Saturday, October 22, 2011

Education Policy - Suggestions for an overhaul Part 2

(continuation from previous entry)

There are some concerns that the Grade 5 exam (shishathvaya) is too taxing on young students and should either be scrapped or delayed to Grade 8 or allow those not getting the required standard another chance at Grade 8 to get into a better school. While I understand that there is intense pressure to get into better schools and this test is a means to do so, I am not sure why a student who does well in Anuradhapura is then allowed into Royal College, Colombo and who then has to find accommodation in Colombo to pursue his studies. Of course if he gets into Royal most parents would move heaven and earth to do the needful to have him study there.

In my view the competition should be to get into the best school in one’s district and to have two or more district schools of a high caliber, based on the respective populations and promote them as schools of excellence. They should in my view permit entrance on merit, and to a degree on point scores depending on home, and connections to the school. Private schooling is completely independent and let the private schools determine an equitable mode of entry. I am concerned here on entrance into state schools. One problem is that many schools that are lower down on the level of excellence have fewer students wanting to get in, and thereby cause a natural decline in attendance. A structure of limited availability into the merit schools is the way to prevent these schools just increasing their parallel class sizes, another huge problem in Sri Lanka.

I refer above to the increasing size of the schools in demand, such as the one close to my farm in Godagama, the high demand Subharathi School which has not stopped building new classrooms since I began living there in 2004. I am also surprised at the school vans bringing students from long distances to this school, and the student numbers have doubled in 7 years, a staggering increase. There must be a commensurate drop in other feeder schools.

With school populations now decreasing, there is NO need for more school rooms or increasing the parallel classes of good schools. The emphasis should be on increasing the quality of the remaining schools, after the culling of the uneconomical village schools at the secondary levels. The emphasis would be on improving the quality of the teaching staff, which is also considerably lacking due to the automatic assignment of graduates to teaching. They if untrained are quite poor teachers, with a very poor motivational mindset for encouraging free thinking creativity and innovation. There really should be a crash program of training teachers to teach the subjects that are considered essential for the future, if we are to grow as an economy. It takes a while to train. Out of a training intake only 50% make the cut in the end though due to shortages the others also get posted, so these resources should be added to the budget today, and I sincerely hope that the opposition can fight for this in the debate and try to increase this allocation before it is too late!

No comments: