16 December, 2017

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Educational Mishaps

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

A Presidency Under Threat – Educational Mishaps

Apart from its failure to pursue Reconciliation with determination and coherence, perhaps the saddest failure of the current government has been with regard to Education. When the Cabinet was being formed in 2010, one of the President’s friends who was pressing hard for me to be appointed Minister of Education was told that they had found a brilliant candidate, namely Bandula Gunawardena. I presume his long experience in giving tuition was thought an appropriate qualification.

It was not taken into consideration that his very livelihood had depended on the failure of the education system to provide good teaching. It was not conceivable then, given that he was not likely to disrupt the livelihoods of those who had toiled alongside him in the industry, that he would prioritize the production and employment of more and better teachers. So indeed it proved. The whole approach of the Ministry in the last four years, in line perhaps with the populist rather than productive interpretation of the Mahinda Chintanaya that has dominated government during this period, was to put up larger and more elaborate buildings in select locations.

The purpose of this became clear when I brought up, at the last meeting of the Education Consultative Committee, the waste of resources in the fact that a well equipped computer laboratory had been put up in a school I knew well in a rural area, but it had remained closed for several months. I had been told that this was because the authorities were waiting for a dignitary to open the place.

Bandula confirmed this, and claimed that it was important for the people to know who had provided such a facility. That this was in fact the people, since the building had been put up and equipped through loans which the people would have to repay, was not something that would have occurred to someone who had made his living by giving tuition in Economics. Nor would he have realized that the adulation expressed in speeches at a formal opening would not have a lasting impact compared with the resentment of students, and their parents, who are bright enough to know when something intended to benefit them is being squandered for politicial gain.

This was not an isolated case. Down south I was told about …….. where the computer laboratory has remained closed for eight months, because it had been hoped the President would come there to open it. They have now been told that the President will not come, so they are waiting for Namal Rajapaksa to do the honours. The same goes for Vijayaba Vidyalaya, which was established with much fanfare in Beliatta, as a flagship school. Unfortunately, though it was supposed to provide English medium education for the youngsters of the area, someone who knew no English and was not interested in the subject, but had political influence, was made Principal. After his retirement, there was only an Acting Principal, which was the case with a couple of other major schools in the area. When I complained about this to the President, he said he knew, but asked what could he do. I could not tell him that he should get an efficient Minister of Education, since he would promptly have accused me of wanting that position, as he did with regard to External Affairs and, one paper claimed, with regard to Higher Education too.

I should note that I have not complained of inadequacies to him with regard to Higher Education, because I have a high regard for that Minister, S B Dissanayake, who did his best when he took over the Ministry, along with an energetic Secretary, to institute much needed reforms. The problem there lay in the interminable delay of the Legal Draughtsman’s Department in finalizing the new Act that had been submitted to them. The situation was so bad that the Minister in fact asked me to speak to the President about it, which I thought strange since he could have done this himself. It was then that I realized how the President was being isolated from the old SLFP Ministers, who should have been given much more authority.

What was happening became apparent when the draft was finally ready, but there was opposition to its contents from Wimal Weerawansa and his ilk. The Minister was told to forget the bill, but to go ahead with its salient aspects. This has naturally led to chaos and resentment, similar to what happened with regard to the Education White Paper of the early eighties, which was abandoned because its sections on Higher Education were deemed unpopular. Ranil Wickremesinghe however was told to proceed with the ideas on Education, which were in fact excellent, having been prepared by E L Wijemanne, the best Secretary of Education we have had with the possible exception of Tara de Mel.

The Ministry then went ahead, but since the reforms were not formally sanctioned, they were immediately undone when there was a change of Minister after President Premadasa took office. Ranil came in for a lot of criticism for his lack of popular appeal (understandably so, which is why the UNP must be mad to keep him as its leader for two decades) but his genuine administrative capacities were belittled, and in one year Mr Lokubandara destroyed everything built up in the previous decade, the cluster system, professional pre-recruitment teacher training, continuous assessment. President Premadasa soon realized that things were going wrong, but he had the guts to make a change straight away. Sadly Lalith Athulathmudali did not take advantage of the opportunity offered him, when he was appointed Minister, and instead engaged in plotting which led to him leaving the party and Parliament.

