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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 75

The fiasco in the maths paper

L. Jayasooriya -Colombo

The President has telephoned the Commissioner of examinations stressing the need to ensure a realistic system of marking a paper and saying that there is no need for a fresh maths paper if a proper mechanism could be worked out to help the affected children.

We the public regret to say that even having a fresh maths paper will not do justice to the children who are affected because after the shock of the maths paper in question their performance at the rest of the examination has been affected. Justice can only be done if the entire examination is cancelled and those responsible are brought to book. We can be pretty sure that the commissioner of examinations will raise the marks in the maths paper but many children who would have passed under normal examination conditions will fail in this examination for reasons stated above. Would that be justice?

It has been a well known fact that our educational system has been in such an utter mess and for so long that not only has the growing up generation suffered but also the country as a result and yet no one has been able to do anything about it. The purpose of this letter is to show that we can do something about it and we should do it in the name of the people and the country.

Nothing with regard to education happens in this country without somebody being responsible for it meaning without somebody being behind it. If we find out who ordered the change in syllabus for the maths paper then we will be able to unlock the secret of this entire educational mess. We have reasons to believe that it is not the university that ordered this change. If it is they who did it then we would have found a vital clue to proceed. If not was it the University Grants Commission? If they also were not involved then was it the National Institute of Education (NIE) or even the Examinations Department?

Here is another clue. I have heard from a very reliable source that the standard in science and maths subjects at both "O" and "A" levels is much higher for London and Cambridge examinations held in Sri Lanka than the standard in the corresponding local examinations. To give credibility to what I say I am compelled to give examples that may not interest the general reader but is of vital importance to the nation.

At the "O" level both at London and Cambridge examinations the maths syllabus includes vectors, matrices and transformation geometry etc. none of which was there even for the B.Sc. general degree in 1948 (B. Sc. Ceylon) when I sat for it. I would go further and say that matrices could have been introduced at school at the level when children are being taught how to add and subtract long before they come to division exposing them to a subject so early in life and taking the fear out of it.

In my time we had the JSC (junior school certificate), the SSC (senior school certificate) both of which were compulsory and also a thing called the special SSC which was equivalent to the London Matric that was optional. Since then the London matric examination has advanced in leaps and bounds which they now call the “O” level while our local SSC was reduced to the present "O" level standard. When I was doing my SSC my maths teacher did not know how to simplify a simple algebraic expression in H. S. Hall’s school algebra. Unless we address these problems we will soon be reduced to the level of a banana republic.

- Asian Tribune -

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