EDUCATION REFORMS ESSENTIAL TO SRI LANKA (PART 1a) A HORIZONTAL DISTRIBUTION MODEL
Posted on December 10th, 2019

BY EDWARD THEOPHILUS

During the presidential election 2019, many candidates and people publicly talked about education reforms.  Except for Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, other candidates and public have not expressed clear views on this subject and reluctant to talk about what kind of reforms need to Sri Lanka. Education is a broader subject area that involves in ocean of topics, views, and ideas. Although education is working as a right of people political platforms in presidential election presented an idea that education should be inserted to the constitution as a human right. There is no doubt that education has been working as a right and an essential role in human life since the beginning of first human to this world. It is quite difficult to identify what are essential reforms to the country as the dynamism and changes in society force to focus on the requirements of education and training in distinct areas. I have broadly written about this subject area based on experience in developed and developing countries.  Education is a policy matter as well as practical application and, the ability to successfully implementing reforms countrywide would be buttressed the success.

Since the beginning of the education policy of Mr.C.W.W. Kannangara during the era of the State Council, education reforms have been a subject of talking and some attractive policy actions have been successfully implemented in the country while talking was going on among limited interested people, the main reason for current urgency may have been contributed by politics and economic predicaments faced by majority of the country.  Without understanding the purposes or the way reforms should be implemented in the country, education reforms might not be successfully achieved. On the other hand, educational reforms would not be successful if policymakers don’t clearly understand the quantum and the approach they needed to make as well as limits in the country to launch reforms successfully. Many people of the country talk on education reforms with individual interest or with self-centered attitudes such as a finding job or gaining the opportunity to go overseas or providing opportunities for own group of community.  These are the completely self-centered focus.

Education reforms should be beyond self-centred attitudes and they must be firm actions with a national focus providing broader benefits to different people in the social structure and the reforms shall involve in capacious objectives consistent to international experience, which align on different focus based on technological innovations and timely human needs.  The other important point is that education reforms are continuing process beyond the election promises.  Election promises are concerned with short term interest and education reforms go beyond the short-term requirements.

Before initiating education reforms, policymakers, as well as the public who supposed to gain benefits from reforms need to understand fundamental economic issues and limits of the country. The status of the economy at present indicates that upliftment and the forward movement of economy would be depended on the timely educational reforms. Economic issues in Sri Lanka associated with macroeconomic factors and the management of public and private enterprises and service firms concern with microeconomic considerations.  Education reforms in Sri Lanka should go along with economic reforms, which essentially need to reform the existing education system.  In addition to economic issues and status, education reforms need to consider other important areas such as value education, which included anti-discrimination and equality of citizens, and elimination of mythical attitudes of people, which are hindrances to development and growth. They are factors involved in the development of human quality of the country.  Although religions are operating in the country for centuries human quality has not been improved in the process and the result of this situation is less quality and demand for human capital of the country.  The other vital area is key knowledge and skills development in relation to environment, health and communication in students in all context of education.  This is a significant issue that should be especially considered by the reforming policy process.

Essential economic reforms might be a considerable temperament to public in the short-run and it appeared in Western countries after the cold war, and Western countries and Communist countries understood the essence of reforms and they successfully dealt with human temperaments and implemented reforms tackling with many problems such as unemployment, workplace reforms and multi-skills requirement  against reforms to maintain the economies pushing to an upward trend. Now the most important economic reforms are policy corrections and deviation policy focus while inventing new policies for the future. 

People of Sri Lanka have many expectations, which may not be achieved quickly within the expected time framework as Sri Lanka has many limits or impediments to growth. No country can achieve social and economic expectations overnight through reform process. Positive results from education reforms could be achieved only in medium term. 

The limits of education reforms are associated with many factors, which are beyond economic considerations and they are involved in social, cultural, legal, religious and international relation related factors.

Traditional society in history had not regulations, and impediments limited, but in modern society have many regulations and impediments which are difficult to defeat by an independent country like Sri Lanka. Sometimes Sri Lanka needs to work with other countries.  Economically, countries in the modern world are in a competitive circle and Sri Lanka cannot work alone ignoring the factors limit to growth.

Generally, education reforms concern with contextual education, curriculum development and management, education administration, teachers’ and trainers’ development (teacher education and training), policy initiating and review of current policy framework and remedial management of policy consistent to dynamism of the world.  These are quite difficult activities that are involved in massive costs and quality human services.  Therefore, the capacity of the economy spending money for these activities is the key point for the success of education reforms. In the meantime, these reforms would generate massive employment and sometimes job losses and diverting jobs one area to others should be a part of reforms.  Finally, education reforms would be highly advantaged to the country despite the cost involved in and the productivity generate from reforms will outweigh the any cost.

