12 June, 2024


Why Should We Compromise On Quality Of School Education?

By Mithula Guganeshan

Mithula Guganeshan

Mithula Guganeshan

Sri Lanka boasts and is often reported as one of the South Asian countries with highest literacy rate of 98%, basically the ability to read and write one’s signature. We claim to be continuously improving Development indexes, a trendsetter for easily achieving most of the development educational goals such as literacy rates, student enrollment and mean years of schooling. However, do these scores provide any accreditation to the quality of education being provided in Sri Lanka? Education is a basic human right and neglecting to focus on the quality of education has been the root cause for all the local issues.

Sri Lanka, a middle income country’s Education expenditure as a percentage of GDP was only 1.9% (CBSL, Annual Report 2014). The education expenditure didn’t even meet the recommended levels of 5.4% for low income countries (UNESCO, 2015). Sri Lanka’s Education system has an opportunity and room for further improvement.

Shortage of qualified teachers impacting the high dropout rates, low achievement levels of the students are some of the areas that need to addressed immediately. Developing a value based system in terms of training/recruiting educators instead of teachers is essential to provide a quality education.

“A true Educator locates the intelligence and abilities within another, drawing them out for all, even the student, to see. And then steps out of the way allowing them to develop, create and pursue their talent.” – L. Ron Hubbard

We need more qualified educators to impart knowledge by laying a strong foundation towards developing future leaders.

School Maithripala May 28 2015 JaffnaHowever, based on the current situation the least we can expect is to recruit qualified teachers with acceptable levels of experience and skills. Teacher Recruitment and Mobility study conducted at National level reveals only 4% of the teachers are graduates or above, whilst 77% have obtained teaching certificates/diplomas and 19% untrained teachers. (J. Balasooriya, 2010). Is this an acceptable quality of teachers preparing future leaders?

How many parents have requested for the teacher’s profile highlighting experiences and skills from the school? Every parent deserves to know whether the teacher is capable and qualified enough to educate their children. The school needs to communicate the caliber of the teachers educating and preparing the students, compulsorily for O/L and A/L teachers. Socio-economically disadvantaged should not be misled because they lack the sufficient knowledge and understanding to question.

Northern Education System Review highlights the importance of developing alternative strategies to maintain discipline instead of corporal punishment, verbal abuse and bullying. Probably, the untrained and unprofessional teachers are resorting to corporal punishment, a form of physical child abuse as a method to discipline. Students need to be educated that nobody can physically cause harm and pain to themselves and others. Allowing corporal punishment is equal to allowing torture towards children. After a point the child might allow a stranger to sexually abuse them, because how would they know it’s wrong or understand there is a way to save them? When they complained about teachers caning them, no one cared to take action against but instead chose to blame the child most of the times.

One of the reasons for shortage of teachers is due to the high acceptance and value in the society towards private corporate jobs rather than purpose driven careers such as teaching. As employers, private corporates require basic degree when employing an individual even for an entry level position. For example, cashiers performing operational, monotonous tasks in a bank gains more recognition and admiration from the society rather than a teacher working towards creating strong futures.

Majority, trading off a fulfilling purpose driven career and continues to remain insignificant in the prestigious corporate world. Society’s perception towards teachers needs to change and this is only possible if high quality educators are attracted into the industry. Significant number of professionals would be willing to take up educators roles, if sufficient compensation, recognition and respect are provided for making a difference. Educators need to be celebrated for supporting the students to achieve high examination results and lead a successful life.

There is an increased responsibility to ensure high standards of education are provided for advancement and growth. Prior to focusing on additional privileges, ensure that the rest are having their basic needs met, at least. Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka needs to raise its levels and invest in quality education as we cannot afford to compromise and settle for a crippled education system.


J. Balasooriya (2010), Teacher Recruitment and Mobility in Sri Lanka, Ministry of Education. http://www.cedol.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Teacher-recruitment-and-teacher-mobility-Balasorriya.pdf

Northern Education System Review, (2014), facilitated by Dr. Nagalingam Ethiveerasingham, http://www.moe.gov.lk/tamil/images/publications/NPEdu/NPEduReviewReportEng.pdf

The Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka for the Year 2014, Press Release, http://www.cbsl.gov.lk/pics_n_docs/latest_news/press_20150429eb.pdf

UNESCO, (2015), Education for All Global Monitoring Report, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTSRILANKA/Resources/233024-1120241837002/7-TESS_Chapter-3.pdf

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Latest comments

  • 0

    The writer focuses on the ‘quality’ of education, but ignores the medium of instruction.
    The fact that all parents yearn for education in the English medium is ignored.
    Only a fraction are able to afford this for their children.

