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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Disparities in education and challenges

The Island: 11/05/2005" by Dr. S. B. Ekanayake, Rtd. Basic Education Advisor, UNESCO/UNHCR

Dynamism of education andprevailing gaps

Education is one of the most dynamic agents of change that emerged during the last two centuries. This is specially so during -the last fifty years of educational development. However, still many countries are yet to make use of these vast and growing educational technological opportunities in the race for development as -those which have made use of these in -the west and a few countries in Asia.

Universally, a large majority of the countries are yet to make a major breakthrough in their quest for educational development. On the other hand, even the countries that have achieved success in literacy, to some measure of satisfaction, regional disparities prevail with glaring deprivations and inequalities towards some groups. These aspects are seen in relation to expansion of educational opportunities, equity in the services , availability of technological changes and access to educational structures to all those who need. A number of international studies conducted by OECD countries have indicated that even in most of the developing countries and in countries with high literacy levels a significant proportion of the population lack basic skills.

Thus, literacy in a broader development context is a worldwide problem. In the arguments for expansion of literacy gaps prevail and, in brief, these areas are connected to the following : a) human development needs b) economic development of individuals both micro and macro c) social development aspects d) political rationale and e) local needs and international demands (EFA/UNESCO 2001). To what extent have these countries achieved all these needs in a holistic manner?

Thus for example highly literate societies lack healthy human relationships and care for fauna and flora. Atrocities are committed in the name of equality, justice, law and order. -The challenge in education is to identify these gaps and provide actions to develop a humane society where opportunities are available for all. Literacy programmes have to address these issues in a -holistic manner . Literacy should move beyond -knowing the traditional 3 Rs.

Spatial gaps

The above qualitative gaps are seen in addition to the gaps in quantitative aspects and spatial distribution of educational opportunities and services. Some of these disparities are results / causes of historical factors deliberately executed by the colonial rulers which were not rectified by the locals in later years. Instead those in power and positions continued to perpetuate the discrimination since these fitted well to their needs. -Sri Lanka is a good example. -The article attempts -to examine these flaws and resulting challenges in the field of education.

Disparities are the end result of the discrimination, deliberate and or unintentional caused by political and or social/cultural factors. These cause social, economic and cultural irritations, misunderstandings, dominance of vociferous groups resulting in enjoyment of benefits to certain areas and sections of the community. Over a period of time disparities grow and multiply providing benefits to certain sections of the society turning them into privileged groups. As a result for example more would qualify from public examinations from certain areas where better education facilities are present giving those from such areas edge over the others leading to perpetuation of the differences further. Later these lead to enhancing of social positions and power structures making the disparities to increase and grow further.

Although in an overall sense it may lead to development of HRD of the country, one cannot avoid the perpetuation of disparities between groups and areas. Hence the need to bring social justice to all through provision of opportunities and resources equitably as far as possible, even adopting the principle of reverse discrimination at the initial stages. The argument against this principle by some groups that opening more schools in the peripheral areas would bring about equity does not hold water mainly due to the social structures which determine the distribution of benefits. More schools alone will not improve the advantages or reduce disadvantaged situations. Naturally those areas that have been enjoying better facilities would like to revel the advantage throughout no matter what happens to others

Educational reforms

In Sri Lanka major educational revisions in the form ‘reforms’ did commence from 1940’s. The key characteristics of all these reforms were that a) changes originated more or less from top and flowed down b) whole package of the reforms were never fully implemented hence the full depth of the impact was never felt in the development system of the country what was implemented were changes that were pro elite c) revisions effected were rarely continued over a period of time to bear the fruits of the planned reforms d) changes were never based on research e) impact evaluations on the changes made were never carried out f) politics played a great role in the follow up of reforms -both in implementation and or non implementation g) focus on examinations and university admissions seem to be the priority h) there was an absence of changes in the universities to keep pace with the proposed reforms in the schools system. i) absence of political consensus on the changes/reforms leading to abandoning the reforms once the proponents lost political power j) some changes were populist in nature and not rational in the long run.

The above seem to be the general pattern of treatment and key characteristics of the educational reforms of Sri Lanka since independence. Of these the most striking and long lasting changes were the ones implemented by the Educational Reforms in 1943. These were related free education from the kindergarten to the University and the introduction of Swabasha (mother tongue) as the medium of instructions at all levels, replacing English.

The rest of the changes proposed in the Kannagara Reforms, in the context of quality, deviation from the traditional teaching learning and considered to be progressive, related to curriculum aspects never saw the light of the day. What was implemented were the more populist ones, a result of the elitist influence which prevails in different forms to date. It may be why the saying ‘kolombata kiri gamata kekiri’.

In fact Kannagara Reforms provided free education to those were already enjoying ‘good’ education, while those who were recipients of ‘bad education’ continued to enjoy the same as before in the name of free education! (Jayasuriya 1969).

Guidelines for changes

In view of what had taken place in the field of education over the last 5 to 6 decades in Sri Lanka what are the critical changes required to satisfy the challenges in the this century? One may not be able to precisely state or develop a set of reforms in this context but certain guidelines could be brought for educational planners and policy makers.

It should -be mentioned that education is one subject that every one is interested and always has ideas about the same as laymen. However, these views are more related to admissions of children to schools, and higher educational institutes and rarely on the contents and technical aspects of education such as curriculum development, teacher education, school management styles, development related educational changes, etc.

