In 1960 the private provision of school education in Sri Lanka was prohibited by the Assisted Schools and Training Colleges (Special Provisions) Act. Over 2700 privately owned but government assisted schools were taken over by government while giving special permission to 50 or so schools to be managed as unaided schools receiving no financial assistance from the government. After more than 45 years of a government monopoly today we have (a) over 10,000 state owned schools of which about 300 are popular national schools (b) 50 or so original private institutions that remain largely as bastions of Christian education and (c) an unregulated system of 50 or more additional private schools that have found their way in through various ways and means. Public educations system leaves much to be desired. Getting a child into year-1 has become a traumatic experience for parents with some parents resorting to forgery and bribery to get their children into popular schools.
On March 14, 2006, there was workshop at the University of Colombo on the topic of establishing a labor market observatory (LMO) at the University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka. It was organized by IRQUE, a $50 million project to improve the relevance of quality of undergraduate education. The intended audience was the set of deans in humanities, social science and science faculties. The attendance was poor but the participation was enthusiastic. Many deans sent representatives.
Come post-November 17 are we going to get a whole new set of policy documents? Hope not. We have policies plenty. Here are some of the key documents. Some need updating.
English for All The UNP has promised in its manifesto a new national programme called ‘English for All,’ to improve the ability to read, write and converse in English of our people within 6 years. The details are yet to come but how realistic is that goal? Judging by the advertisements in the media there is a huge demand for private education in English, but standards of English education have not received any attention. Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC), the organization responsible for standards in all tertiary education and training,* does not cover English education. This gap has left the consumers of education faced with wide array of choices with very little information to make a correct choice.
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.