Colombo Telegraph

Over 50 National Trade Unions And CSOs Pledge To Safeguard State Education

 By Colombo Telegraph

The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) held a historic convention at the Western Province Aesthetic Centre on 17 August 2012 on the current status and future directions of State Education in Sri Lanka or “free education” as it is popularly known. The convention was attended by representatives of over 50 national trade unions and civil society organizations who collectively pledged to safeguard State Education.

We reproduce below the text of the preamble and the collective pledge along with a list of trade unions and civil society organizations which participated in this event.

 PLEDGE TO PROTECT STATE EDUCATION

The idea of Education is central to the continuation and preservation of human society, materially as well as culturally.  Education enables and sustains civilisations and promotes humanism and is a fundamental pillar of human rights, democracy, sustainable development and peace, and should become accessible to all (World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century, 1998).

In Sri Lanka, public sector education or ‘free education’ as it is commonly known, is a fundamental feature of our society, a core value on which the modern Sri Lankan identity has been built. The philosophy that drove Sri Lanka’s education policy and state investment in education centred on the potential of education for addressing social inequality.  Many of our achievements as a nation, for which we have won acclaim globally rests on the opportunities provided through public sector education.  Over the past six decades, it has been the avenue by which the masses sought and achieved upward social mobility. More importantly, it was pivotal in bringing about a post-independence renaissance in the fields of learning, science, art and culture.

However, since the early 1980s, the notion of education has been slowly changing.  Both the goals and outcomes of education are becoming primarily market-driven. The financial burden of education is slowly shifting from the state to individual students and their families and the objectives of education are becoming narrowly defined in terms of ‘employability’ or instrumental market needs.  This has come at high cost: both in terms of financial burden for families as well as declining standards in state funded education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. This shift has resulted in a diminishing appreciation of the social worth of education as well as the social responsibility to ensure education for all.  The declining standards in education have also been accompanied by increasing political interference in the administration as well as academic aspects, such as curriculum design, recruitment, etc. of the education sector.

Therefore, as representatives of trade unions, professional bodies and civil society movements, we, the undersigned collectively resolve to:

–          Work towards restoring the value of education as fulfilling a larger public good

–          Lobby the government to recognise the importance of protecting and enhancing state funded education

–          Work collaboratively to restore public confidence in the state education sector

–          Advocate for the government to honour its commitments to enhance funding for education to reach at least 6% of GDP which is the minimum UNESCO benchmark for state support for education

–          Resist and challenge political interference with the management of educational institutions

Federation of University Teachers’ Associations

Ceylon Teachers Service Union

Ceylon Teachers Union

Independent Ceylon Teachers Union

Sri Lanka National Teachers Union

Ceylon Pragathi Teachers Union

Education Professionals Union

General Teaching Professionals Union

Ceylon Piriven Teachers Union

Moratuwa University Workers Union

Inter University Students Federation

Arts Faculty Students Union, Colombo University

School Non-educational Services Union

Food, Drink and Tobacco Industry Union

Federation of Ceylon Trade Unions

Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum

Law and Society Trust

Young Researchers’ Collective

Medical Faculty Student Action Committee

Sri Lanka Federal Health Services Union

Free March Organization

Free Trade Zone and General Services Workers Union

All Ceylon Nurses Union

Inter-company Workers Union

Kantha Shakthi Organizaiton

Equal Ground

Women and Media Collective

Federation of Media Workers Unions

All Ceylon State Management Support Staff Union

Telephone Operators Union

Ceylon Mercantile Union

United Workers Federation

Employed Graduates Union

Inland Revenue General Workers Union

Sri Lanka Railway General Workers Union

National Intellectual Professionals Collective

Sri Lanka Port General Workers Union

All Ceylon Transport Workers Union

Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya

Ports Authority Workers Union

All Ceylon Railway Workers Union

Telecom Engineering Diploma Holders Union

Professor Senaka Bibile Memorial Organization

Sri Lanka Public Health Inspectors Union

Alliance of Health Workers Unions

All Ceylon Bank Workers Union

State Timber Corporation Workers Union

Provincial Council General Workers Union

All Ceylon Customs Workers Union

Film Corporation Workers Union

University of Fine Arts General Students Union

Sri Lanka Postal Workers Union

Sri Lanka Professional Journalists Union

National Workers Union, Ports

State Services Management Support Officers Union

Ports General Union

South Asia Free Media Organization, Sri Lanka Chapter

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