19 July, 2024


Political Machinations: Entrenching The Tuition Culture

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha MP

The term rent-seeking is generally applied to politicians and government officials who seek benefits from the implementation of rules and regulations they administer. But the term is also used of those who benefit from the rent that, as it were, they pay to those in authority. Influencing government officials, and even government itself, to grant favours is an easy way of profiting in cultures where transparency is lacking and decision makers have discretion (which is generally a good thing) but without accountability (which is essential, with regard to discretionary decisions as well as finances).

This is one reason why governments should reduce the number of rules and regulations, and the number of times the public have to seek government approval for any initiative. This does not mean government should abdicate its responsibility of formulating and enforcing regulations, in the interests of equal opportunities and fair play. But too often regulations lead to individuals capable of winning favour easily obtaining approvals and support from officials, while members of the general public are driven from pillar to post to get answers, let alone permission. That is why, as the great Liberal statesman of the German Free Democratic Party put it, a country needs strong government, but it should be small.

There is another way however in which profit can be made from the excessive powers of government. By influencing government to take decisions which are not in the popular interest, special interest groups can often reap great benefits. Examples are the manner in which duties are sometimes imposed, or restrictions withdrawn.

A more insidious example struck me the other day when a friend whose son finished the Ordinary Level Examination last year told me that he would now face a large bill for tuition each month. I had known his son had not gone to school in the first term, but I thought he had resumed school, now that the Ordinary Level results were out and students knew what they could do next.

But it turned out that classes had not yet started. This seems to be the case in all government schools, and naturally parents, who do not want their children to be idling, send them for tuition. When some do this, it is difficult for others to hold back.

Why government cannot start classes straight away, as happened when I was in school, or at least in the second term, is inexplicable – except for the benefits reaped by the tuition industry, which as is common knowledge commands disproportionate influence. I hastenleast in the second term, is inexplicable – except for the benefits reaped by the tuition industry, which as is common knowledge commands disproportionate influence. I hasten to add that this is no criticism of the present Minister of Education, at whom people point fingers unfairly, given his own background as one of the more popular and financially successful tuition masters before he took to full time politics. While obviously he might be influenced to hold back on the necessary reforms by his former associates, the rot started a very long time ago, long before he appeared on the scene.

Unfortunately it was entrenched by his predecessor. Before that there had been an attempt to rationalize the system, and the Advanced Level Examination, which is now conducted in August had been moved to April. Having it in August is used to excuse the delay in starting classes, since those sitting the exam are in theory occupying classroom space (they do nothing of the sort, but in theory at any rate they are supposed to be following classes in the first term of their final year). Moving the Exam to April meant that they would be on study leave from January, so  the new Advanced Level intake could start classes.

But, in 2005, when the new government was elected, the impression was created that Tara de Mel, who was probably the best Secretary of Education we had had since the legendary Edward Wijemanne of the eighties, was an implacable foe of Mahinda Rajapaksa. One reason for this was an act of immeasurable folly by President Kumaratunga, who had in effect taken Tara away from the Ministry of Education at the beginning of that year, and entrusted her with tsunami work. That is turn was the result of excessive political rivalry, since the President had been away when the tsunami struck and found that the Prime Minister had handled the crisis effectively in her absence.

That could not be accepted, so the President promptly set up her own mechanisms, in the process sidelining Lalith Weeratunge, who as Secretary to the Prime Minister had been in the forefront of relief work. Tara was appointed to head one of the three committees the President appointed, and though Tara herself was not one to play snap about what was done and not done, the President’s agenda was different. Apart from other difficulties this created, one consequence was the erosion of the relationship between Tara and Lalith, who had been a wonderfully supportive Deputy to her when she was first Secretary to the Ministry of Education.

The result was that the one person in authority in government who understood the benefits of the reforms Tara had initiated , and her capacity, did not come to her defence when the rent seekers in the Ministries fell upon her ideas with a vengeance. With regard to the moving of the Advanced Level Examination, it was argued Tara did not understand the national culture and had ruined New Year celebrations for the nation. This was nonsense for the examinations could easily have been concluded by the first week of April.

But convenience was not the real problem, it was the attack on the tuition culture. If youngsters did not have an enforced break from school, and if the concept was entrenched that school was where you learned, the tutories would suffer. That was unacceptable, so the wellbeing of students was forgotten.