    • 1


      SWRD thought he was doing the underprivileged a favour, when he introduced the ‘Apey Aanduva’ concept of ‘Sinhala Only, and Tamil also’.

      What He failed to foresee was that the World was heading towards Globalisation, and Sinhala and Tamil as a medium of instruction was not doing what was intended, for all Sri Lankans.

      The result was, that people who could afford it, sent their children Overseas for Education. Even His children were educated abroad.

      On the other Hand, the Sri Lankans who were qualified to work Abroad, left the Island to seek Greener Pastures elsewhere

  • 0

    Dear Mithula Guganeshan,

    Thanks for focussing on this important subject. You have listed references too. However, have you got your facts right? Only “4% graduates and above” is so clearly wrong that I’m not going to research the subject.

    It is today that corporal punishment is (rightly) frowned upon; starting from there you’ve extrapolated far too much!

  • 0

    it is a very thoughtful article Ms.Guganeshan
    i am wondering why these people passing judgement without checking the reference. why can’t you open that doc and see.. i checked it is 4%. but it based on 2010. i don’t think it would have changed significantly now.

    • 1

      Dear Ramamoorthy, I, too, have now checked at your behest – skimmed through all 250 pages of Balasooriya’s report, and you are right. State Education has deteriorated badly; it’s much worse than I had imagined.

      Regarding the point made by “justice”, who wants “English Education” because the parents “yearn” for it, how can that desire possibly be satisfied when we clearly can’t deliver even in the “Swabasha”? With hindsight it is that we realise that the baby was thrown out with the bath water in 1956, but it should not be imagined that we were anywhere near providing English education to all prior to 1956. It’s just that not everyone aspired at that time. English has now become an obsession, but can Justice and Hamlet tell us how we are going to set about teaching it? It is true that I know English, and have no Tamil at all. What we need is imparting a little knowledge of Tamil to Sinhalese students, and of Sinhala to Tamils, and a huge amount of respect for the human beings using the “other” language. You may think this paradoxical, but if that were to happen, and English is not hankered after for prestige, it may now get learnt “automatically” owing to all the media exposure and technology. Regrettably, though, Sri Lankan students (no, let me say Sinhalese students) don’t seem to apply themselves to actual learning. They are concerned with results, obviously, but that’s a quite different thing.

      What should be even more disturbing is that there is little evidence of interest in this article. So, yes, getting education back on the rails is going to be a tough ask – but that is partly because we now recognise it is a universal right.

      • 0

        Sinhala Man;

        “… English has now become an obsession, but can Justice and Hamlet tell us how we are going to set about teaching it?”

        Other Asian Countries advertise for ‘English as a Second Language Teachers’ in the Media of English Speaking Nations.

        My question is this. Does the Sri Lankan Education Department act in a similar manner, or does the Minister not want English Educated Voters?

  • 0

    Dear Hamlet,

    It looks as though you are seriously looking for an answer.

    I feel that the main problems standing in the way of getting English taught are sociological. We have enough fluent English users in the country; it’s just that you can’t get them to become teachers and serve in the places where they are needed.

    On the other hand, the immense social prestige attached to the ability to use English effectively, puts those who have not been in a position to master the language in early childhood on the defensive, and the moment they get humiliated in some unpredictable situation they become hostile towards this “foreign” language. I could write reams on the subject.

    “Getting ‘English as a Second Language Teachers’ from English Speaking Nations” – how much do you think that would cost? I’m not one of those guys who imagines that “a native speaker” has nothing to offer; actually they did their job a century ago, mostly as missionaries, now its up to us to build on it. May I ask you, have you ever recorded yourself speaking English? It’s so easily done with the various gadgets available now, but how many have tried out such simple strategies? Also explore websites such as this:


    But there are plenty of rackets too!


