6 December, 2019

Blog

Presidential Election: The Multiple Crises In Sri Lankan Education

By Ratnasiri Arangala, A. M. Navaratna Bandara, Michael Fernando, Wipula Karunathilake, Mohammed Mahees, Sasanka Perera, Jayadeva Uyangoda

Sri Lanka’s entire system of education, at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels, has been facing multiple crises. Attempts made in the recent past to address some aspects of these crises have either succeeded only partially, or failed altogether. 

The persistence of these multiple crises has also generated new interest in educational reforms among Sri Lanka’s presidential candidates in the 2019 Presidential Campaign. 

It is reported that the main presidential candidates have assigned the responsibility to design policies on education to their own groups of advisors. Their proposals are probably included in their election manifestoes and campaign promises. 

Renewal of such interest in resolving the ever-sharpening crisis of education would be meaningful only if new ideas lead to transformative policy reforms.

We are a group of professionals deeply committed to reforming and strengthening Sri Lanka’s education at all levels. In this context, our intention is to present a few approaches that we believe will lead our country’s system of education out of these multiple crises. 

We offer the following brief analysis and agenda for reform to the attention of all presidential candidates, their committees of advisors, political parties they represent and, last but not the least, citizens and voters of the country, for reflection and action.

Current Crisis

Sri Lanka’s current state of crisis in education has been ably explained by researchers and policy experts in a variety of ways, drawing attention to its many dimensions. We wish to highlight the following anomalies that have made the overall crisis of education intractable. Their resolution indeed calls for major policy interventions spread over short-term, medium-term and long-term basis:

  • The ever-increasing social demand for school, tertiary and higher education continues to remain only partially met. This is a condition caused by the severe incapacity of the existing state-run educational system for further expansion, modernization, quality improvement, and fulfilling social aspirations.
  • Progressive decline of the quality and standards of education provided at all levels in the state sector is further hastened by the ad hoc and hurriedly designed responses to meeting the increasing demands for education. The growing mismatch between expansion and quality is observable in the school, vocational as well as university education.
  • Early childhood education continues to remain an informal and ad hoc branch of education with no policy towards accreditation of service providers. It lacks an active and robust involvement of the Ministry of Education in monitoring quality, standards, the type of education, facilities available, prevailing hygienic conditions, child protection, services in place, and professionalism of teachers. As a result, this sector has become a huge, yet unorganized sector of education.   In instances where quality education is provided, the fees are high and unaffordable to most parents.  
  • Poor nutritional conditions among the school children, particularly due to increasing economic hardships experienced by the low income and lower middle class families, is a forgotten policy issue. The prevalence of poor nutrition extends even to students in universities and tertiary educational institutions where the majority come from low income social backgrounds.
  • Improvements in school education are severely hampered by the state of stagnation in professionalism among most of the schoolteachers in their teaching, training, evaluation and mentoring skills. Most teachers practice only one, and of course wrong, teaching method. It involves (a) dictating notes to students, (b) forcing students to memorize model answers and repeat them at public examinations, and (c) persuading students to prepare only for the so-called target questions.
  • Schoolteachers in general are also handicapped by not having opportunities to update their subject knowledge, or acquire new skills. As a consequence, they fail to inspire students for creativity.
  • The involvement of private sector to provide parallel education opportunities has led to many distortions and negative outcomes about the goals and benefits of education. Rising cost of education caused by the entry of an un-governed tuition industry has severely undermined the very idea of free education. It has also created a state of anarchy in school education. 
  • The unchecked proliferation of profit-seeking private educational institutions, without any regulatory framework in place, has led to new disparities in the access to and benefits from the private sector-led education. At present, there are no government mechanisms to ensure quality and standards of education and training provided as well as assessments and examinations conducted by these institutions. Thus, they have the potential to undermine the social mission of education as a civilizational resource.
  • The incapacity of the industry in both the state and the non-state sectors as well as the economy to generate adequate employment opportunities for the educated youth at all levels continues unchecked. The proliferation of private higher educational institutions caters primarily to very limited segments of society. This situation is likely to sharpen the social disparities in the access to employment both in state and private sectors.
  • The entire sector of higher education stagnates in a grossly outdated model of university undergraduate institutions inaugurated as far back as the early 1940s. It sought to produce recruits for the public sector as well as medical and technical professions. No effort so far has been made by any government to change and modernize this relic from the colonial past.
  • There have been many ad hoc and costly responses to periodic pressures from global economic and labour market trends.  Such reform measures implemented in school and university education have systematically ignored locally generated visions and perspectives for sustainable rebuilding of the country’s education. The neglect of constructive inputs from local intelligentsia and their resultant apathy for change in the educational sector has led to the lack of participation by the direct stakeholder communities.
  • Sri Lanka has not yet succeeded in developing and supporting its Tertiary and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) sector into a robust and forward – looking branch of education. It is expected to serve the employment aspirations of young school leavers around the age of sixteen. However, it fails to attract them in adequate numbers. Among the reasons are: (a) unattractiveness of courses and training it offers to the new generation of the youth, (b) absence of a system of adequate financial support for students, (c) failure to cater to the needs and vocational aspirations of women students, and, (d) conservative nature of the overall educational outlook that is not yet ready to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • Policy-thinking for transformative reforms in the education sector is also blocked by the narrowly politicized reactions by a range of vested interests. Prominent among them are various post-Independence governments, political parties, and teacher unions, and student unions.  Similarly, the continuous failure by the academic communities and their professional associations to offer research-based alternative policy options has made public discourse on educational reforms poorer.
  • Gender composition of student populations in school, university and vocational sectors is changing rapidly due to the higher participation of women than men in almost all levels of education and in most fields. This is a major facet of democratization of education in Sri Lanka. However, educational institutions as well as the labour markets have not yet made meaningful adjustments to accommodate this demographic change. Facilities available at educational institutions are still insensitive to the needs of the majority of students who are women. 

