Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It is now the Radiologists and the Teacher Librarians – they all need appointments and they are waiting for GODOT~

A few months earlier I mentioned the plight of the graduate physiotherapists who are still awaiting appointments to the Govt. Health Service as they have not been assigned a pay grade and are therefore in limbo. The Universities produce 60 graduates p.a in areas of need and they are not getting appointments due to the lack of decision makers willing to go out on a limb and give them a fair wage. A fare wage is one between what they are currently requesting and what is currently being paid to the Diploma Holders coming out of the School of Physiotherapy.

In the same vein, the Radiographers are also crying foul saying that at the behest of the new couses, they got degrees in the Allied Health Science Faculties of State Universities, this time from Peradeniya where over 80 await positions. It is a field with acute shortages, but find themselves without appointments. The School of Radiography is training diploma holders who continue to get appointments under the old scale. Due to the need of over 1000 in this field it is essential that both diploma and degree holders are recruited but at different pay scales to reflect their qualifications and knowledge. The problem is graduates do not like the diploma holders considering them inferior beings and wish those programs abolished, where as I believe there is a place currently for both until we can produce the annual requirement of degree holders, which is not in the near future!

The Education department is also faced with the same issue of Teacher Librarians who have got the qualifications but who do not have appointments as their grade is still not recognized. At present there is NO teacher librarian carder in the Department and so these people, who are qualified in a much needed area of teaching professional, end up as mere teachers and are accordingly disgruntled that their positions are not recognized as a separate category and salary scale.

What does all this mean? It simply means that there is no relationship between what the Universities have been asked to train and the Govt. health and education service to employ them. It is an elementary error that must be resolved equitably and these qualified people MUST be given appointments to carry out the much needed tasks in their respective sectors that will enhance both Health Care and Education in Sri Lanka.

The lack of direction or vision in the Government to consider the importance of these positions is a detriment to the desired objectives of the nation. It is time parliament is made aware of all these anomalies and action taken to resolve them.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Can we weed out 100,000 poorly performing teachers?

Education Policy needs a rethink. That is an understatement. It is the most important review that is needed if Sri Lanka is to compete in the Global Marketplace. The innate intelligence of our Human Resource is not in doubt, when the performance of people of Sri Lankan origin in other countries is considered. The shaping of this intelligence into skills and productivity, and further into creativity and thinking has been a dismal failure as reflected in the output of the free education sector.

As we start the new term this morning with a couple of million students going to school throughout this country, I ask are we actually better off sending them to school, or should we keep them home, as they may learn more from staying at home rather than going to school. The contention is that the teachers we have actually stifle and suppress the desire for creativity, and discovery of our young minds by their incompetence!

The IUSF and FUTA are barking up the wrong tree in so much as they continue to advocate free education for all, in the absence of private education. It is not by merely dumping 6% of GDP that education will improve. Much of money given to the state to spend be it in Agriculture, Education and Health is just wasted. Accountability in the public sector is poor and is not the most productive spend of the hard to find tax rupees.

The ACTU teachers union led by Josef Stalin will not like it, but of the 230K teachers in the State Sector a full 100K should not be there, his members! In short incompetent. He will defend them to the hilt, but a non-political inspectorate is required in the Education Department to weed out these non-performing teachers and then to ensure standards of competence by flying visits to schools. There is already a system of school visits by the Education ministry, and that is confined to the visual and external cleanliness, rather than the quality of the teaching carder.

An article in 2nd Sept. Telegraph, pointed out to me by a reader in earlier comment illustrates the point. Note the link to the webpage here.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9514425/Bad-teachers-blight-childrens-futures-Michael-Gove-warns.html
It makes for interesting reading and is worth a visit for the person with a general interest in the subject of how we in Sri Lanka can improve the quality of our education. In essence it advocates constant evaluation and surprise visits to schools and to gradually weed out incompetent teachers and also only give performance bonuses to competent ones. It is being implemented in the UK without delay starting from tomorrow. We should take a leaf out of measures taken in other countries to improve their education and perhaps fashion ours from taking the best of them.

Consider this contention. Sri Lanka has thousands of vacancies for teaching staff in core subjects. We must concentrate on first filling these vacancies with qualified teachers with an aptitude for teaching as a call of duty and a vocation, not merely a job. Teachers in the public sector are transferred after 10 years. I believe that policy needs to be reviewed, as some good teachers leave and join the private sector if they are not happy with the new posting. Many go into teaching just for a job!! That is bad.

The teacher training schools MUST become ELITE with a battle to get in. 25% of places to be scholarship based on A level results, degree as well as aptitude tests that test competencies. The balance should be by way of a subsidized tuition. This will only ensure that the most dedicated come into the profession. Anything completely free is usually not appreciated and therefore a student loan system or other must accompany it. There are massive amounts of overseas funding through international agencies for teacher training. It is considered key to the education genie.

