18 November, 2018

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On Education: Problems DS Senanayake Diagnosed

By Rajiva Wijesinha

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Mr Speaker, I am happy to speak on the votes of these two Ministries, which are both in their different ways so vital for the development of this country. Though I shall for obvious reasons concentrate on the work of the Ministry of Higher Education, I would like to congratulate both Ministers for their imaginative approach to the subjects coming under them. With regard to Sports, the efforts of the Minister to have it incorporated formally in all schools are laudable, and I can only hope he succeeds.

This was a decision of the Consultative Committee on Education, and it is a pity that those decisions have not as yet been translated into action. But while all the reforms that are contemplated are worthy, it does make sense to proceed with what is possible, given that vested interests seem to be delaying the full fruition of the Parliamentary recommendations. I hope therefore, that with His Excellency the President also committed to making sports compulsory, the Minister will soon succeed.

This is the more important because the qualities that develop through Sports in particular, but also other extra-curricular activities, are essential for productive employment. Team work and leadership and other aspects of socialization are vital, and at present opportunities to develop these are confined to children in the more popular schools. I have been shocked at the lact of extra-curricular activities in the many rural schools I look at during Reconciliation meetings in Divisional Secretariats in the North and East, and I am sure this is true all over the island. Given that for most jobs what employers look for is not just academic attainments, but evidence of other skills, it is vital that the proposal of the Minister has an impact soon in rural areas too.

This bears on the main point I wish to make with regard to Higher Education, where urgent reform is needed. The Minister and the Secretary did their best, and though the draft they prepared could have been improved, it is a great pity that the Legal Draughtsman’s Department ignored that draft and spent ages producing something not substantially different. I suspect, Mr Speaker, that the damage done to development by the Legal Draughtsman’s Department, by its delays, will loom large in the future, and amongst its worst shortcomings was the delay with regard to Higher Education.

Significantly, the need to have thought more carefully about this came up when the whole concept of Free Education was popularized. Though what Kannangara did with his Central Schools was invaluable, in extending opportunities nationwide, when the idea of Free Education was thrust upon the State Council Committee at the very end of its deliberations, there was more stress on the word Free, and not enough on Education.

Characteristically, D S Senanayake pointed this out, in his speech to the State Council towards the end of its days. What he said then is well worth quoting at length –

Industry in this country has yet to be developed. Today Government service is still regarded as offering the most attractive jobs. The Civil Service is today looked up to as the most attractive branch of the Government service. But I feel that if our country is to prosper, we must recognise the fact that it is the industrialist who can prove to beof great service to the country while at thesame time benefiting himself,. The industrialist canbe of fargreater service to the country than the Civil Servant.

We speak of industrialization in Ceylon but we do not seem to realise that we require well-trained personnel to enable us to compete in the industrial sphere with other parts of the world. We also want agriculturists who could help this country to compete one qual terms with the rest of the world.

We realise that 80 per cent of the people of the country, according to the estimate of the Special Committee on Education, must take to industry and agriculture. I feel therefore that any scheme of educational reform that takes no account of these factors tends to ignore the usefulness of our student population to the community in the future.

When the age-limit is revised to sixteen, what happens? We carry on with the same kind of education up to the age of sixteen, whether it is bad Sinhalese, bad Tamil or English. We would not get that bias that is required, that was expected to be given to students from eleven to sixteen. They would not get that training; and if we get any students at all, they will be students over sixteen who have been rejected everywhere. They will not have the necessary bias and we will have to start all over again.

One problem Senanayake diagnosed was the failure of adequate consultation. He put that down to the unusual system that obtained under the State Council, where there was no question of Cabinet responsibility –

The duty of making the actual proposals is entrusted to the Executive Committee concerned … But I have one little complaint to make in this regard. Although an Executive Committee does or omits to do something, the only body that is blamed for it is the Board of Ministers. In these circumstances, one feels that it would be well if the Ministers as a body were given an opportunity of considering a report as a whole and were allowed to put forward their own proposals … So far as my Ministry and I were concerned, we would have been only too happy to be associated with my good friends in evolving a scheme or discussing a scheme for discharging our duty to the large number of students who were to be placed under our care

Unfortunately, though we have Cabinet government now, the norms of Cabinet government do not apply, and there is insufficient coordination. Thus the need to diversify, to provide more and better vocational and technical training, and also provide degrees and opportunities for advancement in skills suitable to higher level employment, is not taken seriously.

