The story about a student in Mullaitivu who had committed suicide after having failed in the last year’s GCE Ordinary Level examination was overshadowed by the success stories of many students in various other parts of the country and the obsession of the media with the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The story also might have not drawn the attention of the media as it was heard from a relatively remote area. However, it is in a way good that the imprudent act by the unfortunate student was suppressed without being an example to the other disappointed students.
We have heard of such incidents in the past years as well. The absurd thought of some students that the GCE OL and AL exams are the end of the world has been created in them by the absence of an assurance of a good future for the youth in the country. And the “A” mania created in the students of both levels of GCE examination by the media as well as those conducting tuition classes have also contributed to the furtherance of frustration among the unsuccessful students.
The race for ‘As’ is taking place amid a huge and ever widening gap in facilities among schools with some schools having swimming pools while some even in the Colombo District lacking even drinking water. This fact has never been a concern of the politicians or the bureaucracy concerned and thus it is widely viewed as something not needed to be addressed or bothered about.
The tuition classes play such a critical role at the Ordinary Level and Advanced Level that one can say that the school education above Grade-9 has been privatized, despite the schools getting the credit for successes of the students at those two levels. This is evident with the students of so-called popular schools too attending tuition classes. In many cases it is the school teachers who promote tuition and push the students toward it with their lethargic attitude in teaching in schools. Interestingly, the teachers’ trade unions that pounce upon the education authorities even at the drop of a hat turn a blind eye to this situation.
Besides, the future of the successful students at the Ordinary Level is not guaranteed either in the present educational and economic system. After the OL even the successful students are left to themselves to decide the subject stream at the AL, as there is no system to guide them according to their talents and the avenues available in the country. Only half of the more than 300,000 students, who sit the AL examination each year, succeed and only about one-fifth of those successful students or about 30,000 students become eligible for the university entrance every year. Sons and daughters of the rich manage to find access to foreign universities or local institutions such as the Green University while a large majority of those sitting the OL and AL are being left to themselves by the the same education system of the country. This is in addition to the problem of the drop-outs before the OL.
The country lacks an economy that would guarantee the absorption of all or majority of these youths into its various sectors. We had a stagnant economy since the British era when the plantation economy was started. A somewhat diversification was brought in 1978 when the open economy was introduced in 1978. The expansion of the economy though slow was evident since then only in the service sector which also lags far behind the expansion of the work force the major segment of which comprises of unskilled people. The education system has also become aimless and not in par with any economic programme. This creates a sense of uncertainty and frustration within the work force as well as in those are to join it in the future.