Sri Lanka’s Education Mafia

2012-08-31 18:55:14

Undeniably something is wrong somewhere and that somewhere is our education. The stock exchange is supposed to be ruled by the mafia, perhaps even the sports arena, so too are present day politicos and it is no exaggeration to say that there is a mafia controlling the education of Sri Lanka. Our objective is to view all areas of discussion and to determine how best we can address these areas instead of delaying action through blame tactics.
What is on paper is never practiced and what should be practiced is never relevant to all. This is what ails every area of polity in Sri Lanka.
Qualifications, Salaries, Teaching Hours for Academics and Teachers

To be appointed as a professor one must have at least 10 publications in ISI and Scopus level internationally indexed journals with a PhD from a good ranking university. It is said the majority of “Professors” in Sri Lanka do not meet this criteria. This then calls for a thorough investigation and a total clean up of the entire university system starting from top down and not bottom up as is often the practice.

Sri Lanka’s university system has 386 Professors, 79 Associate Professors, 1929 Senior Lecturers, 1556 Lecturers and 326 academic support staff in 18 universities. With about 4000 lecturers, the UGC claims over 550 academics have broken their bonds and not returned to Sri Lanka. What the UGC must next answer is, what have they done about it instead of using these figures for argument purposes? It was a former UGC Chairman now a member of something called the Friday Forum who cancelled the 500 Indian Government scholarships offered through the Indo-Lanka Accord after securing placements for his own daughters!

Globally, teachers are said to be paid the least. Comparing salaries against industry salaries is unfair just as it is to argue comparing teacher salaries with their overseas counterparts.

American schools start generally at 7:30a.m. with teachers coming at least a half hour early to write the day's objectives on the board, to allow a quick tutoring session for the weak. Lessons are 40 minute and school ends at 3:30p.m. Teachers do not leave school along with their students, they stay behind to prepare work for the next day often as late as 5p.m. Teachers never leave class without setting the classroom, making notes, assignments and activity handouts. Even weekends are spent in planning and marking work. In the US teachers spend an average of 50 hours a week on instructional duties, including an average of 12hrs a week on non-compensated school related activities (grading papers, advising students, parent counseling etc). Teachers are rigorously evaluated, they have to be regularly re-certified and they have to meet complex state and federal standards and they are expected to qualify as well. Is this the practice in Sri Lanka by teachers or academics for them to compare themselves with their counterparts?

Nowhere are allowances paid for paper correction, paper setting, exam supervision and even lecture visits over and above one’s salary. Academics are given fully paid sabbatical leave every 7 years that extends to 2-3 years or more, air fares even for the spouse are covered by the state, they are not disallowed from lecturing privately, providing consultations, involved in projects with these earnings are tax free, they enjoy more holidays than other public sector personnel. More often much of the scholarships awarded to academics are simply to advance their own personal careers than to provide any quality to the service offered to students.

The gross salary of a Probationary lecturer is Rs.51,316 while a Senior Professor earns Rs.126,536 and the take home with all the accrued allowances is something that will raise the envy of other public servants. Though together we can only wonder what qualifications politicians possess to enjoy the best of perks while being the main cause of waste and corruption. No one will grudge payments to academics or teachers if the quality of their teaching depicts results through the students they make into tomorrow’s leaders.

Way Forward
University education in Sri Lanka began in 1942. 70 years on we are still searching for solutions to put education on track.
Advisors and consultants living and working in Colombo do not understand or feel the need to tap and nurture the inherent talents of children in rural areas. The schools they attend are often neglected, the infrastructure they deserve is never allocated, teachers are not trained, yet the motivation to learn remains alive in these children. There is no requirement for new schemes and systems that eat up billions of rupees unless we properly evaluate the present systems and completely annul those that are irrelevant. Half-way programmes spell further dangers to an education system that has become a convenient tool to completely destabilise the future generation of Sri Lanka.

