For some reason, the GCE Advanced Level examination has become a death trap for students who build their future around it. It is no more the hurdle that could be overcome with some effort, nor does it guarantee a place in the academia for those who get through with flying colours.
When students who sat the exam last year continue to speak up against the Z-score injustice, which has obviously delayed university entrance of many, this year’s the A/L students were compelled to answer questions which contained several mistakes.
In Sri Lanka, there is nothing that does not end up in a protest.
Be it the recent Z-score muddle, the strike by university lecturers or the most recent question paper fiasco, the standard way of demanding justice has turned out to be the signing of petitions and protest marches. Whether they bring the required results is another matter. Though much is spoken about free education, if an education system compels the students and parents to march to the court of law every time results are released, it says a lot about the quality of education in this country.
Our sister paper Sunday Lankadeepa quoted a University Grants Commission report that said that some 6,500 students who sat the examination last year, are awaiting justice for their grievances. It said the authorities had considered the possibility of granting university entrance for all of them. Taking into account the condition of infrastructure in the state universities, one can only hope these statements are no mere pacifiers but prompt action will be taken to resolve these matters for the utmost benefit of the students who have been repeatedly victimized.
Adding fuel to fire, the question papers distributed at the exam this year are reported to have contained several mistakes. Whether they were minor or major is not the question. A responsible authority like the Examinations Department cannot afford to distribute question papers with errors at the highest school level examination that decides the fate of many.
The assurance that marks will be given for those who attempted the erroneous questions is not sufficient compensation. The authorities cannot be complacent about the delay and unavailability of the amendments to these questions that ought to have reached the students on time. How justice will be meted out to those who wasted a good portion of their time attempting to solve the erroneous questions should be promptly answered.
The authorities have a responsibility to inform the students if there are going to be any changes to the way questions papers will be prepared. They should not be allowed to enter an examination hall having to face surprises such as the unavailability of the Periodical Table for the Chemistry paper.
Leave alone the paper qualifications of those who lay traps to the students, they should be taught common sense before being entrusted with the responsibility of taking decisions on behalf of the citizens of the next generation. Free education is the right of every child in the country. It must be ingrained in the minds of those in authority that the words ‘free’ and ‘flawed’ are not synonymous.