Friday, March 12, 2010
The crisis in secondary education
I am one who managed to get through my education without having to go to tuition classes. However today in the Sri Lankan context, it is almost a given that to do well at A levels and have at least a spitting chance of getting the results needed to enter University, going to reputable tuition classes for those subjects is an essential requirement.
Furthermore not only because education is free, the school teachers expect students to attend their own tuition classes to complete the syllabuses that the school for some reason does not cover. A recent student just told me that the school covers 30% of the syllabus and the same teachers at the tuition class cover the remainder. This makes a mockery of the free education in Sri Lanka.
In the little village of Ratmale, which does not have any schools, most students take the bus to one of three main schools in the Minneriya area, namely Nagalakanda in Minneriya, CP Pura and Ananda Balika in Hingurakgoda. I also know of a boy who goes all the way to Royal College in Polonnaruwa, the only one with a swimming pool. In their desperation, the parents are sending their kids to tuition classes in Kurunegala, second only to Colombo known for a good choice of specialized Tuitions establishments. These students stay with friends or relatives and believe that is their best chance at a good result which still in the current context is a vital ingredient in their future employment prospects.
Given all of the above, the education that these students receive in any of these places are still of a limited syllabus that does not educate them, but merely gives them the tools to get better results at A levels a far cry from a good education.
It is important to inform both parents and students of the opportunities and prospects available to them, depending on the courses and subjects they expect to take for A levels, as even in this area there is considerable misinformation on the path to achievement of their objectives. Then there is the skills mismatch in the economy which should also be addressed at that level, rather than later in life, which will enable students to make informed choices in fields of study to follow.
The biggest disappointment students face once they get reasonably good A level results is the limited places available to them at University, denying them entry yet again. This reminded me of a friend who told me the other day that her sister who got a first class degree in Mathematics in a top University in London, was asked why she applied to the UK. She replied, she would not have got admitted into University in Sri Lanka, she thought she had a better chance in the UK.