Vocational training is still conventional in orientation that re-affirms gender stereotyping. There are no incentives for women students to join the vocational fields that have traditionally been reserved for men. The field of employment continues to discriminate educated and professionally qualified women in recruitment as well as promotion.

  • The present state of dispersal of institutional responsibilities for educational reforms among key government institutions is a major handicap for policy innovation. This fact also remains unacknowledged. Policy-making and implementation in education is spread across a vast institutional scheme. It covers the office of the President, office of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Provincial Councils, University Grants Commission, National Education Commission, and National Institute of Education. 

This state of diffusion of responsibilities calls for an institutional focal point for coordinating the process of policy-making and guiding policy implementation.

A Long-Term Vision

We stress that a policy vision with commitment to effective implementation is needed to take Sri Lanka’s education out of the present crisis and re-orient its future developmental path. Such a vision requires a democratic political leadership that can establish a broad coalition of stakeholder communities along with a commitment to championing a process of nation-building though modernizing Sri Lanka’s education at all levels.

Such a modernizing vision should contain the following normative principles and strategic considerations:

  • Education is a fundamental right of all. It is the duty and obligation of the state to ensure that all citizens have access not just to education, but to quality education without discrimination or deprivation on any basis.
  • Education is a vital means for social transformation, social equality, social mobility, democratic citizenship, pluralistic nation-building, and realization of individual and community aspirations. Thus, preserving and promoting the capacity and role of education as the driving force for positive social change as well as individual and social upliftment should be integral to the social contact between the government and citizens.  This calls for a clear commitment on the part of policy-makers that equity matters at all levels of education.
  • However, such responses should be carefully formulated by taking into account local conditions. Further, these responses need to be transformed into policy and implemented without causing new waves of social exclusion, group marginalization, political upheavals or national crises.  That calls for building broad social and stakeholder coalitions through dialogue for major policy reforms in education. 
  • Any new reform should also reflect the reality that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society. Educational reforms at all levels should be guided by a vision for building citizens for a democratic society with pluralistic values.
  • Sri Lanka’s education needs to respond to new demands from global economic change, industrial and technological revolutions, and restructuring of labour markets. A new emphasis on vocational and professional educational needs to be carefully calibrated with the school and university education. For its success, active collaboration between different agencies representing the state and non-state sectors as well as the external donor community will be needed.

A Framework for Short and Medium Term Action

We propose the following actions for policy intervention which also reflect the current thinking among many reform constituencies in our society. They point to policy innovation, and building new institutions while re-building and reforming the existing ones. These are measures that require clarity of objectives with a vision for preventing bureaucratization. Sustainability of reforms as proposed below also calls for building broad stakeholder coalitions. Continuous dialogue with stakeholders should be built into the strategy of managing change in all areas of the educational sector.

Early Childhood Education

Policy Challenge

The Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a vast and still expanding sector in Sri Lanka’s education. It is presently run and managed by individual initiatives with small-scale private investment. The absence of state investment, lack of a clear legal framework to govern the provision of ECE and the implementation of existing ECE policies, weak mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing compliance, and the absence of quality assurance in all its aspects are crucial issues that require solutions.

Reform Proposals

  • Steps should be taken to ensure quality assurance in the services provided by the sector of early childhood education which presently operates on a semi-informal basis.
  • Strengthen the existing institutional mechanisms maintained by the Provincial Councils by formulating national standards. A scheme for accreditation of service providers for early childhood education, along with licensing the institutions as well as teachers, should be designed.
  • Streamline early childhood education with greater emphasis on training and professionalization for service providers and particularly teachers.  
  • An institutional framework to monitor, support, improve, and sustain the sector of early childhood education should be introduced. An Early Childhood Education Authority should be established with a mandate to work in collaboration with Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.
  • The above can be implemented by taking the following steps: (a) the Government empower the Authority to formulate guidelines for teacher recruitment, training of teachers, formulation of syllabi and teaching methods, management of pre-schools, school space and facilities and equipment needs;  (b) This Authority vests some of these responsibilities in the Provincial Councils and local government bodies to be carried out under its supervision; (c) Adding the kindergarten class into the national primary school system run by the state. 

School Education

Policy Challenge

The crisis of school education sector is multi-faceted and pervasive.  The school education sector is also influenced by a vast array of stakeholders with competing interests and agendas.  Much needed structural reforms in this sector need to be carried out with strategies to manage resistance to reform by diverse interest groups. That requires sustained dialogue between policy-makers and groups who may have dissenting views oppose change.  

Reform Proposals

  • Re-think and reforming the social and policy utility of Grade Five Scholarship examination: The government should design in its place a new scheme, without its highly demanding, commercialized and oppressive examination mechanism. The new scheme should provide (a) enhanced financial assistance to needy children of low-income families, and (b) better schools for meritorious and highly promising students within each province.  

Beneficiaries should be identified by means of a combination of national level and improved, transparent and abuse-free school-based assessments, conducted within each province.

  • Once the above (a) and (b) are implemented, a scholarship examination only for needy students and an admission examination for meritorious students from under-equipped rural and urban schools should be introduced.
  • Re-structuring the present General Certificate of Education – Advanced Level Examination: This should be done by introducing two examinations at Year 13. One examination will enable students to obtain national-level school leaving certificates for early employment and vocational training. The other examination will qualify students for higher education in universities and other higher educational institutions.
  • Better Vocational Education for School Leavers:  Introduce on a priority basis a system of vocational education and training that are well-planned and sustainable for students leaving school after Year 13. It should aim at qualifying the school-leavers for employment in national and global labour markets. Financial collaboration from the private sector through public-private partnership should be secured for this since the private sector would be its primary beneficiary.
  • Re-orienting post-primary school education: The present system of post-primary education should be re-oriented towards creatively integrating mathematics, science, social studies, civics, aesthetics, value education, English, and a Second National Language in the school curriculum.
  • Restructuring G. C. E (Advanced Level) Curriculum Framework: Re-design the present scheme of General Certificate of Education – Advanced Level subject streams as Arts, Physical Science, Biological Science, Commerce, and Technology by (a) doing away with the existing system of strict compartmentalization of subject streams, and (b) making inter-stream mobility through a flexible system of course modules possible. 

