Saturday, January 11, 2014

In the game of Education Politics – the reality is buried, and out of sight!

I have blogged extensively on the Grade 5 scholarship exam issues and the Z score system and District allocations into University. The original intentions were honorable, as it was giving people of lower income and opportunity backgrounds a chance at the big time, by entering University and going on to maximize on their true potential. So there was positive discrimination for under represented districts where educational opportunities were limited and the playing field was leveled somewhat.

In this era of tuition factories and breaking of education department rules on minimum 80% attendance to sit for public exams, and politicization of entry into prestigious schools, we have arrived at 2014 into an era where these pro poor policies have now become redundant and only fool the people into a world of make believe that is far from reality.

When the Govt. announced it was scrapping the Grade 5 exam, the opposition UNP and the various Teacher Unions took the opposing view, without thinking it through as it was seen as the right thing to do to oppose without a rational basis. So the Govt. then reversed its stance by saying but they will not scrap it but make it simpler and less of a memory test and the new guidelines of a shorter exam have been published. This has completely stolen the thunder from them.

The reason is that of public perception, which is a long way from reality. People are led to believe that the Grade 5 exam is one where poor rural children are given a chance to enter the prestigious Colombo or other good schools which are otherwise not open to them. This is now only an electoral gimmick, to be played out in the media for the Government’s advantage.

Similarly once the child does get into a prestigious Colombo School, he then does his A levels from Colombo, and his Z score has to be at a much higher level than that of his compatriots in the rural area for him to get into university, and in many instances, remaining in the rural area, may have offered him a greater chance of University Entrance than coming out of Colombo. This makes it a mockery to send a high scoring grade 5 student to Colombo Royal, from where he is more unlikely to get into the University of choice than from the original school from whence he came. None of the parents know this fact, and therefore are being led astray, having made personal sacrifices, which do not pay any dividends, and no sacrifice and a child in his own surroundings would have been far better to say nothing of the personal trauma of separation in boarding schools or being boarded with a relative to attend this school! There are the odd exceptions, where a few students excel in these circumstances, but do not justify a whole system just to benefit one or two people a year!   

No wonder then that many rural students play the system for their benefit at the expense of the Urban child. For example they get permission from their school to apply from their school in Moneragala in subjects not even offered from there! Perhaps in science stream that the school DOES NOT OFFER. They come to Colombo, and go to tuition class, not having to do the minimum 80% attendance required before they can sit the exam from a Colombo school. In fact they DO NOT ever go to their school, especially as the subjects offered are not even taught, and they can get in under the quota system from there with with 3 CCCs into University, where three As from Colombo are insufficient, and they have an even bigger advantage as they can attend more tuition in Colombo than the Colombo kid who has to go to school for the minimum attendance, resulting in a double whammy hurdle.

Remember by doing this the poorer child in Moneragala loses out to the wealthy parent’s child. The system therefore has again missed the point completely. Don’t the educational authorities understand that in the money and tuition culture all norms have broken down into a exam passing system that basically assists only those with the wherewithal to fund expensive tuition courses and crammers designed to pass the necessary exams.

This injustice for the kids from the mainly urban areas, is not of electoral value as the rural folk would like it that way at the expense of one applying from Colombo. This playing the system can only be removed by removing the Z score system, and only entering students purely on merit. That is the fairest system, but not politically acceptable, and so, one which will not happen. 

It is time NOT to be slaves to the past, as the present education system is completely different to that envisaged when these procedures were introduced. We need something more relevant to 2014 and beyond, to achieve the objectives set. We need a new mindset that most politicians don’t understand. They engage in misleading the electorate and the country suffers the ill effects of their decisions.

The students themselves have to come up with the solution, as they are the losers, and therefore it is time for them to organize the agitation to achieve them   

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