President Rajapaksa is not as tough as President Premadasa, so the mess in education continues. The reforms that had been drafted by 2010 were put to the Consultative Committee, but there were interminable delays until Mr Grero was appointed Monitoring Member for Education. When I was complaining to the President once about problems, he told me I should have applied to be Monitoring Member, and insisted that MPs had been informed that they could apply for this position, which was not in fact the case. What had happened was that he had decided to appoint Sajin Vas Gunawardena as Monitoring Member for External Affairs – where certainly administrative changes were needed, the President subsequently claiming that at least now letters were answered.

Perhaps to imply that this was not an isolated appointment, two MPs, Duminda Silva and Uditha Lokubandara were appointed to Defence, which was surprising since that Ministry was hyper-efficient. But perhaps the appointments were intended to educate, though they led only to unfair obloquy for the Secretary, when he loyally popped up at Duminda’s bedside after the death of Lakshman Bharatha Premachandra. Apart from this there were just another couple of appointments, with no selections amongst the most qualified youngsters in the SLFP such as Janaka Bandara or Vasantha Senanayake or Ramesh Pathirana or Shehan Semasinghe or Kanaka Herath.

I did as instructed apply to monitor Education, but Grero crossed over at this time and was appointed instead. This was good news, for he is a man of intelligence and commitment, and indeed helped to revive the reforms agenda and finally had it adopted. But he is too nice to push himself, and so has been rendered ineffective. I do remember his complaining about the designs for new buildings which he claimed cost much more than was necessary, but this was not an area in which he could change matters. The obsession with cement and its concomitant advantages has continued, with as I noted the cynical view expressed openly to the Consultative Committee, that these are about winning votes, not about ensuring better education.

So there has been no attempt at all to improve teacher supply and distribution. Poorer areas continue to be without sufficient teaching in Maths and Science and English. The trilingual programme of the government is made a mockery by the lack of Sinhala teachers for Tamil students and Tamil teachers for Sinhala students. The various suggestions I have made, to allow Provinces and the private sector to train teachers, to set up language centres which would develop trilingual language skills, to include teacher training modules in university courses, are rejected, with no attempt to think out alternatives.

With regard to improving teacher supply, I was told that the State could not take the risk of badly trained teachers. The obvious answer to that was to have a State run examination without which they would not employ teachers, but it is impossible to overcome the mindset that demands the same body must both deliver services and evaluate them. So we have to put up with Training Colleges with outdated curricula, and teachers who are trained to perpetuate rote learning. The ideas I advanced, when I chaired the Academic Affairs Board of the National Institute of Education, to institute continuous development through Teacher Centres, and to develop projects which would be given credit towards further qualifications as well as promotions, have all been forgotten.

In my systematic visits to the North and East I have become increasingly aware of despair in this regard. Occasional discussions with parents and teachers in the South make me realize that the problem is getting worse all over the country. Solutions would be so simple, as we see indeed in the initiatives taken by Dayasiri Jayasekera in the Northwestern Province. But instead of encouraging their replication elsewhere, I suspect the Ministry will soon take steps to stop him.

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Latest comments

  • 14
    0

    Sri Lanka is full of educated fools and uneducated thugs. That may be the reason why you were not given the portfolio Rajiva. I am not sure which group you belong to as you are the leader of the Democratic Party but you are with UPFA which is not a democratic party.

    • 4
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      IT is not just education that’s under threat in Sri Lanka today. Democracy is under threat, because and the Sinhala Modayas are being kept ignorant and uneducated by the Rajapaksa brothers who now say that NGOS cannot have seminars, workshops and conferences.
      Everything is upside down in the Miracle of Modayas and it is the Defense Ministry and NOT that has mission and mandate creep!

      The primary job of NGOs is to educate and inform citizens on how to hold governments honest, accountable and transparent. How do you educate people except though seminars, workshops, and conferences. Please Rajiva explain this to the uneducated clowns Gotabaya Jarapassa and tell him to go back to LA and face a war crimes trial…

    • 2
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      You have said it all. Thanks, Park.

    • 4
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      Oh, they haven’t been messing up only the politics, but also education, health, ……. everything in the post-independence era and the President and his parliamentarians still keep blaming the colonial era:

      Jayantha Dhanapala’s submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), 25 August 2010: ‘The lessons we have to learn go back to the past – certainly from the time that we had responsibility for our own governance on 4 February 1948. Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality.
      Our inability to manage our affairs has led to the taking of arms by a desperate group of our citizens. We need to rectify this bad governance and the first and foremost task before us is to undertake constitutional reform in order to ensure that we have adequate devolution of power. We need to have State reform; we need to have rule of law established; we need to ensure non-discrimination amongst our citizens; we need to have devolution of power and a tolerance of dissent and a strengthening of democratic institutions.”