The Advanced Level curriculum should be redesigned on the basis of a module-based credit system. The new system should enable preferred combinations of modules spread across core subjects and subsidiary subjects. 

  • Introducing Student Counselling: Make student advising and counselling mandatory in schools. Creative redesigning of senior secondary school education, as suggested above, necessarily requires the provision of student advising and counselling.     
  • Introducing Value Education: Re-orient the school subject of Religion towards an emphasis on inter-religious value education. Religious education should focus on basic principles of philosophies and ethical doctrines, and not rituals, of major religions practiced by citizens of Sri Lanka. Appoint a committee of educationists to advise on what philosophical and ethical content of vast bodies of religious doctrines should be included in the limited school curricula in value education.
  • Introducing the idea of Career Paths: Introduce from Year 10 onwards the idea of future career paths and career options to school children. It should enable parents, along with teachers, to begin to think about and plan the children’s futures positively and knowledgably.  
  • Strengthening Career Guidance in Schools: Train and establish a special cadre of schoolteachers as qualified career guidance counsellors for schools. This calls for setting up an institute under the Ministry of Education for training and accrediting schoolteachers for counselling and student advising.
  • Retraining and empowering teachers: Initiate an accelerated programme of re-training and re-empowering all school teachers. Its activities can be done through stages and by means of decentralized initiatives with the participation of Provincial Councils. Such a program should aim at (a) updating and enhancing teachers’ subject knowledge, and (b) equipping them with new methodologies of teaching, assessment, and mentoring. 

To make this more attractive and to compensate for their time, schoolteachers should be offered a better remuneration package plus a performance & training-related compensation-recognition system.

  • Addressing the Year 13 student absenteeism: Take immediate administrative measures to ensure that students at Year 13 regularly attend school and that teachers conduct classes properly and diligently in the school for Year 13 students.  This should aim at ending the present apathy and indifference shown by schoolteachers, principals and the Ministry of Education towards the widespread problem of student absenteeism at Year 13.
  • Regulating the private tuition industry: Introduce legislation to control and regularize the private tuition industry by the Ministry of Education. It should aim at (a) minimizing the share of family budget spent on education of children outside the school system, (b) restoring the lost norms of free education in the country in order to help the low and middle-income families, (c) ensuring that provision of education is not exploitative, and (d) guaranteeing that undue burdens are not placed on students via excessive training and endless rote learning for examinations.

University Education

Policy Challenge

University education is the sector that has defied any major reform for change from its outdated goals, institutional structure and organizational culture. Attempted and actual reforms in the university sector, from student admission to teaching programmes and diversification of ownership, has led to political unrest and organized resistance too.  

The sector is lagging behind the country’s changing needs. It has also been struggling to cope with new demands for change and re-orientation emerging from national as well as global conditions.  Radical and major reforms are required in the higher educational sector. Yet, they need to be introduced and managed with a focus on preventing disruptive consequences in the social and political spheres.

Reform Proposals

  • Restructuring the University curricula in AHSS fields: Address the challenge of providing employment to increasing numbers of graduates in Arts, Humanities and Social Science fields As a major policy priority, universities should be encouraged to restructure undergraduate courses and curricula. 

Such restructuring should aim at qualifying graduates directly to diverse professions in the state and non-state sectors while substantial subject knowledge is retained in undergraduate education. That should also aim at inculcating a more inclusive sense of public citizenship among graduates who at present feel alienated from society.

  • Restructuring the University system: Consider restructuring the existing university system to formulate a clearly defined college system for undergraduate education and a university system for advanced training. The new focus should be on immediate employment with regard to training in the former, and more advanced professional and academic training in the latter.
  • Reforming the system if career-guidance: The MoHE, UGC and Universities should re-think the current emphasis on narrowly conceived soft-skills training programmes through career guidance. Those existing programmes should be strengthened through a synthesis of academic education with training for professional careers.
  • Forecasting Employment requirements of the economy: Initiate a mechanism for research-based forecasting of annual requirements for employment in different professional fields. This should be achieved in collaboration with the MoHE, UGC, the universities, the Ministry of Manpower and Emploment, and Department of Census and Statistics. That should enable to plan the expansion of university education to be planned in conjunction with the changing realities of the labour market and trends in the global and national economies. 
  • Reforming the undergraduate curricula: Encourage the UGC and Universities to initiate curriculum reforms in the undergraduate education to enable students of all fields to receive and benefit from a broad-based and holistic education. It should aim at transcending the present frameworks of Faculty and Stream-based, and narrowly conceived, academic and disciplinary compartmentalization.
  • Reviewing and reforming the District Quota System: Review and revise the existing District Quota System for university admission. The new system should enable more students from poor and middle-income families of rural districts to enter science, medicine, engineering and technology Faculties.  
  • Raising the quality and standards of teaching: Bring all systems of knowledge offered by universities at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels closer to clearly identified global norms and good practices. Similarly, offer adequate and closely monitored training programs for university teachers to ensure that they can offer the training to students at par with global norms and standards.
  • Upgrading post-graduate education and training: Make it mandatory for the state universities and non-state Higher Educational Institutions to ensure that their post-graduate programmes comply with the authentic global norms in teaching, learning, training, research, and publication. This calls for mechanisms for monitoring to be in place.
  • Upgrading the quality of external degree programmes: Make it also mandatory for the state universities to raise the quality and standards of the education provided to students in external degree courses and open and distance learning programmes. This also requires mechanisms for monitoring to be in place.
  • Professional training for graduates: Establish an institute for administrative and managerial training institute to enable university graduates to obtain professional qualifications required for executive and managerial professions in the state and non-state sectors. The Ministry of Higher Education, the UGC, the Ministry of Public Administration, the Ministry of Manpower and Employment, and the private sector should collaborate in this initiative.
  • Setting-up of a university publishing and printing service: The nonexistence of a formal academic publishing industry in the country has negatively impacted the in-county production of serious knowledge. In order to address this issue, explore the possibility of creating at least one university-led non-profit publishing enterprise. It should be designed on the models of successful university presses elsewhere in the world.
  • Regulating and standardizing private educational institutions: Ensure that all private educational institutions adhere to norms and standards of quality in all their teaching and training programmes, as will be set out by the University Grants Commission through appropriate regulations. This should be done through a mechanism of monitoring and compliance.