The problems that exist are many. University students are involved in politics when they should be working towards completing their degrees. There is an overload of information which is not structured to tap the students’ skills and talents and instead encourages memorising. The tuition enterprise has added to the failure with nothing constructive coming except fleecing parents. Loss of faith in the school system rests with not just the Government or the Ministers in Charge. The academics in universities, the teachers at schools, the parents and the students themselves are equally accountable. The situations become aggravated and blown out of proportion by trade unions, political parties and external forces. When a student is ragged and perhaps dies from the ragging it is not the government or the Minister that should take the blame but the academics in whose power it is to put an end to ragging. Similarly, it is for academics to stop politics taking place inside universities and if academics do not play politics themselves attempting to win the support of politicians, much of the confusion that exists would not take place at all. The need therefore is for all these segments to accept their accountability and thereafter to devise ways to come out of the mess that has been created.
(By Shenali Waduge, Eurasia Review)

  Comments - 11

  • P. Wickramagamage Saturday, 1 September 2012 04:40

    please rewrite this article after a careful study of the relevant material. Your knowledge of the local university system and the American universities/schools is very poor. The entire article is based on assumed facts not reals ones. Hope to see an article with accurate information and valid criticisms.


    Prof. P. Wickramagamage

    Reply : 25       17

    dgd Saturday, 1 September 2012 04:46

    If the writer thinks Rs 51, 000, the salary of probationary lecturer, is such an astronomical amount, she has clearly lost touch with reality. Remember, it is usually the best few from each batch who are ideally to be recruited as staff members. So it not the envy of others in the state sector, but the ridicule of one's contemporaries that such staff members have to endure.

    Reply : 22       10

    S.Warusawithana Saturday, 1 September 2012 08:48

    This is such a wonderful piece - Shenali Waduge has hit the nail right on the head. Congratulations! Tenure system MUST come into Universities to weed out the rotten eggs. Payment for marking answer scripts of their own students has to be stopped right-away. Evaluation by students, peer groups and higher impartial authorities HAS to be introduced into the University system. Re-scrutiny of answer scripts whenever a student thinks he/she is in doubt about the scores/grades awarded (even for payment of a fee) MUST be permitted as this is an area where vindictive teachers pay out grudges on their students as well as allow occur. Re-scrutiny is permitted at OLs & ALs and even in schools teachers are supposed to show the answer scripts to the students as it is a form of re-inforcement and feedback. Once these conditions are introduced - then let the academics make a noise about demands for higher pay & other perks.

    Reply : 10       22

    Fusion Saturday, 1 September 2012 09:10

    Wait a second! This is Rs 50,000+ per month (Rs.125,000 per month for a Senior Professor)?. And they want another 20% pay hike?! You know what, suddenly the demands made by other state and as well as private sector workers seem quite reasonable.

    Reply : 7       1

    Indra Saturday, 1 September 2012 12:37

    nice to have your comments

    Reply : 3       12

    GM Saturday, 1 September 2012 17:00

    Fusion! That 125,000 is for a senior professor! Not for a peon with a Ph.D! Do you know the salary of a senior professor in Bangladesh or India? do not over react!

    Reply : 24       4

    Fusion Sunday, 2 September 2012 03:36

    Peon with a Ph.D? WOW! What an attitude! 1st of all I don't live in Bangladesh or India! I live in a country at financial breaking point. And before you start whining, YES, we should we cut MP/Ministerial/Presidential perks! YES, MPs/Ministers get the biggest chunk of goodies, Tax payer money & you may not get the same fat yummy goodies MPs/Politicians get in SL but right now simple a Peon (Ph.D or not) probably deserves a 20% pay-hike a lot more than YOU!

    Reply : 5       3

    Ananda D Monday, 3 September 2012 02:11

    I totally agree with the comments of Ms. Shenali Waduge. University academics too are responsible for the present pathetic state of our universities. Many of them play politics and engage in virulent political activities at the expense of university education. This is a fact which they cannot deny.

    Reply : 0       15

    susantha Monday, 3 September 2012 17:47

    I am not sure how many universities ask ISI article to be appointed as prof. I know many prof. who have not met that criteria. The benefits that you are referring are the benefits any academics in this world received as they are necessary for their development. But, do you know how many Sri Lankan academics do not get them. Do you know some of academics have spent their own salaries to complete their doctoral studies as the government does not provide financial assistance? Understand many academics who are remaining here also can leave the country and join universities that you take as bench marks. Don't forget students in UK and USA also engage in politics when it is necessary. Only different is Sri Lankan students have to engage frequently, as Sri Lankan politicians do not know any other language.

    Reply : 4       1

    susantha Monday, 3 September 2012 18:02

    Only few say even less than 5% academics engage in politics. You see them and believe there is no other academics in this country. Yes, every state employee in this country should fight for their salary, as no one can live with their salary.

    Reply : 0       0

    dgd Thursday, 6 September 2012 03:25

    So what are you critics saying? That the education system is superb with no further investment needed?

    Reply : 0       1

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