    • 1
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      Professor
      You may have to take a few risks to change our education system but it’s worth the world. Please go for it.

      • 0
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        Professor
        There are Sinhalese people to support you – please don’t leave it till too late:

        ” I am asking President Mahinda Rajapaksa the same question that I put to Mrs Bandaranaike 50 years ago –
        “Excellency! Don’t you think that you should finally heal the wounds inflicted on the Tamil people and effect a total reconciliation? Even seven years into your administration, your support amongst the Sinhala people seems intact and no other head of government is ever likely in the foreseeable future to have the same support among the Sinhala people as you still have. Why don’t you convert that support base into a springboard for putting through painful but long overdue measures and finally raise a new nation?”
        – Will President Rajapaksa Expand Horizons For The Tamil People? Neville Jayaweera, 3 November 2013,
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/will-president-rajapaksa-expand-horizons-for-the-tamil-people/

  • 2
    3

    Why don’t you become the principal of that school in Beliaththa ?

    Put your Arse where your mouth is and do some GOOD for the Country !

    What right have you got to be a minister when you got all your education abroad, lived all your life in Colombo 7 and have too much money than you know what to do with ?

    Go take a principal’s miserable salary, live in sub human conditions and impart you English Knowledge in an area that needs it so badly.

    • 1
      2

      Said beautifully.. this nut job thinks he’s God’s gift to Sri Lankan education, foreign policy, public administration and everything else under the son. All he does is criticize people. What has he achieved having been an MP all this time, using our tax monies. Thankfully this idiot won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being in the next parliament. That of course is a gift from God

      • 1
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        ” Put your Arse where your mouth is “. Was that what was ‘said beautifully’?.

        Rajiva, you have a bigger task in your hands than you’ve imagined.

    • 0
      0

      Don Quixote:
      Why are you trying to suggest that you can make a silk purse out of this particular sow’s ear? This hypocrite is beyond redemption and will go on and on with his drivel as long as his Lokka keeps him on the payroll.

  • 1
    1

    It s good that the state education system is failing. No need for more educated idiots like prof.

    the population can be shipped to dubahi for toilet cleaning jobs wile BBS MR combo can practice budhism in peace and ocationalky torch up libraries and places of religious worship of others to protect budhism.

  • 2
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    Dear Professor
    Thank you for writing this without further delay.
    Many were wondering why you have been wasting your time with UPFA instead of working for EDUCATIONAL REFORM in SRI LANKA along with those around the country with similar notion.

    OK. It isn’t too late. But please go ahead with full steam and DO something about it for our future generations which may mean getting out of the govt.

    ‘’Education must rise on the agenda of peace building. We know the wrong type of education can fuel conflict. The use of education systems to foster hatred has contributed to the underlying causes of conflicts, from Rwanda to Sri Lanka, but also in Guatemala and Sudan’’ – Why education matters for global security, Irina Bokova(Director General, UNESCO), 1 March 2011, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/singleview-dg/news/education_and_security_dawn_pakistan_why_education_matters_for_global_security_234nextcom_nigeria/#.U1oX3vldVqU

    ”Sri Lanka needs A UNESCO supervised revision of school text books by a panel of internationally renowned Sri Lankan scholars so as to minimize prejudice against communities and ‘build the defences of peace in the minds of men’.” – The Lalith Weeratunga Presentation, Dayan Jayatilleka, 28 January 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-lalith-weeratunga-presentation/

  • 2
    0

    Dear Professor

    Education Education Education

    Somebody has to start acting for our future generations:

    ” Peace education is an imperative at this stage of our national history ….” – Justice C. G. Weeramantry tells Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission(LLRC), 29 November 2010, http://www.scribd.com/doc/127226195/Sri-Lanka-Justice-Weeramantry-to-Lessons-Learnt-and-Reconciliation-Commission

    ‘’After almost 30 years of conflict, it also has to rebuild a Nation, a Sri Lankan Nation united in its diversity, where communities and individuals feel at ease. For this, there is not much foreign friends can do. This is the responsibility of Sri Lankan people, their political leadership, in the government and in the opposition, and also their civil society, and this is where academics and researchers have an important role to play, particularly those who are working in the fields of history, law, economy, sociology and political sciences’’ – Address by Christine Robichon, Ambassador of France, at the Peradeniya University Research Sessions (PURSE) – 2010, 16th December 2010, http://www.ambafrance-lk.org/spip.php?article839