Tertiary and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector

Policy Challenge

Modernizing, upgrading and strengthening of the TVET sector, to make its doors open to large numbers of secondary school leavers, is as important as the higher education sector. It is the sector that has untapped capacity and potential to help policy-makers to resolve the perennial mismatch between education and employment. Modernizing this sector requires new capital investment, greater international support, sustainable public-private partnerships and institutional innovation.

Reform Proposals

  • Diversification of Syllabi: Diversify the syllabi of TVET sector to accommodate new skills requirements necessitated by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This should be done in collaboration with the International Labour Organization.
  • Regulating the informal employment sector: Introduce a scheme under the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) framework to gradually formalize the existing employment in the vast informal sector. 

It should cover transport, motor vehicle repair and maintenance, household-based industries, small manufacturing, domestic service, construction, retail trade, and cleaning and sanitary service, private security industry etc. Such a scheme should also aim at guaranteeing the employees better wages, labour entitlements, and working conditions while introducing both employers and workers to modern work-ethics. 

  • Incentives for vocational and technical trainees: Most of the TVET trainees are usually from low-income family backgrounds. They currently receive only inadequate state financial support for survival. Provide the TVET Trainees, in collaboration with state and non-state sectors, improved monthly allowances during their apprenticeship period. This should be viewed as an incentive for school leavers to join the TVET sector for vocational training and eventual employment. 
  • Upgrading skills of migrant workers: Upgrade and open the TVET sector to accommodate the currently unskilled migrant workers to the Middle Eastern countries. Their skills should be updated to suit changes in the labour requirements of a rapidly changing world of work.
  • Training for female school leavers for non-traditional professions: Encourage more female school leavers to join the TVET sector. They should be provided training and employment opportunities beyond the vocations traditionally reserved for women. Making available to them incentives to build their careers in the fields of technology, engineering, IT etc., should also be a priority.  A policy of affirmative action should be designed and implemented to achieve this objective.

Professor Ratnasiri Arangala – University of Sri Jayawardenapura

Dr. A. M Navaratna Bandara -Formerly University of Peradeniya

Dr. Michael Fernando – Formerly University of Peradeniya

Wipula Karunathilake -Development Journalist

Dr. Mohammed Mahees -University of Colombo

Professor Sasanka Perera -South Asian University, New Delhi

Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda -Formerly University of Colombo

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Latest comments

  • 20
    0

    Dear Professors,
    .
    The picture
    used to introduce the article is the same as that used by Prof. Laksiri Fernando here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/human-right-to-quality-education-eight-demands-to-all-presidential-candidates/
    .
    Comments still coming in, highlighting specific instances. Yours is a more important over-view. The section that is worst off are the Estate Labourers, and the sort of buildings that you have in the photograph are to be found only there.
    .
    I have focussed there on the Education provided by the State. However, tyranny even in “prestigious” institutions that people feel needn’t be investigated is even worse. I met a teacher at S. Thomas’ Bandarawela, which has the same Board of Governors as the school in Mt Lavinia. The Bandarawela teacher just doesn’t have the guts to insist on proper election of a Staff Representative between January and March next year.
    .
    The 76-year-old man who represents them now I spoke to at 11.39 am on Friday, 1st November 2019. He cut me off after a minute, I called back twice. I told him that he if he wants to get on again, he will have to be properly elected. When he cheated in 2016 I put three articles on. Try navigating back:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-thomian-pharisees-are-unrepentant-why-this-matters-to-all-sri-lankans/
    .
    I have said today that Nagananda should not have inserted an Educational Qualification for M.PP. It is too rigid. After all there is the University of Life. But then, one must be open about it, and say that the person has practical skills. This man has not studied beyond Grade Eight. Spent five years in his second school – promoted twice, failed three times. I won’t say that he’s now uneducated, but most of these guys are there for prestige, and he told me that he will get himself elected the same way again.

    • 19
      0

      The Chairman of the Board is Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Anglican Bishop of Colombo. I called his Office four times that same day between 12.05 and 4.01 p.m. With advice on timing received from the staff I called his mobile five times. That mobile number I have had since 2007. He knows me well.
      .
      I had earlier received a call from the Bishop’s Personal Assistant, on the 29th August 2019, with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby in Sri Lanka. My letter complaining of manhandling by the Priest- Principal, with fifty witnesses had been received. He was merely buying time. What happened I have explained in detail in four comments here made that very day:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/does-legality-matter-at-all/comment-page-1/#comments
      .
      It’s a sort of running commentary.

      • 2
        4

        S-Man,
        As soon as I saw the Jayadeva Uyangoda as one of the contributor, I expected this essay to be pessimistic. I think that such a pessimism is extremely unfair for the current Ed Minister who is trying his best to fix the existing rotten system. I also believe that there is a lot to do but I also believe that the current Gvt understand the nature of the problem. But, a system that was rotting since the independence cannot be fixed overnight; it take minimum of a decade show some results. However, I must insist that education reforms, no matter how good they are, cannot succeed without sound economic base.

        Please read my replies to:
        https://www. colombotelegraph.com/index.php/hynotism-the-future-of-academic-freedom-in-sri-lanka/
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/human-right-to quality-education-eight/demands/to-all-presidential-candidates/

        • 0
          0

          Sorry, I noticed an spelling error.
          The first link should be:
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/hypnotism-the-future-of-academic-freedom-in-sri-lanka/
          The date of the publication: Oct 12, 2019.

