Education is a primary feature of all human societies today. It is a fundamental human right and a fundamental feature of our democracy. Everyone has the right to education and access to education (Article 26 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). In1945, education was established as a ‘free’ service, to be made accessible to all persons irrespective caste, creed, gender, ethnicity, gender, language and region. This brought about a near social revolution in the country. Free education has provided social mobility to ordinary people, people from all parts of the country. It brought about a renaissance in the arts creating a strong sense of belonging among its people in different ways. Education supports all professional and bureaucratic services contributing to the health of the country. This system has supported artists, writers, teachers, engineers, doctors, dentists, vets, architects, agriculturalists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants and so many more professionals. We all need schools of quality for our children. Universities are where so many of our children aspire to go to.
Government Spending Decreases…
Yet, today, public education is under severe stress from many quarters. We are concerned about current government policy toward education and higher education which is reflected by the proportion of funds that the government allocates for education. GDP is a good indicator of this. From 2005 onwards, government spending on education has been fast decreasing. When the current President came into office, in 2005, the government’s expenditure on education was 2.9% of the GDP. Today, it has fallen to a miserable 1.9% of the GDP.
The cut in investment in higher education since 2005 is even more alarming. Of the paltry investment in education, the government spent only 0.52% of the GDP on the Universities. It declined to 0.27% of the GDP in 2010 and even lower in 2012. It is important for the government to increase spending on education and strengthen free education so that it flourishes. It is important for the government to increase spending on higher education so that universities and other places can become centres of excellence and provide the highest level of service to the state, private sector and the people.
…while interference in schools and education increases
Universities and schools are centres of education and should be free of interference by external forces so that people can learn, teach and think without fear. Society benefits through new thoughts, ideas and knowledge . External interference destroys learning. Sri Lankan schools and universities have seen increased levels of political interference from authorities in recent times. This trend needs to be curbed as it is destroying the culture of critical thinking and knowledge that should take place in all centres of education.
With the above concerns in mind, we ask for greater investment in education and for the preservation of a free and healthy system of education so that: in a nurturing environment.
- Schools need not be shut down;
- Teacher education and training will be strengthened;
- Qualified teachers shall be retained in all schools irrespective of location;
- Universities will increase student numbers;
- Universities will attract, recruit and retain the most qualified people
- Universities will provide education of a very high standard to a large number of people
- Increased allocation for all sectors of education and an expenditure of 6% of the GDP on education in two years. If we can achieve this, we would be able to strengthen the entire educational sector and enhance quality of delivery to very great heights.
- Preserve the autonomy of schools and universities from undue and personalized political interference. They should be allowed to maintain and improve their roles as centres where educationists and academics can collaborate with others in serving the people.
- The state has a responsibility toward the people where education is concerned and that all educational reforms should go through a consultative process with concerned sections of the people.
~ FUTA ~
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