Presidential candidates are harping much about how they’ll raise the standard of education in the country. There are proposals in manifestos to raise the education through projects which would introduce a student-centred education system, the integration of smart technology into state universities, increase the intake into state universities and provide e-library with internet to every town.
The list goes on and we have jotted down the ones which would make us say ‘wow’. But we have a question too! ‘Would the lawmakers of this country be comfortable controlling a nation which is educated up to university level?’
Right now there are many parents, a huge number of mothers among them, who have not received an education up to the Ordinary Level Examination. But their offspring have done well and reached the stage of university education. Despite Sri Lanka being a third world country and the majority of students coming from less affluent homes, a fair section of this segment of the society emerge the victor in the race to qualify for uni. So these politicians wanting to enter the education scene and intending to revamp it demands some investigation.
More than wanting to introduce new features to the university system, many are of the opinion that it would serve the country better if strikes by undergraduates are curtailed; because such happenings hamper and prolong the obtaining of a professional qualification.
More than the universities, it’s the schools system and facilities associated with them that need to be upgraded. Despite statistics provided by the Ministry of Education revealing that there are 11,042 government schools, 10,175 private schools, 106 special assisted schools and 761 pirivenas (temple education) there are some children who miss starting their education by entering the first grade at a popular school.
This issue of searching for popular schools was addressed by the Wickremesinghe regime which introduced the ‘nearest school is the best school’ policy. But recently one prominent personality in the present Cabinet, who in the past held top posts in the education sector, was lost for words when a member of the audience at a forum comprising parents and officials posed a question. The question that was asked as to why students are still recruited from outside the Western Province to the much sought after leading Colombo 7 school when the government is aggressively promoting the concept ‘nearest school is the best school’. The officials to whom the question was posed choked for a few seconds before responded by saying that this practise of recruiting students from outside the province should be stopped.
There is much hype about the government wanting to raise the spending for education to Rs 405 billion by 2020. All this is good but what is the use of upgraded education if we still get to read about students assaulting teachers with broomsticks just because the teacher wanted to instil discipline in students?
The Government must seriously consider introducing a coaching and mentoring system where students are given a training where they’ll be more tolerant towards others and make the best out of any difficult situation. Students and undergraduates are book-bound and struggle when multitasking is demanded at a given situation.
There has been much debate on what percentage of the Gross Domestic Product must be spent on education. Voices of dissent have echoed that this figure should be 6.5%. But statistics provided by the UNESCO reveal that the Government of Sri Lanka has been struggling to raise this figure to 4%. The highest spent in recent times was 3.48 % which was in 2016. Otherwise this figure has fluctuated between 1.5 and 2.55%.
There have been proposals to introduce smart learning facilities to schools and universities in the future. All this is good and the icing on the cake would be providing an internet connection to these libraries with a connecting speed which can be termed as fast when compared to other ambitious Asian countries.