        • 5
          0

          Dear D. P.,
          .
          I have looked at the first article that you have referred me to, by Prof. Saumya Liyanage, whom I didn’t know about, but I’ve found a Wikipedia entry on him:
          .
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saumya_Liyanage
          .
          So there, I faithfully do my homework. I’m afraid that your two responses there don’t carry forward the argument very far. Also, I had to navigate my way to the article because the link didn’t seem to work.
          .
          The second link worked all right, but I can find nothing new from you there, although comments are still coming in. In your comment here you have praised the “current Ed Minister” – who is he? Akila V. Kariyawasam is in charge of only school education, isn’t that right? Who is in charge of Higher Education? I guess I ought to know. However, I again find you vague. I have referred to very specific things in my comments on both articles. No contradiction of the veracity of what I have stated.
          .
          Incidentally, I’ve had a fifteen-minute phone chat with Presidential Candidate, Dr Ajantha Perera about 7.30 this evening. She’s not dropping out. I suggested that, although I think her a good candidate.
          .
          About 6.30 pm I rang my local mayor, of Bandarawela. His group was elected as Independents, and I was glad to hear him say that he is still independent, although some of his team have joined the SLPP. That independent group was Sirisena plus “Pohottuwa”.
          .
          Isn’t it time we ditched all these politicians and thought seriously about “Education”?

          • 0
            1

            S-Man,
            I know I was a kind vague. That is b’cos I don’t believe in proposing specific remedies by itself is the solution. My argument is that education can’t prosper by itself without the necessary economic base. Once there is a dissociation as in current SL, the brain drain and unemployment/under employment are the results. I argued that the current dissociation began with expansion of higher education in Sinhala/Tamil medium while not encouraging investments. If you reflect on the history of human civilization, you should be able to see that it was industrial needs since the primitive age that drove education more than the other way around.

            I don’t believe that Higher education needs a cabinet minister; UGC alone should be to handle the job.

            About politicians, I take the exact opposite view: we have to keep pushing them all the time or else they will tend to regress to usual bad habits. This is more so with SL media which more corrupt than politics.

          • 2
            0

            Dear D. P. ‘
            .
            I must acknowledge that I’m getting tired of your saying nothing meaningful, despite your being anonymous. As you should realise, I regularly make my identity known.
            .
            Yet it is I who take the risk of naming names; you don’t do that.
            .
            “To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit”.
            .
            Great guy it was who said it:
            .
            https://quotes.yourdictionary.com/author/william-blake/28607
            .
            Try to emulate us. What you say is of little use.

            • 0
              0

              S-Man,
              Exposing the ID is a personal choice. I hide my ID to protect myself from possible White Van attacks! By the way, why bother to reveal the ID bit by bit when you can use your real name?

              About being general, I already explained why I did so. What is the meaning of proposing details when the problem lies somewhere else?

              Whoever said that generalization is an idiotic task doesn’t know what science is. Particulars (detail facts) as well as generalizations (model= theory building) are both essential parts of science. Have heard of the famous dictum by the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant: “Percepts (facts) without concepts (generalizations) are blind; concepts without percepts are empty”. They both must reflect the underline reality. The purpose of science is to keep probing into the relationship between concepts & percepts to see whether they represent the reality.

              Too bad if my responses did hurt your feelings but I would never direct my criticisms at anybody beyond the opinions expressed in writings. Such habits particularly are not signs of good teachers. The best I can do hereafter is to avoid responding to your comments. That will help you to avoid keep apologizing as you did once before.

              Thanks.

              • 0
                0

                Thanks.
                .
                William Blake was reacting consciously against the science the scientists know.
                .
                No problem if you decide to boycott me. You are just too dogmatic for me.

    • 8
      3

      Dear Professionals,

      Thanks for your analysis and the remedies you recommend. However you did not go to some of the underlying causes and factors, that also influence the education system that Impacted by the societal norms.

      1. The low mean IQ of the populace, 79, compared to 100 for the West, 106-108 for Japan, Korea, China and Singapore.

      2. The degree of brainwashing the students are subjected to by the various religions and their religious leaders? The monks, the priests and the Ulama.

      3. The dignity of labor, that prevents many students who are better off being in the trades, trying for non-trade professions.

      4. The narrow subjects and syllabuses for students that limit their curiosity inventiveness and innovation. Memorization and reproduction of what was memorized either by writing or verbally is still given higher societal value compared to critical thinking and innovation. In this environment, the religious leaders thrive, but nobody ends up getting to Nirvana, Nibbana, Heaven or Hell.

      The caste , ethnic and religious discriminations at various levels of society.

      What was wrong with Dr. Shafi of Kurunegala?

      • 3
        2

        Dear Professionals,

        “What was wrong with Dr. Shafi of Kurunegala?”

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/dr-shafi-victim-of-professional-jealousy-racism-of-medical-professionals/

        Dr Shafi – Victim Of Professional Jealousy & Racism Of Medical Professional.

        Do you think your recommendations, will prevent future travesty of justice and infamy, by the Para-Sinha;la Para-“Buddhists”?

        Nothing. He was providing valuable services to the patients.

        Then what went wrong? Where was the problem, and what is the cause?

        1. Para-Sinhala Para-“Buddhism”

        2. The lies of Para-Sinhala Para “Buddhist ” Politicians and Monks.

        3. There is no law and order and Justice.

        4. Education should be secular, and religion should be confined to the Temple, Mosques and Churches, so that the students can be brainwashed within their walls only.

        5. “Religion is the opium of the masses” -Philosopher (lover of wisdom) Karl Marx.

