Monday, May 21, 2007

The state of education or Education by the State.

I think this is scary but worth a read.

By P.K. Balachandran. The Hindustan Times, May 21st 2007..

HIGH SCHOOL RESULTS SHOCK LANKANS.

Sri Lanka has the highest level of literacy (91%) in the South Asian region. An overwhelming majority of its school going population (4 million) enjoys free education from the kindergarten to the university undergraduate level.

But the quality of the education does not match the quantitative achievement.

In this year's General Certificate of Education-Ordinary Level
(GCA-OL) exam, held after 11 years of schooling, 51 per cent had failed. The
failure rate in Maths was 57 per cent; in Science, 51 per cent; and in English, 63 per cent.

21,813 students had crashed in all the subjects. But the most shocking aspect was that 4,128 of these came from schools in Colombo district, which supposedly has the best facilities.

A recent survey conducted by the National Education Commission (NEC) found that out of a representative sample of 4,054 students from 70 schools taken from across the country, 18 per cent of the 6 th. Graders could not write at all! Only 35 per cent of the 10th graders could take down a passage dictated to them.

"This is alarming," said Dr ST Hettige, Professor of Sociology atColombo University. "But not unusual," added the noted expert on school education, Prof. S Sandarasegaram. "Performance has been deteriorating over time," he said.

But the really worrying part, according to him, is that there should be such poor performance when the O Level exam is not tough at all. Secondly, the returns are not at all commensurate with the huge expenditure on school education.

"It is LKR 4000 crore ($363 million) per year overall, and LKR 8,500 per student, with the World Bank contributing a substantial part of it," Sandarasegaram said.

Inadequate staff, poor quality of teaching, political interference in appointments and lack of autonomy are blamed for the sorry state of school education. Many Tamil medium schools, especially in the war-affected North East and in the plantation areas, go without a full complement of staff.

Hardly 200,000 students are in autonomous, private, and fee levying schools, getting a decent education. Nearly four million are in state-run schools where teachers' appointments are made on political considerations and influence, sacrificing qualifications and quality.

"The lackadaisical attitude of the teachers results in the students having no motivation to study and do well. The curricula are not relevant to the needs of the students. Teaching methods are archaic. Schools are ill-equipped and not at all child-friendly. There is also violence in our schools," Sandarasegaram said.

"The Principals lack autonomy, with the result, Principals and teachers with innovative ideas find no outlet. What we need to promote now, is the bottom-up approach, where ideas come from the school level, and not imposed from the top, where the officials are not familiar with the ground conditions which vary from place to place,"
he suggested.

No doubt there are centres of excellence. But these are few and far between and concentrated in a few towns. Parents, politicians and officials try hard, and use fair means and foul, to get their wards into the few good schools. But they forget to improve the bad ones,which are the vast majority.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

A very healthy breeding ground for JVP (or even LTTE)to source members don't you think?

Anonymous said...

While the success rate at examinations is dwindling at a very high pace one must also recognize the fact that the quality of those who pass in overall terms is also at a very low ebb.

The overall professionalism and quality of the numerous doctors, engineers, accountants, IT professionals, lawyers and others passing out of the Universities is absolutely unacceptable across the board.

Only a few, mostly from English speaking backgrounds and general knowledge can boast of any character and personality in taking up these positions in society.

We are at the bottom of the tube and I cannot see how we can climb that slippery pole back to where we used to be in the good old days?

Dominic Sansoni said...

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what we might do, to make this any better? I find most young people I meet, from University or from school, starved of knowledge and very keen to learn. The teachers need teaching... that seems to be one of the biggest hurdles.

Anonymous said...

where do your kids go to school...?

the elite don't have their children in the public schools? and they don't go to the "local" universities...

the elite of SL don't care about the sweaty masses...

Suchetha said...

what's to be done indeed. the problem is that the best minds now go into business or other lucrative profession. where those days the teachers were those who had a passion for teaching, now it is some "graduate" who gets a "degree" from the Open University doing the teaching.

The school system has become a repository for the unemployables produced by the local university system. And THOSE are the kind of people teaching the kids today.

If you are lucky, you have someone who is innovative and has a passion for teaching. But even those precious few have the enthusiasm beaten out of them by the system and their peers.

aruna said...

