I don’t want to dissect the recent budget piecemeal, as it not worth wasting my nor the reader’s time, but I would like to use just one example, of School Education to make the point. This will show the complete lack of thought, foresight, and interest our leaders have for the real issues of the day, which then result in misguided exhortations, aimed more to keep the baying masses at bay and the opposition silent, than doing something REAL for the Country, so that future generations WILL benefit. If not what is a budget for?
Let us remind ourselves that if we are in maintenance mode, we do not need a budget, let alone a budget speech. A budget speech should at most be only 45 minutes with extremely interesting policy proposals, that keep the audience engaged, and newspaper analysis full of plaudits for an overhaul, aimed at taking the economy, and all the people upwards and outwards to the future. There was simply none of it this time, except more pain and any small price reductions, like Rs5 on a liter of Kerosene, to even mention that is a JOKE, in light of a miniscule amount of people, including me who use this fuel today, as I don’t have electricity!
Lets get serious in the interests of progress, and laying the foundation for growth in an otherwise hugely sluggish economy, made worse by the recent proposals to extract over Rs300Billion from the Consumers by the VAT increase which is merely a transfer of financial resources out of the people to the Govt. which will dampen demand and affect all aspects of the economy adversely, slowing growth unless, a huge increase in stimulus accompanies it.
Surely is the Govt. and the Opposition not aware of the simple facts, or is it that their lack of basic education does not equip them even to answer the right questions.
This must be the 100+ blog entry out of a thousand, I touch on improvements to the Education System in Sri Lanka. Those in power who fool the masses and profess to give it the needed resources, simply miss the point completely.
In last years budget the people were told that the Education Spending increased by 400% and the pundits pontificated about how it would improve all sectors etc. NOT ONE pointed out, and I did in this blog, that THE SYSTEM as it was set up, could not contemplate even an increase of 25% as they do not have the tools to increase it, without simply wasting public money, on superfluous areas. Firstly, a clearly stated Govt. Policy for education should have been enunciated, and the spending should correlate to that. Please remember the sluggish Department of Education littered with failed educators, DO NOT have the capacity in them to carry out policy due to their simple lack of quality human resource at the critical levels needed to research, find, hire, train, implement and evaluate simple techniques.
For example if I say we institute a Policy decision that we gear up pre-school education to set up the mindset of our children to be productive citizens training them in the 5s type of behavior prior to entering the Primary School, similarly to the Japanese pre-school system, How can we do it?
Depending on the resource allocation, let us say we decide a pilot project of 1,000 pre-schools in rural areas need to be set up and fully resourced. Then we need a minimum of 3,000 trained teachers first. It takes a minimum of 2 years to train them to the required standard before letting them loose on the kids. We have to select these candidates extremely carefully using aptitude tests. There will be a minimum drop out rate of 25%, so 4,000 have to be selected. They have to be paid sufficiently during the training period in order to attract a high caliber of teacher.
Then in two years these 1,000 schools must be ready with the necessary training and teaching tools, and we must use existing resources, as there are over 1,000 village schools with less than 50 students ready for closure, and they can be used as the basis with little capital improvements for this exercise. If truth be told, the Govt. bent will be build on greenfield sites, due to the pressure from construction companies intent on making a quick buck at the people’s expense.
Look at the Colossal Waste of the 1,000 Mahindodaya Technology Labs which I have reported on this blog years ago. Less than 500 are fully operational now, and of those half the computers are NOT working and the schools do not have the resources to repair them, and accordingly this was a huge disservice to the very students it was meant to educate!
Cant we learn from past mistakes so we don’t repeat them. Apparently not, with the latest gimmick being the PR stunt of giving TABS to A level students willy nilly. Here again someone is in line to make a buck, and the student will NOT benefit. Would it not be better to give a scholarship to half the A level class, of students who attain a minimum proficiency in the IT use and knowledge at school, a Rs15,000 grant towards the purchase of a TAB or Lap Top of their choosing?
Will that not lead to an incentive for students who really want a computer, to ensure that they have the basic skills to work with a computer. I tell you this because yesterday, I had a girl in an A level class at the Nagalakanda School in Minneriya come to ask me to help with a lap top purchase.
“So here is her true story and make of it what you will”
She is an only child from a poor family, and her O level results were NOT sufficient for her to get into the Commerce Stream that she would have preferred to go to. Further the School forbad her to go to the better Ananda Balika School in Hingurakgoda, and she is doing the subjects the majority of the rural students in Sri Lanka follow for A levels, namely, Sinhala, Buddhist Civilization and Political Science, ALL singularly useless subjects for any of their future lives, or careers!
The schools in Sri Lanka mainly have teachers (Arts Graduates) who can teach them and the vicious cycle is repeated time and time again with no end in sight!
They don’t have the resources to do full time tuition that most of her colleagues engage in her class, but she goes for tuition nevertheless in Polonnaruwa. As she has her final exams in August 2107, I advised her to continue and try and do her best to get as good a result as possible, being her first priority, BUT not to repeat them for another year if her grades are NOT good enough.
She then said as soon as she finishes, she wants to do a course in English, as she has finally realized the importance of being fluent. She would then follow a computer course, usually MS Office package if resources permit. I was not clear why she wanted a lap top now, as it would not do her any good for her present A levels!
I told her that a 6 month English course will NOT automatically make her fluent in English, and to date having an English class all the way from Grade 1 to Grade 13 every day, has been an utter waste, as she can barely read write or speak the language. Her personal effort was the marker now. Have a dictionary, try and read an English newspaper and try and understand. Watch English TV, and try an follow some English in her spare time, to familiarize herself with the sounds of English and some of the words, recalling the little she MUST have learned at school after all these years.
Is she a candidate for a computer? I don’t think so! Why does she want one? Possibly because some in her class have one, and she does not. SUGGESTIONS~