  • 5
    2

    Current job based schools should be introduced, no need of doing O/L and A/L if the child has interest elsewhere.
    It’s better to have a exam at 14years, for children, and assess where the child’s ability lies, Then give specialized training on his ability, say if he can swim well, have professional diver schools, if he or she can do athletics, have training on archiving there potential and have training to be coaches etc…
    Look at the world as the market,
    Have more technical schools, have miners, plumbers,fitters, specialized fire fighters, specialized weapon instructors etc….
    Have industrial hemp industry, have sea based industry’s as Sri Lanka has more Sea mass than land mass

    • 0
      1

      This need for higher tertiary education is the mad scramble to keep up with Western countries. Actual building up the country from honorable roots is caught in the trap of proving that Lankans also have brains like the White man (over there they don’t care where your brains come from as long as you can make money for them and keep their consumer prices regulated).
      *
      Students taking volumes of notes is due to lack of good text books and photocopiers. But some of it is actually a good thing. It makes students focus more and keeps them occupied. More money from GOSL should go to providing good text books and photocopiers – the article mentions this for only tertiary levels.
      *
      Memorization can be a good thing, and so is teaching to the test.  Over in the US, vast amounts of time are spent in discussion and brainstorming for each and every subject, and the actual lesson that should be learnt is lost.  Nobody knows what they were supposed to be learning in the first place, and the lesson is one social partying experience where those who talk the loudest and are more entertaining hold the show. Brainstorming and discussions are yet a good thing for critical thinking , but they should be a whole different class session.
      *
      (Strangely, the lessons that should be more abstract e.g. music, are given long lectures on what music is about or the deeper meaning of each stanza.  Enjoyment of singing where innate brain connectivity naturally absorbs all the intricacies, becomes a lesson in music precision. It becomes a dreadful and tearful experience especially to younger and more active students. 

      • 0
        1

        And the poorness of the American educational system is well known. Creativity is highlighted so just  0.001% persons can produce the next great innovation to help them survive the next 100 years by selling it to others. This is preferred over thousands of years of documented intelligence…..never mind the 99% who will go into the hell of stupidity……some racism involved there too.
        *
        Early childhood ed. came about in societies that had no other means of support, other than through commerce. In places like USA, where original farms of the Native Indians were destroyed by the White man, they could only go into commerce and create items to sell to others to survive. Their women had to work to keep up the system. Same in places like Russia. Their farms could not produce enough food and fuel for them to survive, and so they needed to industrialized to keep warm. Their women needed to work, and their children needed to be taken care of.
        *
        Why are we aping those systems in a country that could have been so easily self-sufficient with food, and also have plentiful of salubrious weather, is the question. True, a large number of women from the struggling masses need to go to the middle east as servants (due to colonial influences and their continue control of our money system). But I doubt the early ed. spoken about is for these children. We hope they have extended family to look after them. If not, GoSL should provide adequate services from the country money brought in by these servants. After all, that is the money used as collateral when getting all kinds of foreign loans to build all the fancy stuff.
        *
        For adequate nourishment, what happened to the local organic diet?  Can that be compared to the unnutrituous junk good that the masses of the US eat?

        • 3
          0

          No, we have to look for the positives and work up from there. We cannot look at another education system and use expensive ad hoc procedures in a vain effort to install alien systems.
          *
          In short, education should reflect the ability of the nation. We have jumped the gun too many times in trying to install extraneous systems. And for the few who have managed to rub shoulders with the White brain elite, is the shame of our Masses struggling and howling in misery and shame.

      • 0
        1

        Ramona Fernando,

        Another issue are the number of subjects, most of which add little value to overall learning. For example, a student may take music, language, art, history, and maths all in one day. Very few people will become professional musicians, so this course is a waste of time. Language is important – reading and writing. There is no need to teach history at school, it can be taught at home via DVD or the Internet, assuming everyone has a simple computer. Maths is very important, as this is the foundation for all logical reasoning. Science is also important, so that people have at least a basic knowledge of their environment. It is sufficient to teach these 3 subjects (language, maths, and science), with 2 hours allocated for each one. I also think the school should be 4 days a week, with day 5 allocated for tuition classes or to meet with the teacher.

        • 0
          0

          Lester,
          *
          Agreed! But history should also be taught to give chronological dimension, except that the assessments should not be long thesises and essays even for grade school students, but straightforward questioning ( imagine installing university-type assessments on school curriculum?……that’s what they do). The story should enough to interest students without forcing unnecessary procedures to tax their brains. That’s what the do to each and every subjuct, making students frustrated and anxious. It is a well thought out plot to tweak out creativity (never mind the other 99.999%), and/or boost up the educational industry so educational aids can be sold, and/or make sure a certain race will be forever dumb.

          • 0
            0

            Ramona, yes. Writing long essays and thesis on people who lived millennia ago is a waste of time, other than to teach students some basic reading comprehension skills. These days, it is not only the content of the paper that is important but the formatting, since the paper is typed electronically and certain standards must be met. If students have an interest in history, it is easy for them to read books on their own. Unlike with science, language is not a barrier. Regarding exceptional students, I like the Soviet method of sending them to special schools early on. For example, children who showed particular aptitude for maths or science went to special schools where those subjects were taught at a fast pace. Children who excelled in dancing or music or sports went to various academies at a young age. In this way, the Soviet Union was able to maximize the full potential of the students without wasting resources. Another good thing was that university professors trained in a particular discipline designed the entire school curriculum. I have seen the Soviet textbooks, they are superb; they challenge the student to think creatively as opposed to blind memorization and recitation. Now that we have technology, this process can be replicated fairly easily. Children should learn from the best minds, not the fools who only attend teacher training colleges and lack depth into what they are teaching.

            • 0
              0

              Lester,
              *
              Sri Lanka must follow that Russian system. They know what exactly what their students need, and as you say, they maximize the full potential of students without wasting resources. But in Sri Lanka’s feudal cum capitalistic society, only the rich ones with all the benefits will show any potential. Russia on the other hand is communist, and so everything is egalitarian. So it’s fair across the board.
              *
              The teaching college is quite proficient in Sri Lanka I hear. It’s that they lack the resources like good text books and other print media. Also like doctors, is the shortage of teachers. Teachers certainly need a better pay. GoSL needs to put a lot more money into school resources.
              *
              In US, the teachers are well trained, and many have post-graduate degrees. They know their subjects well and can teach them well. It’s that the school systems value democracy over actual studying. With the different races and ethnicities around, they are continually in a quandary on how to assimilate them. Everything is a giant experiment in assimilation and democracy.

