I just happened to come across a blog article entitled the confessions of a disgruntled student, and I wish to bring my readers to a point within it which needs further elaboration, namely the way forward.
The education SYSTEM, from Montessori to Post Graduate does not exist today. It is NOT that there is a system, or that it is not functioning, it is simply that there is NO structure that one can follow within the state system to obtain a modicum of satisfaction that it contributes to personal or national fulfillment.
One can ONLY fulfill one’s educational potential in a private education system in Sri Lanka and NOT in a Free Education State Structure. There is no holistic and comprehensive educational infrastructure, and only a lucky few are able to benefit from the state, to achieve their objectives. If one does not have the wherewithal to finance one’s ambitions and goals, there is no hope for the rest.
If you want results, then you have to set up a clearly defined structure that adheres to basic concepts. A future structure MUST give the confidence to the student that it CAN provide him or her the tools to achieve life’s goals.
It is an appropriate time to rethink education and set up the parameters. Let us go back to basics and ask some key questions and agree on basic concepts to achieve a clearly defined education policy.
1 What is the critical starting point?
2 What is it that we are to achieve in the end?
3 What are the current resources we can work with?
4 What additional resources must we allocate?
5 Who should take responsibility for its implementation?
6 How do we measure the success?
7 How much detail of policy should we publicize in advance?
8 How can we test public understanding and acceptance of our approach?
9 How can it be de politicized, so that the policy operates no matter who is in government or in power?
10 Can one obtain all party and all community acceptance of it, and accordingly free it from future political interference?
11 Draft the final policy document.
Let us only try and answer the first question here. Where do we start? What came first the Chicken or the Egg type question. This is critical to our approach. We know we have a problem. We must fix it and we must do it with the current system in place and with the current players, namely bureaucrats, teachers, principals, parents and students. They are all stakeholders in this exercise and one has to have complete compliance and acceptance or at least no resistance from them.
It is with this given starting point that we must make the needed sea change! I suggest a two pronged approach in its commencement. Firstly by introducing a pre school teacher training program with a set of standards that are ESSENTIAL for all pre-school teachers, one will be able to begin the enquiring mind of the child from the very beginning. Explore, create, discover and relate. A different structure from now of rote learning, forcing memorization, and stifling enquiry at the start. This will set the foundation for future learning.
The other crucial area is to obtain the best teacher trainers around, and upgrade all teachers, by training ALL teachers, on courses relating to learning in a manner that elicits the best in students. There is NO point in talking about improving education, if teachers have not been given the best training on effective and productive teaching. We can use modern techniques in teaching as it will only be a matter of time, where distance learning modules are in standard use. The resources used to train a teacher are an investment of immeasurable value. They will produce productive results for years to come, unlike many of the white elephants that Sri Lanka has invested in to date.
The teacher trainers and training programs must be prioritized with the subjects that are least represented, most needed for the current skills requirement being considered first, and retraining courses commenced.
The above suggestions should be implemented forthwith, with least disruption on existing protocols of syllabi. It will be seamless if managed effectively by schools.
This starting point is NOT going to be countered by demonstrations and lack of will. It would normally be universally hailed as a breakthrough in thinking! It will begin to show results almost immediately. Nothing that is advocated is controversial. It is the knowledge of those making decisions, and the type of educator we use, seeing eye to eye, could be an issue and we must anticipate and know how to diffuse any tension. We have to begin this transition somewhere, and if Bill Gates, is to be believed, students must provide feedback on the teachers as an integral part of the system to improve the quality of education.