Today, September 08, is World Literacy Day. According to the UNDP’s definition, literacy rate is the percentage of people aged 15 and above who can, with understanding, both read and write a short, simple statement about their everyday life. In Sri Lanka we currently enjoy a literacy rate of over 96% , higher than that expected for a country with our income level. We have enjoyed high literacy rates for sometime. The question is why we have not moved much beyond basic literacy.
What does S&T capacity mean for a small developing country such as Sri Lanka? My conversations with distinguished scientist and educator, Prof. Kamini Mendis, helped me develop some working hypotheses for my research and also spew out some ideas for action. Prof. Kamini Mendis is in town for a short holiday.
What should the Ed forum do next? We have so many options. Our recent seminar on Year-1 Admissions alone pointed us in several directions. Then the President decreed that henceforth all tertiary education institutions shall be reviewed by the government. That’s good, but quality assurance of education is too important to be left to government.
A University for Uva Wellassa, the 14th university in Sri Lanka’s public university system, was opened on August 7. To the average citizen who pays for these ventures through every purchase he/she makes (except milk powder and LPG, as of yesterday) this is a not so joyous birth of a 14th child to a public university family with 13 other mouths to feed. (One interesting development is the appointment of a non-academic to the Vice-Chancellor position, more on that later). Our universities are short on everything. Short on resources and short on talent, both academic and managerial.
A Sri Lankan Geologist, Prof. CB Dissanayake has just been recognized as a leader in research by no less a body than the editorial board of ‘Science’, one of the most prestigious journals in the world. During 2005, Science celebrates the 125th anniversary of the publication of its first issue with a special essay series, inviting researchers from around the world to provide a regional view of the scientific enterprise. The journal has invited Prof. Chandra Dissanyake of the Geology Department in the University of Perdeniya to write the essay for the month of August under the theme Global Voices of Science.
A seminar on “Private sector and civil society responses to the problem of year-1 school admissions” was held on July 9, 2005, 9:30 am to 1:00 pm at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI), Colombo. The seminar was organized by the Education Forum at the Pathfinder Foundation and co-sponsored by the SLFI. There were 27 persons attending. Others invitees sent their regrets or posted their comments on “Year 1 Admissions” post on this site. Some of the actionable ideas that came from the discussion are summarized here.
Choices in education and training for school leavers have increased significantly due to increasing private investments in this area but there is very little comparative information on the quality of these opportunities or the accssibility of these opportunities to capable students who can not afford to pay. Could this be a thrust area for the forum?
Getting a child into Year 1 of school, government or private has become a traumatic and unpleasant event. Central government does not have to be the solver of all problems. How have individual schools, provincial authorities, civil society organizations or the private sector responded to the crisis? What can we learn from them? What else can be done?