    Spend half an hour exploring that. This was not meant to be seen by you! It was for nice young British people (unqualified, obviously) who turn up, to get exploited. They have to purchase their own tickets to get here, are paid ten thousand rupees a month, . . . well explore thoroughly! What happens if they fall sick? What recourse to breach of contract? . . . etc? I don’t know who it is, but some local guy is making a fortune!

    I didn’t want to disparage young Mithula’s enthusiasm, but I did think her article a bit naive. That was the reason for my first careless response, but she had summarised effectively what had come from an unexceptionable source. My second comment was an apology; this third is because I think that you really wanted to know.

    Are there people who don’t want English taught? I’m afraid that the answer has to be in the affirmative, but they camouflage themselves effectively. The Minister won’t know!

    And don’t imagine that this applies only to the senior officers in the Ministry who themselves don’t know English. The same sabotage occurs in “the best schools” – if you know what I mean! Obviously in any new “International School” that is started an honest effort is usually made (out of self-interest), but they often don’t have the expertise, and have to spend lots on infra-structure.

    I don’t have all the answers, I’ve never had the business sense to sell my ideas, but I have analysed the problem well enough!

  • 0

    Sinhala Man;
    ‘The same sabotage occurs in “the best schools”, if you know what I mean’

    Of course I know what you mean;
    “Oya Kaduven Apey Bella Kapanna Enna Epaa” comes to mind.

    • 0

      No, Hamlet, you have totally misunderstood, I’m afraid. It’s not your fault, this is such a vast and complex subject – how can I impart to you through comments on a public medium what would normally take at least three years of full time instruction.

      Also, since nobody has even red arrowed us, and there are so few comments on this article by others, I fear that this has become a private exchange between the two of us.

      Anyway, the “kaduwa” factor is just another name for what I have already said above: “. . . they become hostile towards this “foreign” language . . . ‘” and so forth. Basically, I firmly believe that schools should be small, and close to the child’s home. I am very familiar with hundreds of schools (out of ten thousand or so in the country). Remote Sinhalese village schools (one had two teachers, and three (sic) students! Estate schools with seven hundred students in eight classes and only three teachers paid by the government (some others with O. Level qualifications worked with dedication hoping that they could get permanent employment).

      But by the “best schools” I meant the 72 old established “Private Schools”, the sort that produced G.L. Peiris (brilliant scholar – how disappointing his politics), Lakshman Kadirgamar, Jayantha Dhanapala, Professor Savitri Goonesekere, Iranganie Serasinghe, Dayan Jayatilleka, Chanddrika Kumaratunga etc (I’ve deliberately mixed them up!) They’ve all had their ups and downs. When I come out with details of some happenings most are shocked, because these they have thought are well governed (well, a few are – most of the time). Now the alumni I gave you are from some time ago; if I say that Mahinda Rajapaksa and Mervyn Silva sent their sons to these schools in recent time, I think that I must add the names of Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews – who are admirable.

      Now, the administration of the schools: as an example taken from the web, what do you make of this?


      See what I mean? Christian Bishops who steal! He quit two days before the Presidential Elections this year:


      I know the International Schools, too. And I know them not as some important guy who visited on ceremonial occasions; I really am a poor, humble guy, but I know what is meant by schools of all types! On the other hand, there are even more schools that I don’t know!

      I’ve said that all – I know it seems like names-dropping! Not much use doing that. I get back to saying, “small is beautiful” – it is ultimately the village school that matters. Unfortunately, one can’t get spectacular in this business of education.

      That’s why I gave you some rather more homely examples yesterday, May 31, 2015 at 12:09. I hope you followed the links.

  • 0

    Govt schools impart education but it leads to unemployment. Higher education is not available for many. Lab facilities misused and research is at standstill. Libraries closed lest sex perverts utilise the tranquility. Computer searches take you to US and UK irrelevant to local conditions. To learn languages parents send to foreign universities at last no job worth comes for the money spent. Foreign degrees are not recognized for obvious reasons, fake and bloated ego. If we impart English education for two thousand a month can we employ graduate teachers? School leavers sought for trainee salary and they were never made permanent and hence they never commit to the profession. Some famous schools get students from long distance and can see from the number of school vans parked in front of the school violating the two kilometre rule. The money spent on education goes waste by brain drain after state training. Privatising higher education will widen the gap of rich and poor inevitably. The foreign universities may make business here without guarantee for jobs. The future is bleak for under privileged!

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