Education: Quality and quantity a sad mismatch!

Posted on June 4, 2007  /  0 Comments

Only half the G.C.E. Ordinary Level students who sat for the last year examination had qualified for the G.C.E. Advanced Level. Nearly 524,000 candidates sat for the examination at 3,946 examination centres islandwide. out of them, 377,000 were school candidates while 146,000 were private students. According to the latest data of the Department of Examinations, from 1998 there has been a steady decline in the pass rate.

Every year the results were analysed by the Department but was not disclosed to the general public. But the National Symposium of Education which was held on May 12 under the directive of the Education Minister Susil Prema Jayantha made a platform to table their findings.

Commissioner General of Examinations Anura Edirisinghe while studying the gradual decrease in the number of candidates who sit for the examination from 1998 to 2006, noted that was a marked increase in the numbers that qualify for G.C.E. A/L.

Only 48.7 percent have passed their examinations, while 51.3 percent failed to qualify for their next target. As the Department of Examinations says 21,813 candidates had failed to secure even a single pass. It was shocking to note that 4,128 were from the Colombo district. And 3,564 from the Central Province, 3,404 from Southern Province, 2,668 from Sabaragamuwa Province, 2,277 from the Uva Province, 2,056 from the North Central Province, 2,039 from the North Western Province, 773 from the Eastern Province and 704 from the Northern Province.

These are not just statistics. But we are compelled to see the education level of our next generation. The policies which change whenever a new regime takes over are not the remedy for this. Instead we should have a national policy which guides students on various job oriented paths after the O/Level Examination without leaving almost 50 percent as failures.

According to the Department’s analysis 258,975 candidates had sat for the English Language paper but the percentage who passed the subject was 36.82.

As the Commissioner General believes in that is also using the ‘tak tik tuk’ theory and they are competent on writing. Anyway, Over 63 percent has failed the subject. When we go on to Mathematics paper out of 259,263 only 42.63 percent had passed the subject. In the science subject the percentage of failed students is 51.65. Furthermore there are over 20 percent of students who were unable to get a simple pass in the mother tongue, the Sinhala language.

In this situation who should be blamed? Anyway it says that the country’s education system does not meet the ultimate needs of the present society. It would be difficult to slip away from the responsibility, just putting the blame on the politicians who make instructions to change the syllabus, structure or text books.

But lack of qualified teachers is a major reason for this. In that case, politicians should stop recruiting incompetency teachers to satisfy them by just giving jobs. The teachers who teach the “theory of memorising” and reproducing at the exam are also responsible for this pathetic situation. The officers who ‘nod’ their heads silently to say ‘yes’ for any wrong by the higher level officials also cannot escape from this blame.

Setting the question papers is another issue which should be spoken. The question papers should be easily understood by the student as the question paper means only to test what the candidates know and not what he/she doesn’t know. The paper marking procedure is also another topic should be considered in this subject.

Tuition culture which had been introduced in the country had to be controlled. Instead of giving a sound education, this kind of education centres have become the places where the young show-off in fashionable attire and just meeting places.

If the authorities can make a reward system for teachers, it would work in two ways. They would be compelled to do their jobs to meet the targets and at the same time the teachers who conduct private tuition will be prioritising teaching in schools.

In addition to the Commissioner General’s revelation, National Education Commission (NEC) in a survey conducted with the participation of 4054 students from 70 schools representing all provinces (except North and East) found that the 18 per cent of grade six students could not write at all. Twenty Eight per cent of grade 10 students could not write legibly and only 35 per cent of them could take down a dictated passage. Anura Edirisinghe’s analysis also revealed that the Pirivena institutes which gifted intellectuals to the society in the history have failed in their attempts with forty pirivena institutes which not a single student passed the exam.

The gravity of the problem, none of the students were qualified for the G.C.E. A/Level in nine schools in the Colombo district. But the country’s each province has an Education Minister with several Parliament level Education Ministers. Anyway Minister Susil Prem Jayantha being there, we still breathe a sigh of relief. He has vowed to change the situation within three years. At the same time, he had also said that he would step down from this portfolio, if he fails to do that.

We have seen politicians who had kept their words for the betterment of people at least in other countries like Bolivian President Evo Morales, we believe in Minister Prem Jayantha’s words. President Morales and his law makers accepted pay cuts as they wanted to “share the country’s situation.”

But, the Minister’s directive to the Zonal Educational Directors telling them to decrease the failing percentage by 5 per cent is not enough. How can it be done? Just giving the candidates extra marks to reach the government’s targets? Anyway, what we see is changing the present education system making the way to improve the quality of the education a must.

Have we ever thought of adopting or changing the English education system which we grabbed several decades ago?.

But what about providing jobs for students who perform well subject wise at the O/Level examination instead of giving them only a dream of further free education at a government university. These things should be taken seriously by policy makers, educationalists and relevant authorities.

Before conclusion, it is important to go through a quotation from the

Hindustan Times, “Sri Lanka has the highest level of literacy (91%) in the Asian region.

An overwhelming majority of its school going population (4 million) enjoys free education from kindergarten to the university undergraduate level.

But the quality of the education does not match the quantitative achievements.”


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