While the debate whether the government should go ahead with the Grade 5 scholarship exam continues another set of young candidates, mostly from “not so prestigious” schools, has emerged top rankers at this year’s exam as well.
Interestingly five of the ten top slots, including a first place for which there was a tie, went to a relatively unknown school in the Kesbewa electorate. For the past decade or so Somaweera Chandrasiri Primary School in Piliyandala has been churning out Grade 5 Scholarship winners at a rate that it can give the so called prestigious Colombo schools a run for their money.
Unknown to many tens of thousands of parents struggle to get their children enrolled at Somaweera Chandrasiri Primary School for grade 1 every year. Largely owing to a team of dedicated staff this peripheral school in the Colombo district has been performing a miracle of sorts for years and one hopes that the Ministry of Education makes a note of that.
Besides once again proving the fact Gampaha is giving a tough competition to Colombo as a seat of primary education two candidates from Gampaha have got first and second slots while none of the so-called prestigious schools has got any. It’s also heartening to witness the rise in the numbers of the northern and eastern students who clinch top slots. Jaffna Hindu College continues to shine with a student of its primary school emerging second tied with a candidate from Reggie Ranatunga Primary School Minuwangoda. Besides, students from small towns like Tellippallai in Jaffna and Nelukkulam in Vavuniya too have fared exceptionally well.
For the bulk of nearly 15,000 young candidates who got through the exam this is the only opportunity they get to join a school in their provincial capitals or Colombo before the O/Ls. Given the disparities in the standards of education between the village schools and the city ones from grade 6 onward, these young achievers hardly have a choice in the matter.
While the winners are feted it’s difficult to forget the fact that the results have given heartache to another nearly 285,000 of ten year olds who could not get through the exam. Besides, the tortuous path trodden by both the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ for nearly three years is certainly not something that these youngsters deserve to walk on at that tender age. Psychiatrists and many others have already protested against the decision to continue with the examination.
Education Minister AkilaViraj Kariyawasam is on record that he would take a decision on the exam next year.
“Several countries in the world have done away with challenging exams such as GCE O/L and Grade 5 scholarship exams which impose a mental pressure on the students and parents as well. We have still not decided on anything yet, but a decision would be taken on the two exams after speaking to educationists,” Minister Kariyawasam has reportedly said.
However still there’s no guarantee that the minister would do away with the exam as for majority of students especially those in outstation schools this is the sole opportunity they get to get enrolled at a leading school in a city before the O/Ls. One may well argue that government should improve the standards of the outstation schools before taking such a decision. While that is not something that’s going to happen in the near future it is also not ethical to subjecting a batch of nearly 300,000 ten-year-olds every year to this harassment.