By 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.
However, 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