With the cooperation also of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development, I have been able to look into the situation more closely, and not only as regards the North and East. But though there is great goodwill on all sides, we do not have systems in place to ensure swift action, and also to empower more and better service providers. Unfortunately the efforts of the Minister of Higher Education proved abortive, while our efforts at COPE to introduce a greater sense of accountability in those now responsible for education at the universities has not been properly understood. Setting in place mechanisms to all institutions to fulfil their responsibilities to the students as well as the country at large would be easy, but it requires great will and commitment.

I am grateful to the Minister and the Secretary who decided earlier this year to appoint me to an Advisory Position. Better late than never, I thought at the time, given my long experience of the system and education in general. However, having now put forward a constitutional amendment to prevent Members of Parliament having any formal involvement with any Ministry, which seems important if the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers is to be upheld as best possible under this strange hybrid Constitution we have, I felt I should resign. Besides, though my suggestions were well received, the system moves so slowly that we need more effective mechanisms if we are to develop a system suited to the modern age, and the varied talents of our students. I hope then that the Minister will try in what time remains to move swiftly on the excellent ideas with which he began his tenure of office.

These include the promotion of public-private partnerships in providing educational services. This is essential if we are to increase the range of courses on offer, as well as provide better education to more people. Unfortunately there was insufficient consultation and explanation to begin with, which allowed opponents, including those within the government who are still stuck in unthinking dogma, to claim that the plan was to do away with free education. Nothing could have been further from the truth, but rather what was sought was to provide education to those who now have no access to free education, and who often have to spend exorbitant amounts to obtain degrees in other countries, degrees as to which we have no monitoring capacity.

The failure to regularize the availability of paid courses within Sri Lanka put paid to our being able to encourage courses that would benefit the nation, it also prevented us from developing a scholarship scheme which would have allowed bright students access to different forms of delivery. And we were deprived of developing healthy competition that might have made the more traditional of our universities realize they had to make changes in their programmes.

I remember, Mr Speaker, when this government seemed full of innovation and committed to pluralism, the enthusiasm of university administrators in Australia who wished to set up courses within this country. There were experts in nursing and in teaching who would have done much to enhance the skills of our students. But nothing was done to help them, and we are now struggling to satisfy the need for developing expertise in these fields. Unfortunately, when we bring up the subject of pedagogical skills in the Consultative Committee, we find resistance despite the efforts of the Minister and the Secretary to get things moving.

I should note however that there are signs of improvement, with more attention to English and soft skills, though perhaps these should be spelled out more carefully, with greater attention to training of trainers in these areas. We should also look at good practice in the past, as with the courses in thinking and self-expression developed by Oranee Jansz when she was Co-Coordinator of the General English Language Training programme until that was swallowed up by the universities, who then deployed the funds for capital expenditure for the most part. Indeed they have only themselves to blame if a similar course had to be started by the Ministry of Defence, which at least knows how to develop initiative and pride in work. The pity is that the universities are not prepared in general to learn from best practice, their own or that of others, which is why we must hope the innovations the Minister is trying to introduce will take root.

There is much to do in these fields, Mr Speaker, and we cannot afford to move slowly. I hope therefore that this Ministry is not stinted of funds, but that better systems of accountability will be introduced – including, as I have long suggested, sharing the accounts with the students, who will be our best safeguards against corruption – and more effective monitoring, as we have suggested in COPE, to make sure that the learning process is constantly upgraded, and that its products are able to serve the nation imaginatively and with a range of skills, as D S Senanayake wanted over half a century ago.

*Speech of Prof Rajiva Wijesinha – On the votes of the Ministries of Higher Education and Sports – During the Committee Stage of the Budget Debate, November 17th 2014

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    DS Senanayake is the prime culprit who started the Sinhala racist ball rolling in Ceylon:

    It is still rolling fiercely down the slippery slope of destruction of the peoples of the island.

