother” could have minimized to negligibility. And the Grade V exam would have continued to provide reasonable impetus and interest in the minds of the interested parents as well as the unexpected wiz kids from the village as well as the town. It would have served as a selector and educator of the future talents of the country, erasure of the rich and the poor and the village godaya and the town elite barriers of the country-a social equalizer. These and many other positive aspects of this shelved system could be pointed out. But I don’t have time to afford. As a result of this dastardly measure by the Madamulana monkeys, the popular schools will smother and deteriorate because the “rare talents” of the random brilliance of the country would be no more there and only the spoilt children of the rogues of the regime would attend those schools. There would be no discipline and the brats would “discipline” the teachers! You all can imagine what would happen from now on.

    • 0
      1

      Ms T should make this an addendum…..if Punchi agrees …

  • 0
    0

    Correction
    last line
    ……..as this torturous examination steals their childhood and fun.

  • 4
    0

    The plan is to implement Rajapaksa doctrine. As if that they are here to rule forever. Every single aspect of life of ordinary citizens are crafted to suit the ruling regime, take for instance the milk powder saga, and there is report that in 2014 new scheme will be introduced to calculate the assessment rates for property using the current market rate. Which would mean many in the city will be left with no option but to sell the property and move out.

    Public are burden from every angle imaginable. There is not a single respite sans that there is no WAR.

    Will the Mass majority make a wise decision come 2014 elections or they will be continued to be fooled by the rulers and what ohh what will the feuding oppositions do to change the mind set of rural masses who are blind to the hell hole which all of us are being dragged in to.

    Only way to beat these corrupt rulers is join together and make one common “deshapremi” opposition but who is capable of unifying mole infested, backstabbing and disorganized countless opposition parties.

    One things is pretty clear if the tide can be swayed, there are lot of ruling party members who will jump ship.

    I dream of a such day ! and will pray, and do whatever I could to see it through.

  • 0
    0

    This cancellation can be reversed by a future Govt. but MR doing this is
    a blessing in disguise to the Nation. Look at the No. of children who
    sit this Exam. and the potential anti-MR vote that can be garnered next.

  • 0
    0

    I feel abolition of scholarship exam could hurt lower middle class parent’s children. we need to have competitive exams in Native languages, mathematics and English.

    How could we expect the politicians to understand the plight of these poor children when majority of parliamentarians are truants, school drop outs and Hooligans?

    Passing exams is the first step on the tall ladder of social mobility enduring the snakes of favouritism, money etc.

  • 0
    0

    T.G. writes, “It is the ‘Humanitarian Operation’ all over again”. So, obviously T.G. did not approve of the ‘Himanitarian Operation’ against the LTTE.She would have preferred if our country continued to be in a state of war , death & destruction. Politics apart, her statement clearly demonstrates how much she loves this country.
    The ‘Humanitarian Operation’ was required in order to defeat LTTE terrorism. Similar ‘Humanitarian Operations are required to defeat ‘Education terrorism’ , ‘ Judicial terrorism’, ‘Healthcare terrorism’, ‘Public administration terrorism’ … etc. I’m sorry T.G., but the over -whelming majority of people want more ‘humanitarian operations’ in order to solve their problems. This explains why you and your party have been in ‘opposition’ for the past 20 years.

  • 0
    0

    The question whether there is a middle class in the proper sense of the term in Sri Lanka. The only section aspiring to be the upper middle class is the Rajapaksa clan and a few others. There are indeed the lower middle classes as referred to by Ken Robert. Bensen

  • 0
    0

    TG, if you think RW or the UNP will fight this you are very very stupid. UNP from the very beginning wanted this exam out of the way, JRJ in particular. Now don’t say that CWW started all this and he was a UNPer and all that crap again. The truth is UNP from the very beginning, since DS’ time hated this exam from the very bottom of their hearts. Real UNPers like DS, Sir John hated CWW as an arch enemy, that’s the real truth, just read and understand true history and evolution of political power in Ceylon/ Sri Lanka before writing crap.

  • 0
    0

    Apartheid is practiced in Sri Lankan society for decades anyway, and in the education sector in particular. For example, even if I score 200 in this exam the most elitist and most prestigious schools are still out of bound for me, I can name those schools but I don’t think it’s proper to use names here. And more, in the foremost school in SL, scholarship students were treated worse than apartheid South Africa, just like South Africa, cricket grounds and rugby grounds are out of bound for them, volleyball, karate or kabadi are the sports for them. Only way of progress for them is the GCE A/L, which ofcourse they can tackle attending a suburban school or a MMV. Abolishing this scholarship exam is wrong, yes no doubts there, but I just wanted to highlight that this ‘apartheid’ is not a new thing, it’s being practised in Sri Lanka for several decades, this new development is only a further step in strengthening the already practising ‘apartheid’ in Sri Lanka. And this ends my commenting on this link as well. Thanks.

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