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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2966

Education System of Sri Lanka- is committing suicide, a social outcome?

Nalin Abeysekera - Lecturer at Open University of Sri Lanka

The present educational system of Sri Lanka derives from the British educational system, which was introduced by the British colonial masters in the 19th century. The British colonial government established colleges for boys and girls separately.

These colleges consisted of Primary Schools, Lower Secondary and Higher Secondary Schools. Today primary education lasts six years, after which the pupils sit a scholarship examination. After primary education there is Junior Secondary education which lasts for five years, after which pupils have to sit government examination namely G.C.E. ordinary level to qualify for Senior Secondary education which last another two years.

Then comes the competitive university entrance examination which is called G.C.E. Advanced level examination. But according the latest statistics only 20% students will get a chance to enter to the University.In the University system now we can culture of violence inside universities. According to the Minister Warnapala “ There are students who indulge in violence for the sake of violence.

I do not say they do not have grievances, but these can be tackled by the administration. But trivial student issues are used to mobilize students, which leads to destabilizing universities. So student unrest, which is endemic in the system, needs to be addressed in planning reforms,” This is actually separate unit to be address in this system.

Those who are not admitted to the universities can either enter vocational technical schools or be employed in companies or in government departments as apprentice or trainees. That’s why now we can see private educational institutes spending large sum of money into Sunday news papers to attract these potential customers. But there is a problem with the quality of educational products (degrees, diplomas even postgraduate degrees ) offered by private educational institutes.

As Dr Harsha Athurupana Senior Economist from the World Bank stated “There are a few centres of high quality, but a majority of higher education institutions are facing deep seated challenges. So the average of the system is lower,” .But some parents, students looking for “any kind of qualifications” which has been accepted by some elements in this consumer society. Specially now in the private sector there are some post graduate programs which are not considering any qualifications but producing people with MBAs. They are targeting the top management, middle management people who don’t have any paper qualifications. Thus this is the Win-Win situation in Marketing. Students will pay money and he/she will get the certificate. But again we have to address the social cost of this negotiation. The higher education ministry should scrutinise these institutes. Some authorities like to get way fro this by easily clamming this as to “outcome of free economy”.

Accordig to N.Manoharan(2002) though the Kannangara Report of 1943, which laid the foundations for a national system of education advocating English as a second language, its implementation failed for two main reasons. Firstly, guided by electoral considerations, the politicians associated English with “social elitism”, and hatred was created against English among the rural community. With the enactment of the “Sinhala Only” Act in 1956, nationalization of schools and adoption of swabasha in universities in 1960, English was sidelined. Secondly, this caused the problem of lack of quality and committed English teachers. The absence of a formal recruitment system of English teachers has given way to exploitation of the system by political leaders by appointing their own supporters as English teachers. Thus, English teachers are dominated by less qualified ‘English Assistants’.

Apart from being the language of information technology, banking and financial transactions, foreign trade and travel, English is the only common medium between various ethnic groups in the island. Lack of a common medium has already created a communication gap between the majority and minority communities in the country.And at the same time, the employability of passing out graduates is another problem. N.Manoharan(2002) further states how the recent studies show the relationship between the level of education and employment is an inverted-U. In other words, the university educated remain unemployed or underemployed for longer periods. This is due to the limitations in the capacity of tertiary education to respond to the changing employment markets, both local and international. The monopoly over higher education by the state, and its provision in local languages has resulted in the mismatch of the education system with world realities. Increasingly globalised and private sector markets want individuals with strong interpersonal, English language, and transferable skills, apart from specialized expertise in some discipline. The Sri Lankan universities do not inculcate such skills in their graduates.

On the other hand we have to identify whether this system will address the following basics in Education.

* Students are able to be self-directed, independent lifelong learners. The idea is for students to understand the barriers to learning and, with this understanding, to prevent study difficulties or diagnose why they are having problems, then to solve the issues on their own.

* Students develop unique skills and talents. Educators must help students understand their natural abilities and skills.. Students have the ability to use their imagination. The ability to imagine is fundamental for creating solutions to problems students will confront in school and life. Far too little time is spent helping students improve their imaginative ability. But here we have to question whether out primary, higher or even tertiary education will address the competencies of the students. Especially in university education there is a huge problem which educators just trying to read lecture note instead of identifying talents of the students. This can be seen more on humanities and social sciences.

* Students develop the skills to know how to evaluate what they are studying and learning. Today's mass media is ripe with opportunities to pick up false data and ideas. It is more critical than ever to be able to evaluate the important from the unimportant -- truth from lies and facts from opinions.

* Students know their true purposes. The ideal for students is to be motivated by a purpose for what they are learning. It is imperative students understand, know and agree with their purposes. This writer has his personal experience in one lecture he has conducted on the day which the A/L result been released. Some students are worried because their parents warned them not to come to their houses after getting poor results in A/L. So whether it is questionable that students as well as parents understand the true purpose of learning.(but here we have at address the area of free economy and more socio-economic indicators underline this problem)

* Students develop a belief in their ability to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams. Students are a pool of potential resources to resolve problems and fulfill dreams. Helping them do real activities that make a difference in the quality of their, or someone else's, life has a powerful effect on them. They develop the sense of security that comes when one believes in his or her ability to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.

Everyday we can hear some suicide incidents of students as well as many problems in society as a whole. In my opinion this is because of the problems created by our education system. As an example if students were reprimanded by the teacher then they will commit suicide. On the side of student he or she does not understand the potential resources to resolve a problem and fulfill dreams. We have to explore the part of the teacher as well. Because he or she who is going to advise student should understand the teaching principles and basics in education (there is a need to conduct island wide conferences etc. to school teachers on how to tackle critical situations of students-this is part of psychology in education. We have pool of resources and intellectuals on this field and I think we can get the help of them in this regards).And there is a role which should played by parents as well. They should always be alert on their children, their behavior as well as the relationships.

Hence there should be urgent need for the government to understand these problems and take immediate corrective measurements. I think we have good scholars underutilized and we can get their work. In the University sector many academics willing to extend their contribution for the development of this education system. So there is a need for major educational reforms for this country. Otherwise it might be a disaster like LTTE in the future.




- Asian Tribune -

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