Saving Sri Lanka’s Education – From Whom?
Posted on September 28th, 2012

Shenali Waduge

 Sri Lanka’s education has been like a volcano “”…” steadily waiting to erupt and it is getting closer to its objective. Undeniably there is no one cause for the current crisis. For Sri Lanka’s education to get on track those responsible for the current crisis must first accept accountability and then resolve to set things straight. Unlike any other ministry “”…” the country’s future depends on the education of its younger generation and we need to now stop passing pillows and seriously set right the malpractices and corrupt ways that exist. Education certainly needs to be saved “”…” but from whom is the next question!

 Saving Sri Lanka’s Education “¦”¦

 From Government appointed Ministers “”…” A common practice when any new Minister is appointed is to think that Education is their right to change as they see fit. A country’s education system must remain a national heritage and an area that is out of bounds for experimenting. This certainly increases the need to draw up a national policy on Education something which is agreeable to the future of the country and which cannot be changed or altered to anyone’s whims or fancies “”…” least of all changing Governments or their Ministers!

 From Politicians “”…” From the present involvement of various political groups and politicians canvasing to become the spokesmen for the present academic strike now into its third month reveals that politicians whatever party they belong to are only fishing for issues to draw public attention to themselves. It is time the public realize this. When politics gets involved in education it is easy to use political involvement as an excuse for inadequacies prevalent even without politics or politicians. When politicians get involved everyone takes a step back not wanting to upset applecarts since it will affect them which ends up upsetting the entire education system. We all know that politicians make promises they don’t plan to keep. 

 From Advisors/Consultants “”…” In every periphery of life we come across people called Advisors or Consultants who are paid lavishly for their expert opinion. Most often than not they are the reason for the downfall of the very people they are working for. It is a practice of advisors and consultants to be the only interphase between the decision maker or leader and they scrutinize and sift whatever message relayed. This results in the leaders getting only a limited or a version that these advisors aspire towards and allows no option or difference of opinion for the leader to contemplate before making final decisions. Advisors have brought governments down in the past and leaders should know that apart from obtaining advice there are enough of channels to increase their knowledge needed to make key decisions “”…” it’s time to use them.

 From Curriculum Designers “”…” There is a rising feeling of disgust amongst children and parents like when spelling mistakes are not the only reason to find fault with course curriculums. So how qualified or how passionate are these curriculum designers about the important role that they perform in designing Sri Lanka’s course curriculum? With the downward performance of Sri Lanka’s students it is not hard to fathom that not only the policy but the overall structure of the courses are in need of a big shakeup but nothing should be touched if there is no proper plan in place.

 From Principals “”…” too often we hear unpalatable news of principals and their actions and it is nothing to be proud of. To be appointed as a principal means to direct and monitor the academic/non academic activities inside a school environment. A principal is the head of the educational setting and is meant to provide guidance to both child and teacher. The principal also functions as a liaison between the school and the community and will meet parents, school board, government officials, private sector etc”¦ which is why the integrity of the principals must remain high and untarnished. This implores the strict adherence to laws, rules and regulations as well as being a role model to both child and teacher. We question how many of today’s principal are people of integrity. We need a mechanism in place to bring to book these unsuited heads so that the future of Sri Lanka’s children are not destroyed forever.

 From administrators/clerks “”…” Too often than not most of the corruption that prevails when admissions come into focus happens with the involvement of school administrators or clerks. They become the go between for payments that guarantee a child admission in a popular school. The practice is usually excused on the grounds that if the higher ups steal what harm is it for them to do the same. Just imagine how our the country will end up if everyone functions according to this same logic? Most often public officials have become “yes men” losing their credibility amongst the masses. The public sector needs to certainly  wake up and start delivering “”…” any demands must be associated with what they have delivered in terms of service!

 From Parents “”…” The role of parents to children and to society is nothing that needs to be reiterated. They are firstly responsible for providing a stable and safe home “”…” and covers far more than financial needs or providing meals. Parents are the child’s role model “”…” children must be guided on how to interact and with whom and parents should not be caught in the trap of competition.  Morals and values are key influences and unless parents lead good moral lives their children are unlikely to respect them. Despite parents being involved in careers it is important to be emotionally supportive of their children. Parents also play a major role in education and it is what a child learns at home that shapes his eventual behavior later on in life. With the current frustrations experienced by both student and graduate alike it is natural for parents to feel equally frustrated. They have a lot of expectations wanting their children to become educated enough to stand on his/her feet. At this current crisis it is the parents who have greater right to demand answers than anyone else.  

