SO what must we do about it? Firstly, we MUST identify that there is a severe problem of the lack of teachers in ALL our schools. Some subjects are worse than others. What we need to do first is to identify by school what the shortages are, for what subject, what grade and what school. Does the Department of Education have a detailed list of this that is current, and is it kept updated in REAL TIME? It is estimated that the numbers exceed 50,000.
It is worth reading the link above about the problems that the UK encounters, to get an idea of looming issues here in Sri Lanka and means to avoid them.
A worse problem is looming, and that has NOT been addressed, due to the shortage, and that is incompetent (not ill-qualified) teachers litter, the state education system. To be fair, the private sector at least recruit based on ability and experience and offer remuneration accordingly, and are therefore willing to pay for both, and OFTEN attract competent teachers from the state sector, who have resigned their teaching positions due to many reasons, but in my experience from talking to some of the better ones, is that they have been transferred after their period in a school as is the rule to a school that is beyond easy reach and so they OPT to leave and join a private school that pays more and is easier to get to.
As a matter of GOVT POLICY, it is obvious – “in order to be able to compete globally, our youth leaving schools MUST be competent in the skills required in today’s employment marketplace and not yesterday’s” this is therefore an additional issue that needs to be dealt with.
Without trying to put the cart before the horse, I feel the tried and tested means of filling this gap is of NO RELEVANCE today. We must think completely anew. We must identify the employment regimen in the next 50 years and then train people as teachers who are competent in teaching students to be able to take the jobs that are in demand in the next 50 years. AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
We MUST NOT look at the shortage list as is done today, and try and fill it with newly minted Education Graduates, be they Diploma Holders or University Graduates. For example, the majority of students in schools with less facilities, in rural areas offer Political Science, Buddhist Civilization and Sinhala for their A levels.
These students, even if they obtain As are simply unemployable, or are NOT suited to employment in
my experience I have even looked for competent students who can type and write
well in Sinhala amongst this pool, and they cannot even do that, so what are
they good for? To teach those subjects on some poor unsuspecting student in
future! NO WAY it is a disservice as it relegates that student to a lifetime of
The newly released proposals by the National Institute of Education for the education policy for the future is already out of date, and NOT relevant as they have NOT identified the skills required for the next 50 years, which is the period our students who leave school from 2025 need to have. They are the backbone of our society, and of our economy, and if they cannot do the jobs they will be useless and we cannot blame them if we teach them the wrong subjects or direct them in the wrong direction. They will curse us for many years after we have passed on.
What I believe and can be summarized in a few words, is that the world requires thinkers, problem solvers, those willing to change careers, flexibility of thought and a belief that one may have 15 jobs in a working life, as well as the knowledge that male and female alike would be expected to be in the workforce till they are 75, and that there IS NO retirement pension, except the one they have saved for in their lifetime, and not something that the state provides.
No country has the resources to pay pensioners from 2035, and we will be dreaming in Technicolor if we think Sri Lanka will be an exception to the rule!
Obviously everything has to be done in a logical manner so we achieve our desired National Objective. So the most important is to identify the necessary skills, train SUITABLE people (not anyone who may apply) to teach those skills, and as less than 50% of the budget allocated for education was spent last year, (the education administrators are simply incompetent, and merely turning up to be paid and NOT to be productive) we must apply the resources already allocated to this task. It will take on average 4 to 5 years to get the first batch of trained teachers and 20 years at least to get the needed students. THERE IS NO QUICK FIX.
We must return to a work ethic that is NON-existent in our culture. To do that sensibly we lets begin with pre-school and use the examples of countries like, Japan, Korea and Finland, to train competent Montessori Teachers as a first step, and turn out kids with a purpose, with inquiring minds, disciplined, where time is spent on their growth and a value system such as 5S instilled in them as well of teamwork and shared responsibilities without gender stereotypes emerging, that sets the foundation for ONLY 11 more years of quality free education.