    • 4
      1

      Thiru,
      Sirimavo went a step further,banning the London University exams held periodically by the examinations department, and also similar exams for recruitment to the public service – general clerical/hospital clerical/postal clerical/railway clerical/apothecary entrance/nursing entrance etc.
      London O & A level certificates were accepted by higher educational institutions in all commonwealth countries, USA & others.
      Public service exams gave opportunities to JSC & SSC qualified for state employment.
      She however, sent her children to universities abroad.
      She then invented the Chit System – each MP to recruit entrants to public service – thus, corruption commenced.

      • 2
        0

        May be the curse of not doing the right thing for the country fell on most of the politicians who wrecked the country to get elected by brain washing the village Singhalese. Most of their children were sent abroad to study. But none of them did well in studies! Most of them ended up being good for nothing!!

    • 5
      1

      History began to be distorted through school textbooks. What hope is there for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation:
      http://www.scribd.com/doc/211491454/Peacebuilding-in-Sri-Lanka-Needs-UNESCO-to-Supervise-Revision-of-School-Textbooks

  • 2
    5

    Hello prof,

    I know its counter intuitive.

    But Japan, South Korea, China etc did not develop fast on English. For some reason its the local vernacular that make development faster.

    • 4
      1

      Yes U Dhushana. You are right and you should stop sending comments in English to CT. It will be a mercy to the readers.

      To follow up on your logic, you should prevail on your Masters (Mara, Gora, Bara, Chara and Nara) to take immediate steps to stop the availability of English Language studies to the Sinhala Buddhist population. They will then be able to polevault far ahead of the rest of the population. Good luck.

    • 6
      0

      Vibhushana

      Japan and Korea were financially and technologically sustained by USA. Japan by 1910 had 11,000 of its students studying in English speaking countries.

      Japan already had had enough contact with the West, Meiji reformed followed in the late 1850s. Even some members of Royal family converted to Christianity and started consuming meat.

      Taiwan and Hong Kong were two very important countries which invested huge amounts in China in the early part of its reforms. Russia played a crucial role in industrializing China just after ending the long march. In the 1960’s Japan provided China with investments, technology, etc to develop its textile sector. Since mid 1980s West started pouring investments into China together with technology transfers.

      India runs more than 150 schools teaching English to Chinese students.

      What are you on about?

      • 6
        0

        Vibu is hearing voices I suspect, native.

        • 6
          0

          Robert.R

          “Vibu is hearing voices I suspect, native.”

          Thanks.

          Is it possible that he be programmed to hear my voice, and my voice alone?

          I know he doesn’t hear sane voices, nevertheless don’t you think its our duty to educate this simpleton?

          • 3
            0

            It won’t work with Vibu, he is too far gone down the slippery slope to rescue.

            • 3
              0

              Robert.R

              “It won’t work with Vibu, he is too far gone down the slippery slope to rescue. “

              That is one reason as to why we should help this harmless poor lonely soul.

  • 4
    0

    Speaking on education & higher education, he has completely ignored this totally unnecessary, idiotic, and even dangerous “leadership training” of undergrads – invented by Gota – which none dare object to, in parliament – maybe because their children are not entering universities in this country.
    It is hated by all new entrants and their parents.

    • 1
      0

      What else do you expect from a seven eleven employee?

  • 0
    2

    From DS time started the anti-Tamil violence, Sinhalization of all Departments, Switch of Official language to Sinhala only, Tamil public servants made to pass proficiency in Sinhala language to qualify for increment, British Ol, and AL exams stopped, all Tamil Head of Departments removed, All Tamil staff in Police, Army, Navy, and Air force removed, Police and military started violence first against Tamils in the South and later in the North and East, Rampantunemployed Tamil youths took to arms to contain the violence of the military. Government Violence in North and East had to be stopped with violence. Whenever there was peaceful protest organized by Tamil parties, they met with severe violence from the Police and military. So the LTTE problem started and after 9/11 Sri Lanka successfully transformed the rebels into a terrorist outfit and got rid of LTTE along with as much Tamil civilians as possible. This recent history of annihilation of Tamils is now openly noticed by the International Community even though Delhi was involved with Sri Lanka in the recent war. Following the war, amendments to the Constitution are made in the event International Community find the Government guilty of war crimes. What started in 1948 continues unabated until today even though watched by UN and the World.