Included in the certificate must be a period of teaching in rural schools, say for a year, to ensure these schools at least get a modicum of quality teachers, and the teachers get awareness of what kind of contribution to society they can give to people who are less privileged.

Incentives should be given to teach in rural schools to improve the quality and identify genuinely bright kids for future special attention. Most importantly the guaranteed salaries must be sufficiently high to attract and retain, but after a minimum period of bond, be allowed to leave and join the private sector or go overseas if they so wish. This does not force anyone to do anything they do not wish, but they should be given the best chance to be of service to their country.

Priority must be given to an immediate direction of resources to increase the intake into the Colleges of Education, and also for Universities to offer degrees in Education allied with other subjects that give some kind of fast tracking to students to then get their higher qualification in the Teacher Training Schools. I am convinced that the resources allocated here is the best bang for the spending rupee of the Government.

No Govt. will change this priority. It is a shame for the Education Dept. to have all Teacher Training Colleges without permanent heads, an indication of lack of concern in this ‘core area for resource allocation’.

The Education Mafia – Private Education – Part 3

The private education sector is thriving. With the current problems in the state education system, any parent who has the means is seriously considering this option. They weigh the pros and cons and come to the conclusion that they will educate a son or daughter to an international degree level by the time they are 21 or before in the private sector.

This is a huge draw, as in the state system a degree is awarded at the age of 26 at the earliest due to various delays in the process up to graduation. That 5 year head start is valued at Rs5M. So if they do have that kind of money and could invest it in private education, all the way from secondary to tertiary sectors, you get the pay back in full by the time their offspring is 26. It is therefore a no brainer!

So what gives? The quality of education is for the buyer to watch out for. There is no clearly regulated system at present and there are moves a foot to have laws to tighten regulation. The bad will fail with no takers.

It is now arguable that with the increasing prosperity in the country, there is a greater need for private education, especially in the tertiary field. The numbers by definition have to be higher than the state sector which only takes in 10% of those qualified for university admission due to the dearth in places for them.

The next question is the availability of employment for these thousands that are coming out of the private field. The state graduates, find that the private graduates are preferred and therefore face a further hurdle in their job search resorting to political connections to get Govt. jobs, which now turn out to be far less quality than they had hoped for due to the scarcity in the areas where the applicant is searching.

Make no bones about it. The private sector education is here to stay, it is a huge business, and is thriving. It is making money and in time will settle down, when supply and demand come into equilibrium and only the good and quality survive. It is just a matter of time for the shake out.

I advise all who can to take up private tertiary education in preference to the state system, if the economic circumstances can underwrite the cost. It will put less pressure on the state system which can improve its quality.

Their is really no value in stopping private education as the state sector just cannot fill the void, and it is better for the state sector to improve their quality to compete with the private sector, and beat it if they can rather than try to absorb a greater number of students which the University Teachers Unions seem to want.

We must concentrate on improving the quality of ALL those who seek education, private or state and and have something for all people at different economic levels so that people are not left behind merely due to financial constraints.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Education Mafia – The tuition industry – Part 2

Many parents who have lost faith in the ability of schools alone to teach their kids to the required grades, opt instead to heavily use tuition classes to supplement this void. It is also practiced in the rural areas where students go to the nearest big town on Saturdays and Sundays to follow classes. The Tuitions Sir is now a famous being, more than the school teachers. In addition teachers, especially from prestigious schools, market themselves and offer private tuition and class tuition after hours, in the time they should be preparing for lessons at the school. Further they encourage their own students to come to their tuition classes, using their own pupils as a captive audience.

This is now a money chase, and parents are forced to pay whatever it takes, and there is quite a sacrifice on the part of parents in this regard. The tuition industry hides the problems of the education sector as it supplements and therefore assists the student to get a better grade, and the school gets the credit for it!

This business is unregulated, though it responds to market forces, their productivity is the results, and so these crammers flourish especially if they are good. It must be noted that poorly paid teachers use the tuition route to supplement their income. One must understand that teachers pay is not on performance. So rotten teachers and good teachers get the same salary in the state sector. The good teachers feel it their right to get supplementary income by tuition as they have a skill they can impart and which can earn them some extra money. It must also be remembered that good teachers are also attracted by higher perks and salaries to the private sector schools, international ones. Many teachers opt for early retirement to go into to the Private Sector and the state sector suffers accordingly.

The value placed on the tuition industry is massive, however it is not included in the 1.9% spend on GDP that state education system accounts for. I am also made to understand that many Professors and University Academics supplement their income by teaching in the private tertiary sector, a further boost to their incomes, which can double if they work as many hours as they can, here again the state sector suffers.

It is clear from the above that private tuition adversely affects state education. Private education also draws the best out of the state sector. 