              • 0
                0

                Then there’s the broken family structure and lack of parental support due to forced labor of both parents to survive in a highly capitalistic society with huge class divides. It also relates to the gun problem, and everybody is forced into artificial gaiety and friendships so as to contain these issues. Lack of home-life creates a school environment without much seriousness, and students are coddled and allowed to act out with little reprimand.
                *
                Then there is the racism and the meanness that was done decades ago to prevent students of colour achieving much, and this had contorted the curriculum quite a bit. You get brilliant students in high-school who have no idea how to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (the Math basics), and use the calculator instead. Now no one can’t understand why this is so, and these basics are hurriedly taught in all kinds of odd ways in an effort to catch up.
                *
                It also could be that they want children to explore on their own without crowding their brains, and to come up with something truly original (erroneous thinking according to recent psychologists……..students can’t be expected to reproduce what has already been discovered over successive generations and for thousands of years).

              • 2
                0

                Ramona,

                Yes, the economic system can make a difference. In the USA, everyone has a computer and unlimited access to books. But there is a problem with information overdrive (too much information). People get stuck with rubbish information (news, social media, etc.) and blindly believe what they are spoon-fed. The media is responsible for this (media is king in USA). In USSR, most people were poor. Being poor actually inspired them to be more creative because they were less distracted. The Soviet government invested heavily in education because maths/science/technology were fundamental to the USSR remaining a superpower. For example, space race. In the USA, if there is a lack of tech workers, companies will use the H1-B visa program to hire immigrants. NASA space program was actually designed by ex-Nazi Werner Heisenberg (at that time, Germany was the leader in rockets). Excluding university, education is a joke in USA. UK still does education well, but standards have declined over time. Children do not feel the pressure from A/L’s because everyone goes to a uni in the end. In Singapore, pressure is there to excel because the best students must pass an exam to attend the best schools. If you are interested in how machines control people (what we see in the West now) I recommend reading Orwell’s book “1984.”

                • 0
                  0

                  Agree.

  • 1
    0

    Sri Lankan education (at the university level) is among the best in the world. What these universities lack, however, are facilities for cutting-edge research in certain areas, such as science. It is important to have these facilities so that the country can follow an indigenous path towards technological independence, similar to India and China. For example, utilizing nuclear energy and sending a satellite to space. Such facilities are also important for national defense.

  • 0
    1

    Why do you think Dr Ranil and his Akila Boy spent 4 years to prop up the Private Schools and Private Universities..
    And Dr Dentist Minister Rajith handed out even our VAT Money to help Dr Ranil and Akila boy..

    Where were you guys then?…

  • 2
    0

    Good recommendations.
    Granted , that funding for education is not enough.
    However , when you look at the numbers of students leaving the island, they are prepared to spend any amount for their studies in foreign countries. So, the thirst for education is there.
    The fields of study that are mostly chosen by them, is, Medicine, Research, IT, and Business Management. So, policy makers must listen to what they are saying and focus on their needs. These children rarely return to Sri Lanka .They contributions to foreign countries are immense.(Monetary, as well as Material)
    As regards the dearth of workers in the construction field, this too has to be improved through technological means, as today’s. young are more attracted to doing everything by APPs( which are available for anything) and Internet.

    • 3
      1

      Freelancer,
      In a place like Singapore, it is illegal for students who take money on government scholarship for education in the West to never return. Family assets are confiscated if that happens. Also culturally, those who spend their “own” money to educate in the West are scorned. S”pore gov. turns a blind eye because West keeps looking out for “human rights” issues – Western university industry won’t be able to function otherwise. And rightly so as Singapore is clever enough to know that money and education must stay in-country, for them to prosper. Far cry from Sri Lanka forcing an alien education and an eventual country structural system on Sri Lanka to satisfy 0.0001% of the population.

  • 1
    0

    Sinhalese and Tamil Sri Lankans are disadvantaged because their Education is Restricted to what they are Taught, by Swabhasha Educated Teachers!!

    The above mentioned Teachers Have Passed their Exams using the method Described below by You:-

    “Most teachers practise only one, and of course wrong, teaching method. It involves (a) dictating notes to students, (b) forcing students to memorize model answers and repeat them at public examinations, and (c) persuading students to prepare only for the so-called target questions.”

    Students in the English Medium can read World Wide Publications, therefore, are exposed to New Developments in the Rest of the World! They Learn to Think for themselves; which does not suit most of the Present Politicians, Taught by the above Method!

  • 5
    3

    My complements to the team of professionals for a comprehensive presentation of issues in education that need to be addressed and some approaches to improve the system at the Early Childhood to university level.

    A team of educationist with inputs from the community reviewed the education system in the North. I facilitated that review. It was published in English and Tamil and distributed to all Schools in the North and to the National Education Commission. The publication NESR Report was in the NP and National Ministry of Education Website.
    A similar review of the Tertiary and university system need to be reviewed based on the report of the professionals. The OL and AL examination determines how the education administrators, principals, teachers, parents and Tution Centres function. Any changes to the school system need to start with reforming the two examiniations. These examinations determine not only access to further education it also indirectly determine the income levels of families, thus widening the poverty levels.

    UGC statistics show that out of those who qualify for entrance to the 14 State Universities only 19.1% gain admission. Which is approximately 30,000. The other 80 % fend for themselves to improve there education though a few are admitted to the Colleges of Education. It is important to establish Provincial University system, which the 13A permits, incorporating the recommendations that the Professionals have recommended. It is much easier to introduce new concepts in higher education in new universities than in existing universities. Academic Concrete once poured sets hard. The Provincial University system can prepare students in Science, Environment and Technology areas that will be in demand in the future.

    I have prepared a Concept Paper on Prvincial Universities of Science, Environment and Technology which I will be glad to publish in Colomboteligraph if invited to do so.