  • 0
    0

    Professori, it all seems a lot of hot air to add to our climactic woes. The truth is that the education stables need cleaning and rebuilding and we simply cannot find the political will to find and appoint of a Champion. All the usual suspects just keep talking, and talking. The fact is that our ‘free education’ system is neither free, nor delivers an education. Up and down the land, less fortunate children are destined to attend state schools in the morning, and tutories in the afternoon to learn what they failed to be taught at school in the morning. Those lucky enough to be able to do so, spend a small fortune to send their children to the handful of decent schools that still operate. The really lucky ones school their children overseas. In this way, the ‘them and us’ division in our country is assured of continuity.
    The mushrooming of foreign educational establishments is a recognition of the growing demand for a decent education in this country, and our thick-skinned ‘educationists’ are unable to recognise this as a insult to the ability of Sri Lankans to educate their own.
    Unable to educate our children properly in the two main languages, the mother-tongues of the overwhelming majority of this country, we continue to pursue the fanciful and elusive trilingual dream. Why, for God’s sake, is it necessary for every child in this land to learn English? Let English remain an option for those who will undertake careers where knowledge of English will be useful. We should find it far more productive to increase our long overdue investment in the development of the Sinhalese language, to bring it up to speed, and contribute to our national development. We simply do not have state resources to fund a trilingual system that will continue to churn out a half-baked ‘man woke onthara bijja’ class of citizen. One recent manifestation of our nonsense is the latest fiasco at the Law College that will surely guarantee a perpetuation of a two-class legal system. Chapter iv article 18 (i) of the Constitution has become a sick joke.
    As we contemplate the parlous state of our present system of education, let us remember some early architects of this shitty mess, namely L H Mettananda, N Q Dias and friends, and the opportunistic JR himself. How time flies!

  • 0
    0

    Professori, it all seems a lot of hot air to add to our climactic woes. The truth is that the education stables need cleaning and we simply cannot find the political will to find and appoint of a Champion. All the usual suspects just keep talking, and talking. The fact is that our ‘free education’ system is neither free, nor delivers an education. Up and down the land, less fortunate children are destined to attend state schools in the morning, and tutories in the afternoon to learn what they failed to be taught at school in the morning. Those lucky enough to be able to do so, spend a small fortune to send their children to the handful of decent schools that still operate. The really lucky ones school their children overseas. In this way, the ‘them and us’ division in our country is assured of continuity.
    The mushrooming of foreign educational establishments is a recognition of the growing demand for a decent education in this country, and our thick-skinned ‘educationists’ are unable to recognise this as a insult to the ability of Sri Lankans to educate their own.
    Unable to educate our children properly in the two main languages, the mother-tongues of the overwhelming majority of this country, we continue to pursue the fanciful and elusive trilingual dream. Why, for God’s sake, is it necessary for every child in this land to learn English? Let English remain an option for those who will undertake careers where knowledge of English will be useful. We should find it far more productive to increase our long overdue investment in the development of the Sinhalese language, to bring it up to speed, and contribute to our national development. We simply do not have state resources to fund a trilingual system that will continue to churn out a half-baked ‘man woke onthara bijja’ class of citizen. One recent manifestation of our nonsense is the latest fiasco at the Law College that will surely guarantee a perpetuation of a two-class legal system. Chapter iv article 18 (i) of the Constitution has become a sick joke.
    As we contemplate the parlous state of our present system of education, let us remember some early architects of this shitty mess, namely L H Mettananda, N Q Dias and friends, and the opportunistic JR himself. How time flies!

  • 0
    0

    Truth is, when everybody went to University using public funds, and learned the skills to formulate a productive country, everybody vanished from the country asap. Politicians and a the few professors that remained started blaming each other and accusing each other of lousy formulation of education policy. In places like Malaysia and Singapore, the culture of those places scorns their nationals who use the educational system and then move especially to the West, i.e. if legal action is not first taken against them usually in form of confiscation of assets.

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