International structure or acceptance for a million of population (as a Model), it must include one university for higher education and research in a variety of fields, at least two technical colleges for each five hundred thousand population for technical vocational education and training for current staff in workplaces and newcomers, five high schools for secondary context, ten or more schools for primary education context and twenty or more for early childhood contexts, and in addition, there may be several colleges to absorb dropouts in all contexts focusing on different level of contextual education.  The general structure of education must be organized according to this basic principle and requirements and there may be more educational institutions with private investments with a greater supervision and review of the government.  This basic structure is highly expensive and lots of economic, social, cultural and religious issues involved in the situation and the nature of organizations. When education reforms consider this basic requirement, it is needed to eliminate divisions such as religious, language and any other differences, which might hindrance to providing equal education opportunities for people.  As Sri Lanka consist of 24 million population the country needs to consider to implement the structure without any difference based on population. It is a horizontal expansion of education, which eliminate current vertical expansion to giving priority for urban areas. Horizontal provision of education bring justice and opportunities for rural community and the current competition for popular schools, colleges and schools will be exterminated by a horizontal model. 

When population changes the structure would be changed in the future and the general assumption is to implement the structure as a government investment, but investments for education and training could be contributed by Non- Government and private investors, especially religious organizations could participate with qualitative and strict government supervision. The provision of education should be free, but according to the affordability of parent and it needs to insist fee-based education provision on individual cases and parents under the new model would be saved a large sum of spending in the current system as private tuition spending and many others will be eliminated by new structural reforms. The structure will give a dignity to all students with any difference. In terms of the structure, Sri Lanka needs many universities and technical colleges to provide good and quality education and training in relation to different fields. The current available infrastructure and facilities would help to successfully build the proposed structure.

The economy of the country should be expanded to absorb more than 85% of graduates and there is no harm 10% to 15% going overseas in terms of democratic freedom.  Sri Lanka should not be a free education and training place for attracting labour for developed countries.  If the economy of Sri Lanka is prosperous educated citizens and professionals will not migrate overseas to offer hard labour to developed countries. It entirely depends on the preference of individual and the government has no responsibility for them unless they subject to discrimination in overseas.  This situation can be seen in all developed countries and the government may impose various regulations considering the requirements.  The government is not directly responsible for individual cases; however, the operation of international relations would force the government to intervene case by case.

Within this basic structure, the other essential reform is to change current attitudes of people on good schools or bad school feeling and the elimination of such feeling would be depended on the improvement of quality of education for kids providing equal knowledge and skills from whichever school studied without a difference in rural or urban. This should be a key aspect of education reforms.  The government can promote private investment through incentives for investors and eliminate various expensive competitive exams such as scholarship exams and private tuitions, which will not necessary under the reforms. The new structure allows for each student to attend university or technical education, in other words, it is possible every student to gain tertiary education.

With the structural reform’s curriculum reforms, which is a broader aspect that eliminates unnecessarily aligning too many students to certain area of education such as science, commerce, and arts.  Many Western countries allow students to learn arts, science, and commerce together and some times to select other pathways in health, engineering, agriculture, services, sports, and many other areas. Curriculum reforms would direct to solve current major problems and it needs including value education.  Sri Lanka has many religions but followers are not consistent with the policies of religions. It seems that religion has become a symbol and religion is not working in homes or workplaces or society.  In this situation, curriculum reforms need focusing to offer value education in all educational contexts.  In Western countries, value education is key in practical knowledge and application.  For example, care and compassion are vital values that mean care for self and others.  In any education context, safety is a value, which broadly applies to any subject area and when value education included, the behavioral pattern of students dramatically changed and the quality of knowledge and skills improve with a higher demand for knowledge and skills. Part two of this article focus on reforms related to curriculum and teaching.  

2 Responses to “EDUCATION REFORMS ESSENTIAL TO SRI LANKA (PART 1a) A HORIZONTAL DISTRIBUTION MODEL”

  1. aloy Says:

    Some discrepancies in this write up.

    SL’s population is not 24 million;it is around 21 million. It took me a while to understand what is ‘Horizontal Education Model’.

    The way I see it, education in our country is a huge industry with all sorts of transport modes contributing to it and converging to the capital. On school days economic activity in the capital comes to a grinding halt in the morning. People start work in offices and other places not earlier than 9.30 due to this problem. I think the previous government tried to change it by making the ‘Langama Pasala Hondama Pasala’ concept. Perhaps this government will change it or will lose the focus as they have other priorities like improving the economy, finding employment to jobless graduates coming out of the system, security etc.

    Movements of goods and services in and out of the country which happens through our capital city bust be a big factor for investors. Without investors ( not the kind that come to build roads and put us in more trouble) the country will not develop.

  2. aloy Says:

    Sorry to talk about investors in this thread. But, I am curious as to why the foreigners are selling in our stock market. Perhaps our fortunes are tied with those of China.

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