25 August, 2019

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National Schools In Provinces: Is It A Success, Failure Or Myth?

By Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

It has always been a query of how success is measured. If you take the best students of an age group and train and have the best results against all the others, does it mean success or reiteration of  a known conclusion. Let us look at the results which were shown in research studies which indicated that the students who came in with extremely good results did not perform extremely well at the University while some who had marginally entered the University had performed extremely well at the University. Does it mean that our A levels are not the best option to measure academic potential or performance? In 1972 the standardization of the University entrance began and at that time it was stated that the discrepancy between the privileged districts and underprivileged districts would be reduced 5% each year by preferential development so that ion 20 years we will have MERIT and merit only. It is 2019(47 years since) and we do week cut off marks for districts and we are happy keeping those students in that level stating that we are compensating the A level result for University admissions little acknowledging that the education in those districts remain POOR and that matters more than the entrance of a few to the University. The recent announcement of potential closure is mostly in those districts where education has not been developed mainly because adequate resources have not been put into it and also associated monitoring of schools and the society for educating more people better. I think we have failed in the fundamentals of providing free education, good effective BASIC education for all.

Given the above preamble  let us look at the NATIONAL SCHOOLS CONCEPT. The State (Central Government )  provides better facilities to FEW schools in the district/province as  EDUCATION is a devolved subject and the province does not have adequate funds to provide for such facilities. These have political and policy issues attached which needs to be better understood.

1. If the funding is short why have not the provincial education been granted a better fund rather than to make specified schools better, which could also be done by a province.

The teachers in these schools have the same qualification as others and are often recruited direct or transferred from other provincial schools. They are only transferred among National schools or remain for long periods in one school. Their laboratory and library facilities may be better than the other schools. Number of staff in especially higher grades are higher than in other schools in most cases.

2. Why should this be? A common system for all in the province should be operative for avoidance of complications and comparisons. Operation of two systems always makes it difficult as they are always compared, sometimes unfairly.

Identification of schools for NATIONAL SCHOOL DESIGNATION are those that are doing well in the district/province and have shown potential for development.

3. We are making the big, bigger but are not looking at the small which really needs attention. This is typical capitalist approach. It is for this reason students clamor to come to these school leaving their schools in the neighborhood which makes some school abandoned and thus identified for closure. It also causes hardship to parents to shift them to a national school away from the rural or less urban school (most NATIONAL SCHOOLS ARE IN THE RELATIVE URBAN SETUP). They spend more money for ‘FREE EDUCATION’ as a result of trying to send their children to another government school but NATIONAL. We fail the free education concept.

Performance of the National schools are better than those of the NON NATIONAL SCHOOLS which is by design as those schools which performed well have been chosen as NATIONAL SCHOOLS and this it is only a recognition and addition of facilities. If a poor performing school is taken and improved, then there is a credit involved, but, not in this formula.  But we forget one factor, THE NATIONAL SCHOOLS AND NON NATIONAL SCHOOLS SIT FOR THE SAME A LEVEL EXAMINATION. If a non-national school candidate appeals to the Courts that he/she had been subjected to discrimination by treating unequal as equal, I would not be surprised,  if the court rules in favor of the non-national school  student requesting  for a cut off mark different(lower than) to the national schools as the difference is already built into the system making it unequal. It is the same as much as have been practiced currently between the different districts for which adjustments are made by different cutoff marks to compensate for it. It would be correct in my opinion that they be treated different as they are not equal to the national schools in the above arguments, which affect them considerably. Treating ‘unequal as equal’  is also a violation of fundamental right, in policy.

Thus the success of the National School is more a myth than reality but more a discrimination or inequality, in my opinion based on above.

This is not the same for the NATIONAL HOSPITAL concept where facilities are located in one place or few places and all those who need then are transferred to these hospitals, unlike the students who remain in their own schools. The Value addition here is fair and equal to all as far as possible within the means possible. We may not be able to have all medical facilities in all hospitals, rural and general across the entire district or province but try as much as possible.

In the interest of the free education and fair education the following may be considered;

1. Dedicate a SCHOOL where laboratory/other facilities are available (1000laboratories were constructed under the former government by the President) at least within 10 km each so that ALL students who seek such may be admitted to these schools. This makes equality concept better. They be given scholarships to attend those schools.

2. Teachers of all schools to be treated alike. If you need special teachers for A level, then recruit them separately or grade them separate and they would be a category on their own may be as graduate/ PG teachers. 

3. Treat the schools and associated teachers on their performance. If a school performs well,  then, do not dismantle the teachers as a block which may affect the school. Transfers may have to be done periodically. Always have the student interest in front and not the administrative practice, which works negative.

NATIONAL SCHOOL LABEL does more harm than good in my opinion. Schools for A levels only may built/assigned separately in each district/zones to cater to all so that all are provided the best, equally. Hostels may have to be considered as in the past to cater to the students  from far, but is worth it in terms of National Free Education. 

A better option is to make all A level schools equal and students choose to attend what they wish, this is devolution and also development. But making all equal is OUR DUTY.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    National Schools — is it or are they?
    Help me professor.

  • 0
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    Jayasingam,

    Regardless of facilities, it is the issue of recruiting good teachers to Rural schools, specially in English, Science and Math (This is an issue even in the US).

    That is because
    a) There arent enough English, Science and Math teachers to go around.
    b) The ones who get transferred and biding their time to get to a town/city.

    Science and Math teachers have plenty of opportunity.
    They want to be a big town, where their children go to a national schools.
    In a rural area, cannot make side money by tuition as villagers are unable to pay tuition fees.

    A solution maybe extra pay (eg hardship) for teachers in rural areas.

  • 0
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    Dr. Jayasingham: If you read carefully from other places, it is very clear the Neo-liberal Agenda of Making Srilanka a Singapore needs destroying or restructuring Society, culture, Finances and Monetary policy, Education, Health and commerce be changed or restructured to suit the above agenda.
    With respect to education, both the primary education and secondary (University) education are destroyed or are being destroyed. So, the Primary education will become most a private business and secondary educations institutes for university as well as for professional qualifications will be privatized and foreign institutes will take over. If you read about what I have written up to now, some where else, it is written in their policies, goals and agenda.
    that is why every govt did the same policy. Remember, Ranil and Mahinda Rajapakse are one and the same. Ranil is a five times PM and he is there for a long time.
    Recently, Ranil, akila viraj Kariyawasam, and Penthouse Ravi also took roles in that. They were talking about a Closest School is the best school (remember this is the election year). they were talking about spending 65000 million and simultaneously building 8000 and 800 building or openings (depending on to whom you listened) and their argument was now everything is OK for School children or the system. but, I listened to Subharathi program and one School Teacher phoned and asked help from generous people a roof to her school saying children are studying under trees. So, think about building only the buildings and nothing else. Remember Ranil/Akila gave computers to every child. Mahinda rajapakse gave computer labs to every school. this is all in the Radio or in the TV.
    Anyway, what I think, they have to begin the POKURU PASAL system and every electoral district must have a GRADE A School which has all the facilities including the Teachers, Libraries, Labs etc.,

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