Education Minister Bandula Gunawardana yesterday claimed that the proposed policies of the Common Opposition Candidate were a step towards the end of the free education system in the country.
He said Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s manifesto has proposed a soft bank loan scheme for A/L qualified students who fail university entrance by a whisker.
He blamed the media, the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA), the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) and other students, parents and the public for not raising the alarm.
The minister told a news briefing that free education would come to an end by creating a soft bank loan scheme for students to pursue education at private institutions.
He criticized the proposal to integrate Private Schools in the free education system.
“This is the end of free education which existed for nearly eight decades in Sri Lanka. The future of the 4.5 million student population, 170,000 teachers and nearly 10,000 public schools is at risk. But sadly no one raises a whimper about this catastrophe and I do not understand why even the media is silence on this. I hope the media will educate the public on this dangerous move before January 8,” the minister said.
When a journalist pointed out that even now there were more than 100 first degree, diploma and post graduate degree programmes offered as fee-levying courses at the 15 universities and that the only difference was to grant a soft loan for higher studies, the minister said they were external courses.
The minister said the proposal was a part of the new education programme of the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran in line with Eelam ideology which envisages to put an end to the national school system and not to teach the mother tongue but all other languages from grade one onwards.
He said they also want a separate unit for education exclusively in the North including universities not responsible to the central government.
Q Mr. Minister, some 100 degree and diploma programmes in the university system are on a fee levying basis. The difference is that students can obtain a soft bank loan which is highly beneficial to them.
A. No, those are external degrees. This attempt is to offer those courses as internal degrees and thereby privatise university education.
Q Then how can a poor student pursue university education. This loan scheme is aimed at giving a soft bank loan to students who could not afford higher studies.
A. This is the end of free education that existed since 1945 and we must oppose it. The media must educate the public about this disaster.(Sandun A Jayasekera)