By E.H. Pemaratne
The Ministry of Education a sorry target of attacks is faced against never ending battalion of criticisms. This time it is about a circular preventing the students who pass the O’ Level Examination from changing to a National School for the Advanced Level if they are already studying in a National School.The JVP affiliated Ceylon Teachers’ Union has already threatened with court action while protests are being organized by the JVP against it. How people friendly is this approach?
Education, which had been a free commodity for over 95 per cent in the country thanks to Late Mr. C.W.W. Kannanagara, has become lab test example of wastage, although low GDP share of 1.4% allocated to it is also criticized, preventing the flow of even this negligible allocation to the public. A recent study on the results of the O’ Level examination indicated that only 56 schools in the Island have reached an index of 70. A very few so called prestigious schools are among them. This is another facet of the wastage in the sector.
The major cause of this wastage is the unfair distribution of well provided schools No attempt was made after the Kannangara reforms to meet this disparity in keeping with the population growth and distribution change and specially the demand for education. Presently education has become demand based as against the one that was supply based prior to 1960s. Schools had to be brought to the door steps to implement the compulsory education law.
Rather than invoking the blessings of the Law which has been wrongly interpreted in this case, the Minister deserves a commendation for the bold step he has taken to rationalize the school system which is essential to provide equal opportunities to the poor children also. It is easy to instigate the public by arousing mean local enthusiasm and irrational attitudes whenever an attempt to rationalize the system is moved. In fact those who follow these disgruntled political organizations, are digging their own graves . Truly speaking what should be their demand in response to the proposed circular?. Should the demand be to have doors of prestigious national schools (as against Central Colleges etc) be opened to them? Or else shouldn’t they demand more equitable distribution of facilities covering all national schools and Central colleges where they can direct their children without difficulty. Such a demand will prevent the amassing of resources in a few privileged schools and provide access to the same to many in the country.
If the demand is to have all national schools and some selected novodya schools facility-vice upgraded to the level of the so called popular schools, it is the children of the low and middle income groups dispersed throughout the country that will benefit and not the urban based rich. It seems that the JVP has gravely mistaken in identifying whom they pledge to serve and who they in fact do. Is it correct for the JVP to lead a struggle against the class of people, workers, peasants and lower middle class etc. whom they try to show they are representing. To launch a struggle a clear target group should be identified if the JVP is to politically survive. If this circular is enforced it is the under-privileged that are benefitted as less popular school children will find accommodation.
(The writer is a former Director Planning ,UDA and Attorney at Law.)