    • 5
      0

      Dear Dr Ethirveerasingam,
      .
      I don’t think that you’ll be “invited” to publish. Once one has something to say, one says it.
      .
      But, yes, we often state truths which nobody accepts. But we should not allow that to become an inhibitor. Once we are certain of something, one should speak out. And then, there is the fact that the startling facts that I revealed when I got the opening comment in, have not been commented on. Even challenging veracity allows clarifications and elaboration.
      .
      Now I’m going to try a not very nice experiment. Other readers must be told that Dr Ethir is not only a much-respected sage (and athlete), but also that his younger brother was one of my teachers in a small school.
      .
      http://www.enhancemywriting.com/compliment-vs-complement He’s got the two words mixed up.
      .
      Tution Centres : that also is likely to be an error:: we had an Englishman who used to enunciate the extra vowel in “Tuition” very clearly.
      .
      On the other hand, in “improve there education” getting the middle word wrong there is only a typo.
      .
      I’m trying out on Dr Ethir what I wouldn’t dare with others. I’ll be crucified! In any event what is important is the content, the facts – it is sad that many have approved what I have said, but nobody has demanded correction.

      • 5
        0

        Dear Sinhala_Man, Grammatical and spelling errors are common. But, out of courtesy no one points them out. If the ‘meaning’ gets distorted, may be, there is a need to point it out. Even there, out of politeness to fellow readers we let it pass.
        .
        The word TUITION is generally spelt incorrectly. The error gets funnier when the teacher himself advertises, saying, “I give English Tution”!
        .
        My complements to the team of professionals …, has COMPLIMENTS, the appropriate word spelt incorrectly.
        .
        So, let us get on with serious issues.

      • 8
        0

        Dear Unreal,
        .
        You’re quite right. We ought to discuss serious issues, and not be nit-picking. I don’t know Dr Ethir personally, but know enough of him to expect that he is a great enough man to come up with a good-natured comment similar to yours.
        .
        He and I have already exchanged friendly notes on CT comments, but more to the point, four people have already told me in various ways that I ought to have the courage to write my own article on the specific issue raised, and that what I have said doesn’t flow naturally from the very fine paper that the Professionals have presented to us. When I did that four years ago the problem was that although there was a plethora of confirmations from alumni, the general public didn’t seem to comment on an issue which they felt the was outside their sphere of influence.
        .
        Students themselves must have the daring (and the humility) to learn. History, by the way, is more important for us than Lester says. We, Sinhalese-Buddhists, must learn that this country doesn’t “belong” only to us. If left for the home to teach, parents will unwittingly only reinforce the monstrous lies that pass for facts.
        .
        As for technology, and the allocation of money, please follow the lead given by me in what is the first comment on this article. The children are stuffed with soul-killing “tuition”.
        .
        By now, more relevant comments that have been stimulated by the paper itself have come on. I won’t attempt the silly task of pontificating on all that I see. Let me continue to stick only to what I know with certainty.

  • 6
    1

    Sinhala-Man. Thank you for pointing out the Typos. You probably know I am 6’2” and 85. iPhone or ipad keys are smaller than the Desktop. I am in Mankulam planting trees in a land that my father left it for me. Can’t carry laptops anymore.

    None of my younger brothers were teachers. One older brother, Ratnasingam, was a teacher and Cadet Master. He passed when he was 80. It is he who introduced us to sports.

    The paper I referred to is 6 pages long with Tables and charts. Not suitable for comments section. I shall wait if and when Provincial Councils are formed to interest them.

    • 4
      0

      Thanks, Dr Ethir,
      .
      For submitting the type of response that I expected. I thought that our “Cadet Master” Nagalingam Ratnasingham was younger to you.
      .
      I hope you’ve by now met Rajan Hoole who is as tall as you, and was a fellow protege of your brother. Actually, neither of us was a cadet, but the school was so small that all those on the staff did some “teaching”, which may not have been formal.
      .
      Syllabi did not matter much then; the holistic development of the child did.
      .
      I’m glad to note, that even at your age, you are are planting trees for future generations. For other readers, who may not know, Ehir was an Asian Games high jump gold medalist.

      • 2
        1

        Sinhala-Man. Planted 400 Palmyra seeds, 75 Teak, 35 Mahogany, 2 Ebony, 3 Sandlewood, 30 Margosa all along the fences. 12 yellow and Red flowering seedlings. 14 coconut trees, many variety of fruit tree seedlings have to be caged to stop cows and goats feeding on it.

        Yes meet Rajan in Seminars. He still ride his bicycle like Daya Somasundaram. Wish I could.

  • 2
    0

    The panel of educators Ratnasiri Arangala, A. M. Navaratna Bandara, Michael Fernando, Wipula Karunathilake, Mohammed Mahees, Sasanka Perera, Jayadeva Uyangoda have not mentioned the crisis in our tertiary education started when politicians meddling in university appointments became accepted practice.
    The appointment of Channa Jaysumana to Rajarata University is a case of degradation of academic quality.
    S D Dissanayake as Minister of Higher Education walked away with properties and contents bequeathed to Colombo University.
    The recent sacking of the VC of Jaffna University is clearly to show the power of the centre over Provincial Councils
    The list above is only a sample!

  • 4
    0

    These proposals are pretty comprehensive, carefully formulated, and I hope that there will be more serious discussion than there has been. However, we can’t expect many more comments: the trend is for comments to come in on the first two days, and then they dry up. so, we’ll have to start another article.
    .
    To solve the problems relating to Universities, hesitate not; vote for Gota! he’s got the solution:
    .
    “If we can increase the capacity of the army, why can’t we enrol 100,000 students? “
    .
    He’s said it here:
    .
    http://www.dailymirror.lk/print/news/Gota-pledges-Uni-admission-to-all-AL-qualified-students/239-177449
    .
    Let us leave Higher Education, therefore in the unsafe hands of Gota and consider school education.
    .
    The problem here is that every parent has eyes trained on just one school as the best. That problem may have been somewhat alleviated by the fact that we have two genders, so, perhaps, two schools. I have two grand-daughters, aged 6 and 4, so I know the problem.

    .If you’re a parent, the solution: avoid those huge “popular” schools, find yourselves a
    little school where the children are happy.
    .
    But necessarily we must dig deeper. The problems that then emerge afford no facile solutions. Let me try tomorrow.
    .

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