 From Teachers – How many of today’s teachers regard teaching as a profession and not a trade? Today’s children are not interested in sitting down dutifully and listening to what the teacher says. They are in search of a unique learning experience that involves far more than accepting facts “”…” they want knowledge. How many teachers are interested in improving their knowledge to be in par with the curiosities nurtured by children? This is why teaching is a challenging career and one that is best suited for natural teachers and not those that treat teaching as a job. The chemistry between child and teacher will not work out if teaching means nothing other than covering a syllabus. There are many ways a child is able to learn beyond the lesson in a text book”¦it is upto the teachers to encourage exploration and answer questions that the child asks “”…” but teachers who are not equally updated will not be upto the challenge and this kickstarts resentment between child and teacher where unwarranted discipline is used to cover the teachers lack of knowledge. What student will like to have the teacher functioning as a parrot without any exchange of views and thoughts? Therefore we cannot stress enough for the need for teachers to be far more upto date in what is happening around the world and in Sri Lanka far more than their students “”…” since students are quick to know when a teacher is shamming. Why is there no system to regularly evaluate teachers and their teaching methodology? Why are they not made to re-certify themselves so that they meet necessary standards.  Teaching is not a PROFESSION – it is or rather should be meant for ONLY those teachers who love being with children/young adults, who enjoy engaging with them and encouraging them to learn.  If teachers do not have creativity, adaptability, resourcefulness and thoughtful planning it is highly unlikely they will succeed as teachers and children are unlikely to get anything out of their teaching as well

 From Tuition Teachers “”…” These have become the money hawks of the education system. While there are some excellent tuition teachers who are far better at imparting knowledge than those found in schools the tuition menace is as a result of teachers treating education as a business and a means of earning an extra income outside school hours. Often children are compelled to follow their own teachers tuition class after school. How can a child understand what he does not understand in school by the same teacher just because she teaches after school? Then there are the mass classes where at times over 1000 sit in congested auditoriums often coming hours in advance just to get a sit where one can see the lecturer without much strain. Sometimes a mother can teach far better and there are enough and more reading material available in the bookshops that enhances one’s knowledge without having to pay Rs.1000 an hour.

 From Lecturers/Professors “”…” To become a lecturer the journey is not an easy one. A lot of hard work and studies. Lecturers on the strength of the service they offer to nurturing graduates for Sri Lanka’s tomorrow needs to be not only providing a quality service for the role they have been chosen for but to ensure that they are regularly updating the course that they are responsible for. How far our expectations of this is fulfilled is questionable. There is debate that many of Sri Lanka’s professors are not qualified to be called such. Of the 4000 lecturers over 550 have signed bonds but have not returned. Do the public know that the State offers fully paid sabbatical leave every 7 years that extend to 2-3 years or more, air fares even for the spouse are covered by the state, they are not disallowed from lecturing privately, providing consultations, involved in projects with these earnings are tax free, they enjoy more holidays than other public sector personnel. Today, the university lecturers are on a 3 month strike “”…” their demands of salary increases is growing to reach unacceptable levels considering that they are the highest paid in state service. Given that the quality of the university education has not seen any acceptable level of improvement we wonder how far another increase is likely to change the status quo.

Is it not insane to be asking 6% allocation of the country’s GDP when its earnings are just over 14%!

 From students/teachers unions – Why do these trade unions not spend the energy they use for demonstrations and placard making towards demanding better hostel facilities, well equipped libraries or other such needs that are directly associated with their studies. Why do they not request Governments and Education ministry to help develop their soft skills since these are traits that private sector especially looks for. Why is it that often university students are referred to as thugs and vandals, especially when the majority of them come from poor homes”¦ why would they want to be sadistic enough to implement cruel forms of ragging and call it social interaction? Have any of these thugs being brought to book or punished and have criminal charges framed against them for the emotional and mental tortures they have caused sometimes forcing talented youth to commit suicide “”…” are these   perpetrators not committing murder and are these not members of the very trade unions that claim to be working in the interest of the student and country? None of these trade unions have reaped any purposeful results. What is a common practice is to use students as tools to advance the interests of the union members”¦.the university should have strict guidelines on how student/teacher unions function. There should be no involvement on politics or political groups inside university premises. All students who rag should be punished and repeated warnings must lead to eventual dismissal “”…” there has to be a system of discipline. If the university environment cannot respect and treat fellow humans humanely inside the university we can imagine the damage they are likely to do to society when they come out.

 From External Forces “”…” the current crisis in the universities was predicted to happen when foreign representatives started to meet up with university unions and their representatives. The educational authorities must use their intelligence to foresee these eventualities and have a proper mechanism to respond to them. Waiting for the Government to take action is not going to help. We need to be more proactive and the Governments especially education ministry officials and the Minister must respect these mechanism and rules once they are designed and implemented.