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  • 0

    “One reason for this was an act of immeasurable folly by President Kumaratunga, who had in effect taken Tara away from the Ministry of Education at the beginning of that year, and entrusted her with tsunami work. That is turn was the result of excessive political rivalry, since the President had been away when the tsunami struck and found that the Prime Minister had handled the crisis effectively in her absence.

    That could not be accepted, so the President promptly set up her own mechanisms, in the process sidelining Lalith Weeratunge, who as Secretary to the Prime Minister had been in the forefront of relief work. “

    “The PM handled the Tsunami crisis effectively..” did he? Did that include ‘Helping Hambantota’ as well? And wasn’t Lalith W in charge of disbursing those ‘Hambantota’ funds??

    • 0

      Hambantota Funds: I believe you are referring to this incident?

      “On December 27, both Prime Minister Rajapakse and Weeratunga verbally directed that Rs. 106,983,247.70 (over Rs. 106 million) be transferred to this private account. Later the amount to be transferred was changed to Rs. 82,958,247.70 (over Rs. 82 million). Accordingly on January 31, a People’s Bank cheque No. 179127 in the name of ‘The Manager, Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya, A/C No.01-1237322-01, Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme’ for the sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 signed by Accountant S. Subasinghe and Weeratunga was issued to facilitate the transfer.”

  • 0


    With your academic background, focus on what you can do to improve the teaching of English in schools and universities. The time has come for a Committee consisting of academics with similar backgrounds to decide whether we should continue with Queens English, change to EU English or American English.

    • 0


      What is the importance of that.

      English is Changing, Technical English or English used in the legal profession or English used in the tweeter, face book or text messaging are not the same.

      Just learn english.

  • 0

    Tara De Mel is/was a medical doctor and the educationists in the Education Department,universities and elsewhere did not accept her as an authority in education.
    A person who owns tuition tutaries – Grero – has been appointed as some sort of minister connected to education.
    Children go for tuition as teachers do not teach and finish the syllabus for each subject two months before year end exams – this was the rule upto the seventies.
    Extra classes were conducted on saturdays to finish the syllabus and to revise important areas.
    School Inspectors really inspected at the beginning of the year and each term.”Notes of Lessons” – a scheme setting out the sections in each subject to be taught weekly,for the whole year – was submitted by the principals for approval,discussed and approved.
    Inspecters paid surprise visits to schools to check on what was being taught,absentees among teachers & students and discipline.
    Attendance Officers visited homes of children who absented from schools for more than three days to get them back.

    After Sirimavo B took over all schools and brought them DOWN to equal level as “central schools” all these were stopped/did not happen.
    The ‘rot’ in education,set in.

    • 0

      And the patriots fought for Swabhasha as the ultimate mantra.

      Now we have taken a 180 degree turn and are putting in valuable resources to teach Korean and Chinese so that our youth can seek road-sweeping opportunities in those countries to bring in foreign reserves badly needed to buy racing cars! What a country, what foresight!!

  • 0

    Most parents feel that tuition classes are essential because of the poor standard of teachers in schools. I have had talks with Principals of schools and they say there truly is a problem, one of them being absenteeism, the other, absence without leave (AWOL). Yes, teachers do ‘scoot’, even though in the old days, this was a practice limited to students. There is also a lot of ‘sick leave’. The teachers are more aggressive now ( this applies to students too) and resent being disciplined. The problem also appears to be the lack of administrative ability within the school, particularly now that student and teacher numbers are so high. These do need the attention of the Ministry.

  • 0

    I admit that Tara de Mel was the best secretary the Ministry of Education had in the recent past.She worked to a plan and achieved targets which resulted in introducing IT to the secondary curriculum and a series of reforms to school education as well as tertiary education. The results she achieved within a short span of 1 1/2 years was due to the wholehearted support she got from President Kumarathunga who was equally passionate as Tara in giving the best education to every child in the Island.

  • 0

    All I could say is The Western education system that we follow should be changed into produce a more complete Citizen and to be more productive to our labour force to be more innovators based on Research and development oriented education system.