    ”Building a consciousness of nationhood is not a responsibility that can be left to politicians and constitutional lawyers. …. It is pre-eminently an educational task, to be initiated at the level of our schools. It requires a new way of looking at history, and helping young minds climb out of the constraints placed on their understanding by the sectarian myths, legends, and memories that are embedded in their ancient chronicles, whether they relate to their Aryan origins or to their Dravidian origins. This does not mean that children should be ignorant of, much less that they should reject, their rich historical inheritance, but that they should acquire a more global view of history and be equipped with a critical sense that will enable them to stand back and look at their respective narratives more objectively. …. Unless and until Sri Lanka can produce leaders who can realize that truth, and are willing to act on it, it will continue to be dismembered by conflict, long after the LTTE and Pirabhikaran have passed into history ” – Why Sirimavo refused to visit Jaffna after 1964 cyclone By Neville Jayaweera, 18 January 2009, http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/01/why_sirimavo_refused_to_visit.html

  • 2
    0

    Dear Professor

    Please don’t delay: children depend on the adults:

    “Millions of school children are taught, in the name of social studies, through text-books published by the state, the myths of divergent racial origins which will help to divide the Sinhalese and Tamils for more generations to come… What this lesson does is to evoke the child’s memories of being frightened by his parents with threats of the mysterious and fearful `billo’ to identify these bogeymen as Tamil agents, and thus to enlist the deep-seated irrational fears of early childhood for the purpose of creating apprehension and hatred of Tamils” – Reggie Siriwardene, a well-respected Sinhalese writer, in a well-­documented analysis of the effects of school textbooks on ethnic relations in Sri Lanka(1984)

    ‘’The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict challenges a widely-held assumption – that education is inevitably a force for good. While stressing the many stabilizing aspects of good quality education, editors Kenneth Bush and Diana Saltarelli show how education can be manipulated to drive a wedge between people, rather than drawing them closer together. After analyzing the increasing importance of ethnicity in contemporary conflicts, this Innocenti Insight outlines the negative and positive faces of education in situations of tension or violence, including the denial of education as a weapon of war (negative) and the cultivation of inclusive citizenship (positive). It emphasizes the need for peacebuilding education that goes further than the ‘add good education and stir’ approach, aiming to transform the very foundations of intolerance.
    ….Ethnic intolerance makes it appearance in the classroom in many ways…… Textbooks have often been shown to contain negative ethnic stereotypes….. A review of the textbooks used in the segregated schools of Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s, for example, found Sinhalese textbooks scattered with images of Tamils as the historical enemies of the Sinhalese, while celebrating ethnic heroes who had vanquished Tamils in ethnic wars. Ignoring historical fact, these textbooks tended to portray Sinhalese Buddhists as the only true Sri Lankans, with Tamils, Muslims and Christians as non- indigenous and extraneous to Sri Lankan history. This version of national history according to one commentator, has been deeply divisive in the context of the wider state’’ – The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children, Kenneth D. Bush and Diana Saltarelli(2000), http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/insight4.pdf

  • 2
    0

    Dear Professor

    Where can the children turn to but the adults?

    ‘’It is necessary to trace briefly the historical links between the development of the education system and the development of an ethnic -based politics, leading to armed conflict. …. Divisions were exacerbated by successive government policies discriminating against the Tamil minorities. …. Divisive ethnic politics and loss of confidence in non-violent and democratic politics fuelled the desire for autonomous, separatist solutions through the 1970s …. The Government dominates the educational publications sector in Sri Lanka through its provision of free textbooks to all students from grade 1 to 11 …. Tamils not involved in writing the textbooks – Textbooks written in Sinhala, and then translated into Tamil …. full of spelling, grammatical and factual errors …. distortion of history …. the history of Sri Lanka is confined to a few selected Sinhala kings …. the textbooks do not educate the child about the various characteristics of a multi-religious and a multi- racial society; the majority of Sinhala medium textbooks emphasize Sinhalese Buddhist attitudes;
    distorted maps under-represent North and Eastern Provinces; “geographical, social, economical or cultural features” of Tamil communities (including the plantation sector) are not adequately discussed or presented;
    in studying art, the Tamil student only studies Sinhalese Buddhist aspects of art; the textbooks encourage children to develop “apartheid attitudes” ….. War is shown as patriotic while peace is portrayed as cowardice’’ – Respect for Diversity in Educational Publication – The Sri Lankan Experience, Ariya Wickrema and Peter Colenso, 2003, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EDUCATION/Resources/278200-1121703274255/1439264-1126807073059/Paper_Final.pdf

  • 2
    1

    Why do I get that sinking feeling that when this joker is no longer a MP in a few months time we will still have to listen to his many rumblings of everything gone wrong during the time HE WAS PART OF GOVERNMENT..oh I dread it.