 From Students/Graduates “”…” The majority of university students come from very humble homes. It is a tragedy to see that most of these union members too come from these same homes. Where the onus on them is to study and come out to enter a profession or continue further studies most of them have opted for violence and demands. University life is not only about study just as going to school is not only about passing exams. Both places are for learning about varied people and various situations and one’s ability to deal with them. It is a pity that students and graduate alike have taken to paths that are leading to their own destruction and the eventual collapse of the future generation of Sri Lanka. Go to malls during the day and one can see numerous children in school uniform loitering about”¦students are now involved in porn and other forms of vices”¦.parents and all authorities associated with children need to wake up and put these children and graduates on track”¦it is not an impossibility.

 From the Media “”…” Just as politicians wait for issues to show their presence, the media is ever hungry to sensationalize events. The role of the media in providing a means of checks and balances have not met the expectations of them. Most media outlets are ruled or run by political parties or their stooges. The information fed to us is not wholly the truth and certainly does not cover essential data to leave the public to decide. Most often the public are fed only half truths. In the issue of education, the media could have played a bigger and better role in portraying the truth without taking sides and then relaying the news based on the bias. All we needed to know was do the FUTA have a right to strike when they have been recipients of regular increases? Why have these data being given in portions?

 From the Public “”…” every issue ultimately leads to the masses. Therefore it is time the public became aware of the lies and halftruths that prevail. A country’s assets are its people. A country’s ultimate weapon too is its people for they are the one’s to protect the sovereignty of the country. All issues that  various quarters will highlight now needs to be intelligently dealt with by the people without allowing them to be turned into Arab Springs that has totally upset the entire Middle East today. The public needs to read about the external environment “”…” they need to update themselves on what is happening around in countries near and far and the public must ensure Sri Lanka never falls victim to similar situations.

 We cannot reiterate enough the need to have a proper policy “”…” a National Policy for education one that does not get touched or changed by any political party or politician. It must be sacred and designed to take Sri Lanka’s future to great heights. We must protect our heritage, value our past and protect our future.

 


9 Responses to “Saving Sri Lanka’s Education – From Whom?”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    SHENALI !! It is a very beautiful thesis on the Education System of Sri Lanka, and you certainly carry the Honours. Nothing further from the truth.

    Let us take a few of your comments at random.:-

    Children loitering in Malls etc. This can be stopped very effectively. The Minister of Education should consider that all School going children from primary to university are under his radar. Does he think so now ? NO, not at all. He should by an ACT of Parliament, authorise the Police to collect any children seen loitering during School Hours, take them to the Police Station, and send for their Parents. They should be the first to know that their children are really not attending school. They could be engaged in vile behaviour, that would lead to the destruction of their own lives and future. The School Principal should also be informed, by the Police, so that there is a dual effort in place to discipline the student. The moment Loitering School Children are rounded up by the Police, and the news spread, it will be a formidable deterrent.

    Tution Teachers:- Again by an Act of Parliament, Teachers teaching the same Children after Hours in Tution Classes should be banned outright. It is a duplication of the same function, to the detriment of the Student and the Parents Purse.

    Politicians:- No Politician should be allowed to seek the services of a STUDENT for political purposes. Any politician inciting the Students to join in demonstrations of any form should be arrested by the Police and produced in Court, that would lead to deterrent punishment. The laws have to be framed by an Act of Parliament.

    Advisors and Consultants:- There should be NO FOREIGN Advisors and Consultants, recruited to advise on the Educational System of Sri Lanka. In the first instance, it is be-littling our own Academics. We have brilliant people with Brilliant Brains. Secondly, they bring evil Foreign Influences. To prove my point, there was this so called Iternational School teaching young children about SEX. We do not need foreign Rascals to come to Sri Lanka and teach SEX to the Students. In view of this, NO FOREIGN TEACHERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO COME AND TEACH IN THESE SO CALLED INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS. It is breaking the Morale of our Teachers and Academics. High sounding International Schools should recruit TEACHERS from this Country, and pay them well. WHY PAY A FOREIGNER A HIGHER SALARY TO TEACH SEX ? An avoidable RIFT is being created by MONEY HUNGRY CROOKS, establishing damning International Schools. The Government should stop this ever mushrooming sordid School Industry. THIS IS ALL THE FRUSTRATION that is surfacing in the Education Sector.

    The Honourable Minister of Education should formulate the proper infrastructure.

  2. jayt Says:

    But it is a complete opposite story. he, president slowly put down by foreigners.
    and got him to open the door for under current foreigners . these foreigners. did worst conspiracy against his family and to rest of the sri lanka. we need to bring story out.

  3. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Proper education makes the population easy to lead, but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave. Sri Lankan educational system hardly gives any chance to express the student’s own opinion as most part of the education system is memorizing. Current educational system does not provide opportunities to the students to develop critical and rational thinking.