    Without moulding the Western Education sustem to suit our resources, industry and Agriculture, business and Economy, banking and Investment, Geography,Eeology, rural and urban development planning, research and development, social and home sciences etc, Sri Lanka will only be producing mere a white collar information storage Parrots, by-heart repeaters or mere human photocopy machines.

    We need to change our Education system to accomodate more skilled Research oriented and productive labour and make way to be self sufficient in our economy.Disciplene, culture and Leadership development is a must.

    I doubt if we still manufacture a Push Bicycle or spare parts for it in Sri Lanka leave alone other industry 65 years after Independence.Where is our self sufficiency in both Agriculture and Industry where we still import Seeds, fertiliser, Chemicles,basic machinery for our agriculture and Industry.

    Same with Agriculture where GOSL importing Foreign Seeds, Fertilizers and pesticide chemicles than producing them locally.

    Where are the innovators, inventors, new talents etc.

    Learn from Israel Education system.

    What is our University dons doing other than Producing human Photocopy Machines.

    Our education system needs a different direction and guidence to mould our children to be THINKERS, INNOVATORS, INVENTORS THAT COULD USE OUR NATURAL RESOURCES AND NATURE AND NOT TO PRODUCE MERE PARROTS AND PHOTOCOPY MACHINES.


    By lifting the bar every year to restrict students enrolling to universities will not help nobody.

    Grade Nine or GCE OL passed Ministers should never be allowed as Ministries incharge or heads of Corporations, Service sector or other Govt. Industry and responsible post.Lack of education,subject knowledge and Law make Ministers to exploit, pilfer and take hasty dicions in the corporations they are incharge.

    We need a new direction in our education system to suit 21st century.

  • 0

    When Rajiva Wijesinghe was disappointed he did not
    get a Ministerial or a Deputy Ministerial portfolio,
    a senior government personality suggested he be
    considered. The proposal was to make him Minister in
    charge of Montessori School.

    The senior politician was asked by a hireling why he
    proposed such a position. “Dressed up, if he appears
    before any mischievious children, they would behave,”
    he said.

    • 0

      Jolly Mola.

      Are you Joking or serious……Could you give me the name of this Senior Minister who suggested that Prof. Rajiva to be Minister incharge of Montessori Schools.

      As per my research I did found that Ninety Nine Percent (99%) of our Senior Ministers Do not have a University Degree. Eighty Five (85%) percent do not have a GCE Advance Level Certificate. 50% Fifty Percent do not have GCE Ordinary level certificate. 95% Ninety five percent cannot give a speech in English. 80% cannot read, write or talk in English…….I mean they do not have any clue of what is happening in the world or inability to talk to Foreign representatives.

      80% Eighty frive percent are Gamaralas…..meaning born and bread in Rural villages whose fathers primary employment is mere cultivators.

      It is the 80% uneducated villagers who send them to Parliament.Take for example our Prime minister. Please check what education qualifications he has to be the Prime Minister. These are the types of Pinguttara Alapaluwas we have in our Parliament.

      Therefore what authority this Senior Minister has to tell that Prof.Rajiva Wijesinghe should be the Minister of Montessori childre.

      These absolute uneducated villege Gamaralas who came to the Parliament through the vote of (90%)ninety percent absolute uneducated Villeges that ruined our Economy, while this villege Parliament Mafia Thugs do not allow Educated and Respected Scholars to Take Valuable Positions in the Parliament.

      Look at the Health Minister…..Another uneducated Gamarala whose father was a chena cultivator, having some paid degrees doing politics have ruined our Health care sector.

      Look at the President whose father was another Paddy field Gamarala who was introduced to politics by SWRD Bandaranaike now have totally ruined our economy. Look at Thug Mervin, Dumindea, Sarana, Gota, Bara, Chama…..all of these are uneducated and uncivilised muts who do not allow an educated minister to take up senior positions in the Parliament.

      There is a idiotic saying the ” Govia Mada hoda gath kala Rajakamata Sudusui”…..meaning when a Farmer cleans his dirt, he is eligible to be a King……..

      But I say when a Sri Lankan Gamarala Farmer cleaned his dirt He is Eligible to be a “Muppet Show off, crook staged Drama Actor” who will do nothing but will steal our money and ruin our Economy.

      Hope you agree.

      Please do your own research….but please give me the name of this Mahadena Muttha Senior Minister who spoke about Prof.Rajiva.

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