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A Commission needed for Education Reforms

23 August 2013 06:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It appears that once again politicians and bureaucrats are attempting to interfere in educational planning and reforms. The recent directive by an educational Director stating that Grade 5 tuition classes  should be stopped by 12 midnight on a certain day appears to be an arbitrary dictum issued by the official whose excuse appears to be fears that the examination papers would be leaked out. Surely one should question his right as to why a whole citizenry should abide by a decision made by a single person just because he fears that else the question papers will be leaked out.

In fact his reaction reflects the attitude taken by politicians and education authorities when ever they decide to set about bringing in reforms to the educational sector.
At present we have heard so much of pontificating about the need to change the syllabuses, attune curricular to match employment  demands, provide a disciplinary training programme for university entrants in the hope that  it may prevent  the inhumane ‘rags’ that occur in universities, (perhaps it might have been better to formulate moral ethical value programmes instead!) After all one supposes that the authorities do not visualise another war and as such training university students in various semi military logistics, not only for students but also for principals some of whom are titled  as honorary colonels!

In fact while all these extraordinary so called reforms are spoken about, they also show how temporary all educational reforms by successive governments have been.
 Often it has  been piecemeal reforms that have been introduced with no particular relevance to the  economic and reconciliation needs of the country. In fact certain governments in their anxiety to gain political advantage used education reforms as a means to bring in divisive national political agendas .Students of a  once united population were divided in  their togetherness as citizens of one nation into ethnic language divisions in schools having Sinhala and Tamil streams and insistence on children being educated in their mother tongue. Further since reforms came as ad hoc measures both higher education and secondary education lagged behind while the economy developed on a global agenda and this led to a mismatch of educational reforms and the needs of the labour market.

 

"Educational reforms must not be allocated to Ministers since they appear to take temporary decisions to provide patch work solutions to immediate problems or gain momentary publicity  . Eg School admissions,  University curriculum changes , school curricular subjects, place of vocational education etc"




Once again there is talk of educational reforms but while the education authorities embark on these reforms greater emphasis should be given to the place of education as a tool which will operate as a catalyst of change. As Nelson Mandela who guided a bitter South African nation on the path of reconciliation and change after the end of  the Apartheid system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP) governments, who were the ruling party from 1948 to 1994 said :Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation. Our previous system emphasized the physical and other differences of South Africans with devastating effects. We are steadily but surely introducing education that enables our children to exploit their similarities and common goals, while appreciating the strength in their diversity. No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.  A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special. (Nelson Mandela)

Educational reforms must not be allocated to Ministers since they appear to take temporary decisions to provide patch work solutions to immediate problems or gain momentary publicity  . Eg School admissions,  University curriculum changes , school curricular subjects, place of vocational education etc. We have had a White Paper on Education , the Cluster education system and the change of the GCE examination to the NCE which was discarded so quickly though it was implemented according to the thinking of that time for valid reasons to match vocational skills with academic knowledge but one tends to think that neither the teachers nor the students quite knew what it was all about . Students in Colombo studied vocational subjects like Batik printing etc., schools along the coast did not pay attention to vocational studies based on fishing , boat building and allied skills. And woe betide a parent who was transferred out of Colombo to the remote provinces where  no-one knew what should be taught in lieu of the vocational subject taught in a prestigious Colombo school. As quickly as the new Examination was introduced it was  discarded and students again went back to learning time honoured subjects wrapped up together as Social studies etc., which were more confusing since a teacher who had studied geography knew little or nothing of history , and General science was a muddle of Chemistry, physics , biology and hygiene ! Children in affluent homes and schools were able to write assignments on blood grouping etc.,  while those in distant rural schools did not have the facilities to obtain any facts to present in their assignments and these assignments were also considered for the final examination.



"Often it has  been piecemeal reforms that have been introduced with no particular relevance to the  economic and reconciliation needs of the country. In fact certain governments in their anxiety to gain political advantage used education reforms as a means to bring in divisive national political agendas .Students of a  once united population were divided in  their togetherness as citizens of one nation into ethnic language divisions in schools having Sinhala and Tamil streams and insistence on children being educated in their mother tongue"





Education has become such a mess that parents are forced to send children for tuition classes , the outstation Central schools some euphemistically considered as National schools are  not given the much needed facilities, politicians usually send their children abroad for their higher studies and those who enter University end up usually frustrated that they have wasted considerable number of years due to strikes of various types to gain a fragile knowledge with no career prospects.
It is perhaps time that a Commission be appointed by the President similar to the Lessons Learnt…Commission consisting  of academics, well known educationalist, civil society leaders and religious leaders. The   mandate should given to consider the reasons for the failure of the earlier reforms and provide  within a given time frame  a system of reform that would take in the existing realities and educates youth using all the resources that are available . The mandate should also be, to cover the whole existing system of education presently operative from pre school to University Level, the grade of Central or National Schools , the significance or otherwise of the Mahapola scholarships etc. And further the place of reconciliation in the educational process. 

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  Comments - 1

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  • zarudeen Tuesday, 27 August 2013 12:31 AM

    Why one more commission when we already have National Education Commission - What we need is make people to listen to this commission's proposal


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