NEC proposes School education be truncated at Gr. 12
Posted on April 15th, 2017

Dr Sudath Gunasekara
15.4.2017

I would like you to draw your  attention to this news item and then read my observations below.

The National Education Commission appointed to make policy proposals on education has proposed that the school education be truncated at Grade 12 and admit children to school at the age of 4+ as a move to minimise unruly behaviour among adult students.

Commission Chairman Prof. Lakshman Jayathilake said in Grade 13, children were adults of 18 years which was not good for maintaining discipline in school.

“We have made a suggestion that school should be truncated at Grade 12 and add a year as pre-school or kindergarten to admit children at the age of 4+. This must be the primary school or a separate entity run by the government. These are internationally accepted standards, he said.

He said children were admitted to school at the age of 4 years in other countries and added that early stage of education was most effective in inculcating educational behaviours.

“In other countries, children are admitted at the age of 4 years and educated by very qualified teachers who know child psychology. They have small classes in that age so that they are given a good start in life. Early stage of education is very effective in teaching children socialising and adopting to situations etc.,” he said.

He said they submitted its proposals on General Education policy proposals including the above to the President and the Prime Minister recently.

Prof. Jayathilake said both President and the Prime Minister agreed to submit their set of proposals to the Cabinet as an action plan and to work collaboratively with relevant sections such as Education Ministry, National Institute of Education, Department of Publications and the Examinations Department.

He said the commission conducted a research on present requirements, issues in education system and future needs when drafting the proposals.

He said their proposals underpinned education psychology for the country, school facilities and infrastructure and arrangement. (Ajith Siriwardana)

– See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/NEC-proposes-School-education-be-truncated-at-Gr–127212.html#sthash.XUUPJUkT.dpuf

Think before you jump

Sudath Gunasekara 15.4.2017.

First of all before I comment on this news item I would like to state that I am neither an expert in Education, child psychology or Educational administration. But I am deeply concerned about this very important subject as it deals with the destiny of our younger generation, (our own children), the most valuable wealth of our nation. That is why I am compelled to make these few comments. I wish the experts will bear it with me as I am doing it with all good intensions.

It is not a bad idea to start education at 4years going by International standards and truncate school education, at grade 12. But we have to remember the suitability of so-called international to local conditions.  We have to be careful before we jump in to conclusions about the suitability of such models to local conditions. Firstly we have to find out the scope of the research base where and how many countries it has covered etc. and whether it is compatible with our socio cultural environment. This is true of all such conclusions arrived at all studies. They cannot always be used as blanket standards to countries world over. Because, these values often tend to change from country to country and even from area to area.  My experience in the agricultural field in this country has proved this. As such it may be worthwhile to have a couple of trial test first before we adopt such findings. Otherwise it is bound to create more complications. Sometimes the proposed remedy could be even worse than the malady.

The proposal to have pre-schools or kindergarten schools to admit children at the age of 4+ as primary school or a separate entities run by the government might bring in more problems than ever expected. Then they might need additional buildings, staff and other facilities. As things are going in this country the government might jump at the idea of a separate Ministry, Minister, a department and staff. This means additional expenditure. I doubt whether the government that has failed to do repairs to a 100 year school like Sirimalwatta in Mahanuwara District that collapse on the heads of its children recently will be in a position to find thousands of new buildings and billions of rupees  for this new proposal. Instead why not have a Kindergarten class (hodiya) as they did in the olden days and provide them with trained teachers perhaps with very little extensions to existing buildings.

The other argument that it “ is ‘a move to minimize unruly behaviour among adult students’ and to have children  over 18 years in Grade 13, in schools is not good for maintaining discipline in schools” looks to have any substance. Because maintaining discipline in schools, is a matter for the Principals. If suitable persons are appointed to schools as Principles, among other requisites such as clear guidelines, and are allowed to run them without political interference as they do it now this problem could be easily solved.  Student discipline is more complicated subject and it has to be addressed within a broader framework, I think. Has anyone of you ever heard of a school children going on strike in the olden days.

Again in my experience as one time teacher, a Principle of a school, Secretary Education and also as a University teacher, I am convinced that if you treat children as children and make them aware of their responsibilities and duties, they want revolt and behave like animals. Teachers at all level have to treat their students like their own children. I hope my good friend Prof Luxman J can remember how he and I resolved the Moratuwa HNDE strike within fifteen minutes that was hanging on for years when I was Secretary Ministry of Technical Education and he the Chairman National Education Commission in 1994.

Of cause here again politics should be kept completely out of schools and Universities. The practice of appointing political Principles( very often unqualified for either teaching or school  administration as it is done now should be immediately stopped. Political parties and University teachers must refrain from trying to use students as cat’s paws to meet their political ends. Discipline has to be installed among them through better understanding and methods without first using force, often without, listening to them and, trying to settle them with intolerance of their grievances, tear gaze, water cannons and police battens. Actually instead of solving one problem you multiply the problems on both sides by resorting to this kind of uncivilized tomfoolery. Where lies the intelligence and wisdom of our educational authorities and politicians who are in charge of the future destiny of our children?

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