WHITHER EDUCATION REFORMS AT SECONDARY CONTEXT IN SRI LANKA (PART 2)
Posted on June 19th, 2018

 BY EDWARD THEOPHILUS

As mentioned in the part one of this article, parents and students have a propensity to blaming teachers and schools when kids achieved failures in competitive exams. How far could the blame be justified if teachers have done the right in a school environment?  The success of examinations is not the one-way responsibility of teachers and students too are responsible for own learning. This critical issue should be considered in educational reforms at secondary context.

When students achieved failures in competitive exams or parents have a doubt that students would be failed, many parent’s decision seems to be directing kids to private tuition classes. However, private tuition masters are not properly trained teachers, who have a clear understanding of learning outcomes and national education policy of the country. The concept of individual facilitation defines that tutoring is an individual or small group activity rather than a large class with speakers.  In fact, private tutors are not better teachers than those who are employed in schools and tuition classes have no facilities similar to schools.  In this situation, education reforms should be focused on developing the confidence of students and parents that teacher education directly aims to provide the right service to students. As the private tuition service has become a broader educational business in Sri Lanka, educational reforms also need to stress transforming tuition as a licensed service.

The best achievement in the 20th century was the invention of outcome-based education, which clearly focuses on what is essential for students to be able to do successfully and finding and designing effective ways students to demonstrate outcomes.  Education experts indicate that the quality of an educational system can be judged from three perspectives, a. the Input to the system, b. what happens within the system and c. the outputs from the system.  Education philosophers believe that outcome-based education was originated on the basis of B.F Skinners’ Behaviourism philosophy which explains that the behavior of a person is influenced by environmental conditions.  If students have good learning facilitation and a classroom environment then students motivate to learning and good teachers trained for facilitation and mentoring, kids would successfully learn and pass exams. Outcome-based education directs the clearly focusing and organizing everything and educational system.

Sri Lanka has been experimenting with reforms in secondary education context since late1960s and the effort was not successful as the party politics in the country involved in creating problems and misleading parents.  People of Sri Lanka could easily mislead using bogus information and this situation is still continuing in the country.  The education reforms began in the 1960s focused on the diversification of education system giving a reasonable weight to skill requirements of the country and it needed to initiate from primary and secondary contexts. However, it was abortive with party politics and neither ruling government nor opposition was able to separate party politics from educational reforms.

The traditional education in the country focused on literacy and limited skills requirement of the different industry and some educationists in Sri Lanka have expressed that education reforms need to go beyond the literacy skills to creating an intelligent young generation. In addition to these aspects, new reforms are obligatory to stress on the employment growth and the productivity in workplaces rather than sending kids to universities which are working like degree factories without offering practical skills.

Therefore, educational reforms at secondary context must emphasis on making quality generation in the country.  The education strategies used in reforms was not going along with the broader aim of the reforms and later the government attempted to change the strategy from teacher-centered education to student-centered learning.  Sri Lanka has a strong capacity to implement the new system as students are generally intelligent and capable of understanding the applicability of educational outcomes.  However, education information in the country indicates that outcome-based education has not successfully implemented due to several reasons.

The major issue in relation to the implementation of outcome-based education associates with the administration level, which lacks the highly skilled personnel to develop a practical policy and procedures for curriculum development, lesson planning, lesson presentation and student assessment. These are essential for a clear and observable demonstration of students learning. The secondary context offers a broader range of courses and administrators must be able to produce materials on every aspect in the format of outcome-based education.  For this purpose, education administrators must have updated content knowledge and skills in the subject area.  Many administrators have not been trained for this purpose as they were trained under the old education strategy and the changing of them to new strategy might be a costly exercise and the government needs allocating sufficient funds to retrain education administrators.

Once administrators trained to develop right policies and procedures, teachers at micro level need to be trained for the policy implementation. This means that teachers need radically changing teaching methods, evaluation, and assessment strategies consistent with educational outcomes.  It seems that retraining of teachers for new strategies would be required a massive sum of funds as well as the changing of attitudes of students, teachers, and parent in relation to the new strategy.  When poli1tics involves in this type of radical changes in education, there would be many resistances especially from parents and political parties.

As the outcome-based education concerns with knowledge, skills, and application of knowledge and skills, the successful teaching would be dependent on the many factors such as the experience of teachers, planning, organization, problems solving and decisions making skills which are completely different from the teachers’ qualification.  Teachers get these knowledge and skills facing problems and experience in the different environment.  In Western countries, teachers are given such skills through industrial attachment, which means that teachers are given short training in practical fields with a view to providing opportunities to understand changes in practical environment related to teaching subjects and to observe the real practical approach day to day problem-solving.  Once teachers get this type of training, they would be able to participate in or play the role of facilitators and mentors.

Sri Lanka requires an educated young generation, which has more practical in approach and problems solvable and generates the productivity.  These are fundamental thinking that should be focused on education reforms.  As long as a traditional way of education operating, teachers give knowledge in the classroom and students take them to memory and feedback on the tests and exams.  The making decisions to classify students would not consistent with the underpinning policy objectives of educational reforms.

Sri Lanka’s government annually spends a considerable volume of funds for primary and secondary contexts, in which the participants have a considerable disparity in rural and urban areas, in addition to this the distribution of resources are dissimilar between urban and rural areas.  Despite these visible differences, the government of Sri Lanka needs an acceptable pace of returns from the investments in education. The current educational environment in high education appears that it is eminently interfered by politics and the process helps to decline the quality of high education. The involvement in heavy politics in higher education began in the late 1960s and it was gradually increased to reduce the time of educational participation of students and sometimes to close down entire university structure.  In this environment, Sri Lanka has difficulty to recruit good and quality teachers with knowledge, skills, and values.  This situation undermines the quality and fundamental objectives of education reforms in the primary and secondary context.

The education reforms in primary and secondary context need giving equal opportunity for kids to participate in education without differences whether they are from regional Sri Lanka or urban locations.  There is a competition for popular schools and trained and qualified teachers preference is urban schools creating a shortage of educators in rural schools.  This partiality in education distribution and as a result, the achievement of expectations in reform agenda would remote.

The major issue in relation to spending in the country was a terrorist war which consumed a large sum of budgetary funds.  Sri Lanka’s government successfully controlled the war in 2009 and after that, the policy focus of the government should be directed to education with more spending to successfully achieve the objectives of reforms.  There is a wide gap in education distribution and the quality of education between urban and rural areas.  The major focus should be the elimination of the gap between the urban area and rural area.  The cost for quality and modern education with technology in rural areas are higher than urban area as the infrastructure in the rural area is poor with a view to offering quality and advanced education.  The education reforms in the state council were to give more opportunities for rural people to participate in education and provide facilities for education in English medium in a rural area too.  When the world becomes closer place to people by scientific and technological innovation, people in the country need to gain education in international languages and educational reforms effected after the political revolution in 1956, the opportunity for rural people gaining education in English medium unexpectedly lost as the government did not spend sufficient funds for English education in rural area.

As a result of the visible gap in education distribution, international schools in the country have emerged but the system addresses only the problem of wealthy people in rural areas.  Many parents in a rural area cannot afford for education in international schools and the best reform option in primary and secondary context is to converting all rural government schools to international schools’ level by increase of budget funds for education in rural area.  Maintaining education gap in the rural and urban area would be the biggest constraint to economic development and to increasing disparities of the social system in the country.

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