There is also another way to look at this. Prof. Arjuna De Soyza, from the Department of Maths. at the open University enumerates the view that it was not the students at fault for the poor results, but the people who set the paper, who, according to Prof. De Soyza, were catering for those who learn by memorising past exam papers and not by questioning methods and fundamental principles.

In today's (23 May 2007) opinion column on the Island newspaper, he writes:

Open Quote:
That maths paper

The O'level Maths paper is too hard and the curriculum too large The questions are set to show off the dubious mathematical prowess of the person who sets it. Hence, the high failure rate. One must compare this paper and the syllabi with their counterparts in the UK or the US. If the syllabus and paper are tough, the candidates resort to "cramming" and for maths they do so by going through, past paper after past paper. The 'good' tuition master resorts to such strategies.

Nothing is achieved by this, except to ensure those really interested in mathematics and/or has the ability, score mediocre marks, while the "crammer" (past paper experts) get Distinctions . I speak with long years of experience in teaching Maths, working with Maths and having a son and daughter who did their O/Ls very recently. This reasoning may apply to other subjects as well.

Finally, "Standards are not maintained by obstacle races, only rote learning is so fostered."

Prof. Arjuna De Zoysa
Dept. of Maths and Philosophy of Engineering, The Open University

Close Quote

Here is the direct link, but you need a registration with the Island to view the article:

http://www.island.lk/2007/05/23/opinion5.html

aruna said...

There is also another way to look at this. Prof. Arjuna De Soyza, from the Department of Maths. at the open University enumerates the view that it was not the students at fault for the poor results, but the people who set the paper, who, according to Prof. De Soyza, were catering for those who learn by memorising past exam papers and not by questioning methods and fundamental principles.

In today's (23 May 2007) opinion column on the Island newspaper, he writes:

Open Quote:
That maths paper

The O'level Maths paper is too hard and the curriculum too large The questions are set to show off the dubious mathematical prowess of the person who sets it. Hence, the high failure rate. One must compare this paper and the syllabi with their counterparts in the UK or the US. If the syllabus and paper are tough, the candidates resort to "cramming" and for maths they do so by going through, past paper after past paper. The 'good' tuition master resorts to such strategies.

Nothing is achieved by this, except to ensure those really interested in mathematics and/or has the ability, score mediocre marks, while the "crammer" (past paper experts) get Distinctions . I speak with long years of experience in teaching Maths, working with Maths and having a son and daughter who did their O/Ls very recently. This reasoning may apply to other subjects as well.

Finally, "Standards are not maintained by obstacle races, only rote learning is so fostered."

Prof. Arjuna De Zoysa
Dept. of Maths and Philosophy of Engineering, The Open University

Close Quote

Here is the direct link, but you need a registration with the Island to view the article:

http://www.island.lk/2007/05/23/opinion5.html

riza said...

This is crystal clear indication of the blindness of the educational policy makers and where every new goverment reviews the system. This ultimalely has resulted not only in producing a blind population but also the state has micerably failed to produce a citizen through the school and university system. This is the result of the politically bred bureaucracy. State recruitment is not based on meritocracy, capacity & apptitude instead recruitment from time to time has become political sweetners to appease the disgruntled youth from time to time just protecting the politicians day against another youth inserrection and thereby perpetuating sucking the state.

Today the problem of Sri Lanka is not illiteracy, poverty or terrorism. Our problem is serious breakdown of Decipline,Responsibility,Accountability and sincere patriotism.

Schools, Universities and the Religious institutions have miscerably failed to produce a Lankan Citizen who is deciplined, responsible, a lover of mother Lanka and lover of all her citizens irrespective of caste , creed & colour.

A 15 years planned education programme (with no political leverages & communal political inclinations) focussed to produce a Lankan Citizen can solve most of mother Lankas miserable problems.

Shalini Wickramasuriya said...

Hi Dom, I think I might have a solution and am working on it - this may be just a drop in the ocean but hope we can make a difference - I run a teacher trainer course from CIE and have some very passionate teachers on the course who are willing to set up mentoring, distance learning assistance and visits to rural schools - any advice would be so appreciated - am also a consultant for an education initiative in Edinburgh and so have much support from here so any thoughts???
Shalini Buell