  4. Sirih Says:

    I think our uni’s are in a dire straight and need complete overhaul re. compensation and attracting bright people with proper research backgrounds. Major problem is compensation issue and that drove brightest professors off shore and now we have professors that has no first class degrees and in effect we have diluted our brain sources at the top.
    I did check some of the top uni’s Post graduate syllabus’s and got depressed since some of the subjects are done in 1st year undergraduate degrees in UK and US uni’s.. How did we get this area so bad ? When I ask the professor he told me kind of high demand areas like DSP has no expertise in Sri Lanka. I felt so bad and told him I will help since this is my area and also I will bring foreign funding help and I was ask to liaise with BOI for this. While trying to get this off the ground BOI chief got fired and I end up with big egg on my face.
    Most of my work is cutting edge in media and DSP technology and most of my work end up in Stanford uni servers so that global R&D can get access to this work since I forbid patent, since having free education in my life about time we give some back to the community.
    Having seen how poor our professors are and having hardly any resources at them make me wonder what exactly our priorities are?
    Govt spend millions on junkets and waste, but leave most precious part of our countries future in no mans land.
    I do not think we can change the govt. hooligan approach since both parties are the same. But at least expats can give something to our education sector and hope some patriots come up with some plans since I am complete at a loss how to start this process but can give so much if right plans are initiated.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    “a National Policy for education one that does not get touched or changed by any political party or politician. It must be sacred and designed to take Sri Lanka’s future to great heights.”

    Fully agree. We can’t have this DOUBTS and AGITATIONS, Z SCORE battled forever.

    ALL these parties should be invited to bring their ideas in a CIVILISED way.

    Get a public debate on this.

    Identify priorities.
    Evaluate priorities.
    Debate and decide how best to achieve them.
    Set them in stone.
    Tell anyone who dislikes it to go jump in the lake.

  6. nandimitra Says:

    When the country is run on debt subsidies are reduced. The issue is one of priorities. When so much of money is spent on employing the biggest cabinet in the world, corruption and wastage of money on tamashas, helicopter rides etc the reduction of the subsidy on education is criminal. It should be condemned all round.

  7. Ranjith Says:

    Shenali,

    You are asking everyone to be removed everyone from education including teachers, parents and students. who is it for, and who do yu think should be involved? looks like there is none left !!

  8. Vijendra Says:

    Shenali, you have posed many pertinent questions on the education system in SL. As relatively poor country, there are some inherent obstacles when compared to many developed countries. However, nobody should be allowed to hijack the progress and well being of the citizens of the country.

    Here are a few of my thoughts.

    Politicians are the leaders making decisions that affect the whole country. Many politicians enter politics to reign in power and make money while the going is good. These are the custodians of the tax payers’ money. Should we not have a system where there is some automatic basic screening of the type of politician we want? Most vote for a particular person either because s/he is the least unacceptable or s/he is the one who can do something “personally for me and my family”.

    Democracy functions well in a society that is open, informed and disciplined where people care for one another, free from biases and discrimination. Casting the vote is a very responsible job. Do the voters consider the future of the country when they vote for the politician seeking election? In a true democracy, we get what we deserve!

    We are a segregated community, in more ways than one. It is no secret that most groups vote for a candidate based on their ethno-religious biases. Once elected, these politicians perpetuate these biases into other areas as well. Ability, honesty and integrity are no longer considered the salient strengths of a political candidate. This vicious cycle continues election after election. This leads to frustration and heartburn in many youngsters, in school or in universities. Such frustration manifests in many ways.

    Education system of a country is the backbone of a nation and it should evolve with the needs and aspirations of the citizens of the country. Sri Lankan children must be taught to be proud of being Sri Lankan, be fair, question things before accepting anything, be self confident and productive to the society. Non-segregated education is the only way to guide the future generation in this direction. There should be a set of common values and ethics taught in schools. There should be a code of ethics for all parliamentarians and government servants, which should be implemented in a fair, open and strict fashion.

    Being a developing country, it is unfair to expect the salaries to be as high as in some western countries. However, all salaries should be based on equal pay for equal service. These salaries should be indexed based on the cost of living index. Disparity in the salaries should be minimized where possible.

    Since education up to completion of the university degree is still free in SL, many choose it hoping that it would lead automatically to a better financial outcome later on. Depending on the stream of studies, often times they end up being frustrated due to lack of a job at the end of the graduation. Universities and technical colleges need to adjust their curricula on a regular basis to fit the future manpower needs of the country. All should know that the GOSL (tax payer), though it finances the education, is not responsible for finding a job for each graduate when once they graduate.

    Parents, teachers, politicians, elders, media, public servants, religious leaders and the public all have a definite role in the education system of the country. All these stakeholders have to be sensitized to these obligations through education and discipline.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sri Lankans have to save Lanka from an old fashioned Education System and turn it into a “pure gold – country first” type of system. If the Practical Needs of the country are put in the forefront together with absolute loyalty to Sri Lanka, then the goals of a fresh new Education System will be welcomed by the children, parents & schools (& Unis) too.

    Peace first, then Prosperity follows.

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