As a follow up to my last post on the paltry allocation in the coming year’s budget for Education, there are many aspects of this topic which includes Tertiary education that require a sea change. I will no doubt refer to different aspects in follow up blog entries, but let me start first on the subject of entry into schools.
One of the perceived steps to one’s growth and future in Sri Lanka on the circle of life is the school we attend. It is less so in the US where 90% of the students are bussed into their Public School (state schools with no fees) a few minutes from their homes in the now familiar yellow buses. The University is their determinant.
Those lucky in Sri Lanka will send them to a school of their choice due to the proximity of the home to the school or obtain the relevant points for entrance. Others have to pay, either for International or other schools, and sometimes give huge donations to the building funds, or have to obtain influence through a Principal or a Minister, while paying huge under the table money or kind for this deed. Due to the belief that the school matters so much in future life, the price parents are prepared to pay is high and the kids will also pay an equivalent price in commuting in cramped school vans for hours to get to and from school.
The flip side of this is that when a school is not favored it has few students wanting to go and they die. There are thousands of schools in Sri Lanka with less than 100 students and likewise with teachers who are also of a lower standard. There is NO point in pretending these schools can be resurrected as teachers with the best will in the world or higher wages will not travel daily and do a full day’s teaching. I will personally take you to schools in the Western Province in Kalutara District to prove this point. Educated parents therefore take their kids out of these schools
The need of the hour today is a complete evaluation using new technology, population census and birth rates to ascertain which schools must be closed, and divert funds to transporting students at government expense to the better schools. These remaining schools should then be developed into a national standard where parents do not find every devious mode to send children to Colombo. The teachers there MUST be given a higher salary than Colombo teachers! Controversial idea but necessary if this project is to be successful.
It is similar to the 1000 school program the Minister of Education has set out to implement, but needs further refinement taking the overall issue of closure of uneconomical schools into account. (to be continued in the next installment)