One clear way out of the problem is to train, train and train teachers. There has to be a charge on teachers to train with promises of future rewards, in the private sector as well as the overseas teaching sector. Teacher training would be improved if scholarships are granted to the best 25% intake, so that those with hardship but with ability can get in, and the others must fund at least 75% of the cost of their training by way of loan or some such recoverable system.

The equity in this is that they will be able to earn a higher income in the tuition industry, or in the private or overseas sectors. It is unfair for the Government of Sri Lanka to pay the full cost of training people who then use this free training to enrich themselves as it is at the expense of other citizens of Sri Lanka who are not as privileged. 

The whole aspect of obtaining one's education completely without charge to then not give it back to the country is the issue. Their could be a claw back of payments if the teacher is willing to work in the remote areas where few good teachers wish to relocate to, thereby handicapping students in those areas.

In summary the whole principle of equity and justice needs to be explained and then implemented in a fair manner at least a fairer one.

The Education Mafia – The teachers! Part 1

An extract from an article in the Daily Mirror of 1st Sept.2012.

“Teaching is not a profession. It is or rather should be meant for only those teachers who love being with children/young adults, who enjoy engaging with them and encouraging them to learn. If teachers do not have creativity, adaptability, resourcefulness and thoughtful planning it is highly unlikely they will succeed as teachers. Children are unlikely to get anything out of their teaching as well.

It is now time to stop the blame game and start cleaning up the mess that is Education and bring it to a level that we can feel proud about because we are dealing with Sri Lanka’s future.”

The accompanying article lays much of the blame of Education on the teaching profession, be they school teachers or university teachers.

What it implies is that whilst teachers are agitating for parity with equivalence, using examples in other countries, the teachers here do not adhere to the teaching standards of other countries, where lessons must be carefully prepared, and teachers come to work at least half hour before  the pupils, so as to plan the day, and stay till 5pm at least to plan for the next day, as mandated in many other countries where their performance and knowledge is tested continuously and measured, and updated. This is done so that they are able to give their utmost to the student. This would also hold true for University Lecturers. In short, in Sri Lanka it is just a job with a salary and pensions and nothing else. They do not come under the category above. Graduates are just given politicized teaching posts.

Whilst I subscribe to that argument, it is up to the Government to train the teachers well, so they perform their duties and also use other aptitude tests for entry into teacher training schools so only committed teachers are trained and hired. Teacher training is woefully lacking in Sri Lanka, with underfunded and hopelessly managed ‘Teacher Training Schools’ churning out inadequately prepared graduates or trainees to teach.

It takes a certain type of person to be a teacher. That is hard to find, however if these positions are made attractive, one will find more capable applicants and with politicization reduced in Education we can do it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Education Mess and the call for the Ministers to Resign!

The Editorial in Today’s Daily Mirror (1st Sept.2012) is a call for all the Education Ministers to resign and for the President to take action against them. This is for the continuing saga, which includes the Z score fiasco, the problems in the recently completed A level exams and the possibility of a long delay in the marking of the papers and also a potential problem in the way they will be marked to say nothing of the Grade 5 scholarship exam where questions had been leaked, the University Teachers action, and a complete breakdown in the Education sector, where no one appears to have any faith in the Free Education system in Sri Lanka, so widely touted as the best in the East but only at home!

Suffice to say the said Ministers have blamed every problem on incompetent bureaucrats who have been tasked with the management. In the end the Ministers are responsible for their departments and politicization of the administrative service where less qualified people do the tasks is ultimately the responsibility of the Government. In other countries where there is an issue such as any of the above, the minister responsible usually submits his resignation, taking full responsibility even though the fault was with a bureaucrat within his department.

It is unlikely in Sri Lanka’s present climate there will be such a mea culpa and after many such instances, the President does not appear to have removed any responsible people from the failings of his administration. I presume that is because he owes all these people favors! for his staying in power, and do not want them to undermine him with some of the harsh truths of the administration if they are out of a job!

It is important that there is accountability and more importantly a complete overhaul of the education establishment, which I have continuously been advocating in this blog.

The 1000 national schools and 5000 primary schools program are mere figments of the Govt.’s imagination as I have been to some of these earmarked schools and no funding or promise of funding to reach these levels are forthcoming, mere rhetoric I presume, waiting for the World Bank to come up with the dough.

It is time for a new vision in Education due to Globalization, and human migration to places with opportunities, so let’s get started to meet this. The challenges to Education that Globalization offers, is not even considered by the government in a holistic way. 

Each human is a person with a goal, that goal is within a World and not just a Nation. We cannot confine aspirations to Sri Lanka as it has patently failed, especially our youth. If you want proof, just advertise for people to join a boat to 'nowhere', and half the young people between 20 and 30 will want to be on it. So please no apologies for the mess, we must find a practical solution for people with aspirations and desires who have different ideas to the educators and the legislators.