  • 5
    0

    ”In my systematic visits to the North and East I have become increasingly aware of despair in this regard”
    :
    Why else do they have retried military officials as Governors in the North and the East only?

  • 1
    0

    Last year a much-needed unit in Jaffna Hospital was lying idly for months waiting to be opened by the President

  • 3
    0

    Oh? *Now* you are talking about reconciliation with determination? Remember what you said about some victims’ claims about rape in Vavuniya detention centres a few years ago?
    And you are dreaming of an education system with no private tuitions? How realistic are you. Glad you dint get the ministry.
    And we all know that you always grumble about ministries and posts that you were put forward and were declined?
    And you certainly have the skill to [Edited out] of the president whilst claiming to be critical of the government. How do you do that man?
    You are but a funny ‘chap’
    Get some rest man.. you’re getting too weak to conceal your agendas.

  • 4
    0

    What were you doing all these years? You supported this govt. all these years knowing very well their involvement in genocide, murders, rapes, bribery, corruption, drug peddling etc. It looks like a state of “sour grapes”

    What does a set of thugs who are in charge of island nation knows about education! Unfortunately some so called “educated” people are supporting this govt. for their perks and salaries and free trips abroad, after selling their souls!

    • 1
      0

      What better ecample of this than our dear professor ?

  • 1
    1

    Why this professor does not respond to the comments made in this forum?

  • 0
    0

    Professor
    Will you please write about how ”Education For All” progresses in Sri Lanka?

  • 1
    0

    If MR is so hopeless in appointing ministers and fails to replace them. If his entire administrative structure is such a shambles then maybe it is time to admit he is useless and it was time to throw him out? Oh I for got. None of this is his own fault. He is being isolated eh? Also, RW has no popular appeal and the UNP is mad to keep him on. This is in spite of the admission of his administrative capabilities. Rajiva you are as mad as a hatter to not realize the hipocrasy of your own writings.

  • 1
    0

    Some writing comments about Rajiva’s article about the Education mishaps are not aware that Rajiva’s is from Beliatta and he is well conversant with rural life as well as of his birth place. What ever said and done Rajiva’s is a Educated University Don having a good understanding about the Higher Education system after working in the University system for years.

    Even though I am not fully agreeable with some of his opinions, I am fully support him about the Education mishaps now taking place in SL. What has happened at VIJAYABA MAHA VIDYALAYA on Weeraketiya Beliaththa Road is a very disgrace full affair. This Maha VIDYALAYA was constructed with Aid given by Victoria n government in Australia and as this Maha VIDYALAYA was completed by the SEC under my charge when I was working as aVolunteer Consultant in 2007, still waiting for Mahinda Rajapaksa to do the second opening. In 2007 the Mahavidyala was opened by Mahinda Rajapaksa and it is a crime waiting to place his name for the second time without opening the Computer Building as a separate issue.

    Since 1956 our EDUCATION WAS HANDLED BY Ministers without any idea a bout education a NDEA now Bandula Gunawardenais making a mess of every thing, as he is helping. His friends to gain the poor students Tution money in variou ways. S.B Dissanayake is another mongrel who should not even bring near the Ministry of Education leaving aside handing over the Minitry of Higher Education. This man S.B Rajiva’s is trying to praise is not even aware how to address The University students.

    Sri Lankan education is not adhering to the Free Education norms or WTO regulations on Trade, as Education has become a commodity of making money. Once I wrote to Tara de Mel about allowing our Education system running by International Schools without following the local syllabuses and she promptly created regulations for all International Schools to follow the local Sila bus. Now Bandula is using his derange brain to stop students following classes using the local syllabuses joining Public Schools to do the GEC A/L. What a foolish man is our Mi bister of Education.

  • 0
    0

    Professor Rajiva: there was a time when many thought you might make something good with your learning. Then you become the mouth piece of a conniving government. You said what you were told to. You parroted half-truths and downright lies. Either you didn’t know what was going on or you were somebody’s fool. You sacrificed your integrity for a mess of pottage. You ramble on about the near misses and the President this…and the President that…and what might have been if you had been given this job or that. Who cares? You are in the same leaky boat as Keheliya, Dayan, GL et al.

  • 0
    0

    Isn’t Rajiva Wijeyasinghe an educational mishap? Bugger talks like a[Edited out]

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