Laymen also express views about the introduction of new subjects/contents to subjects with passage of time. Over the years one would note that subjects/contents that were not taught in the schools decades ago are introduced as result of the social demands. Thus subjects/contents related to areas such as environmental studies, human rights are ones that have been introduced during the recent past.

Such new introductions are results of the civil society, international trends and needs expressed through UN agencies from time to time. All -these take time to be ingrained into the learning process.

Changes in the teaching learning styles and classroom operations, which are more of a technical nature occurring in the classroom, have also undergone changes but again taking time to be introduced to the teacher community through pre-service and in-service.

Suggested critical changes

Let us look at changes that are of utmost importance to the development of the nation. These changes may sound very drastic. It is true that educational changes have been brought about in bits and pieces over the last few decades. Transformations are needed in a country after a period of over 50 years of self rule from a colonial status to an independent self rule situation. Changes are also needed in keeping with the mega trends in the socio-economic and cultural situations of the world. Hence one has to look at the type of education that was imparted in the pre-independence and immediate post independence period. Also it is necessary to understand the nature of our society, its needs and demands both locally and world contexts. Hence what may have been good at that time may be irrelevant or is not providing results fast enough to meet the challenges and demands of the people, nationally and internationally. We value our cultural norms and traditions but the important fact is that while preserving these Sri Lanka should have the capacity and resources to move fast and quick to bring in solutions to a growing population with fast diminishing natural resources.

The primary concern of the 1940s was increased participation at different cycles commencing from the primary level. One could commend on this aspect, that Sri Lanka has achieved very satisfactory rates, almost touching universal participation at the primary level and with around 90 per cent moving on to the post primary cycle. This is in keeping with most of the developed countries and has resulted in the improvement of quality of life in health and other social development aspects of life of the people. But the progress becomes a trickle beyond GCE ‘A’ Level, at the entry level to the universities. One would see that around 15 per cent sit the A Level and only around 2 per cent gets the opportunity to seek university education. This is very unfortunate, vis-a-vis human resource development of the country and enhancing the quality and capacity in governance. This is one great concern and it is here that we have to identify the causes and recommend solutions.

Unmet demands in higher education

The low intake to the universities in Sri Lanka is entirely due to lack of space at these institutions. If only 15,000 of the 100,000 qualified to enter universities is accommodated what is the solution for the rest? This has led to the well to do and even others going abroad to get their degrees, resulting in draining of our foreign exchange, and also later loose their services to the nation. Instead of going into further details opening more universities in the country would be the easiest way out of this issue. We save money and also keep our resources back at home. Who will do it? If the state is unable to undertake let the private sector handle it. In fact private education or paying for quality education is a common occurrence in Sri Lanka today commencing from the pre-school. This happens all over the country, rural urban, poor rich. Hence the tradition is already in place. There is no discrimination. International schools flourish all over the country while a large number of private institutions affiliated to universities elsewhere in the developed world offer degree courses which -have very practical programmes. These are the needs of the international market. Why don’t we open the flood gates as India, Pakistan and some of the Asian countries do? Students leaving for university education to the neighbouring countries is in the increase . Bangladesh has a special university for Sri Lankans! Sri Lanka has to become competitive while preserving our foreign funds, providing opportunities for all qualified students, helping to develop new courses of a practical nature, market oriented and also encouraging other countries to get their higher education from Sri Lankan private universities. The last is also a good investment. It will lead to ‘tourist learners’ like tourist medical assistance which India has encouraged. India has been able to earn millions of dollars attracting many from the west to undergo medical operations which are performed at a relatively very low cost in India. There will be critics who may not see beyond their nose rationally and understand the long term positive effects on the economy. This would be in addition to providing opportunities for large numbers in the country to receive higher education. The role of the state should be to bring quality control and not to get bogged down in institutions and personnel.This applies to all state owned organisations. We have tested this policy since 1956 and come to realise that national ventures are invariably disasters, a boon for strikers and places for corruption. The biggest socialist countries China and Russia realised this long ago. Human nature is for private and individualistic gains. The state should provide guidelines, strictly control the quality of the institutions/organisations and its products. This is the trend in development and Sri Lanka should learn from socialist countries.

One bold pro-active move which led to raising a hornets nest in the 1970s was the change which brought in the district quota system in addition to the national level achievements in the admissions to the universities in the country. This principle helped a large number of students to gain admission to the universities outside the littoral belt and the Jaffna suburbs. Thus for the first time it benefited all children of all communities in the country. More came to be admitted to professional courses from these poverty belt districts of the country as well. This move was highly criticised by the elitists and the privileged who were joined by outsiders ( they are still using this as an argument in racial discrimination)

Thinking of highest educational bodies

The National Education Commission, the highest professional body for educational development established in 1991, a permanent independent body which includes the best of professionals in the country, non-political at the beginning, in their first report in -2003 had made a number of recommendations on various issues. One relates to the ‘Private sector investment in education (which) should be facilitated and promoted with a monitoring mechanism to maintain standards. A set of new legislation should be formulated and enacted in this regard...’ (NEC Report 2003 pg.xxx)

It would be very pertinent to know the thinking of the premier international agency for education, namely UNESCO regarding the issue of education and community partnerships. UNESCO has been loud and clear on this issue when in 1990 (Jomtien) it declared Education For All (EFA) should be observed by all nations. However, since these government bodies cannot meet all the needs of every human due to financial and organisational complexities to help to achieve the goal, the 1990 Declaration of UNESCO suggested that: ‘New and revitalised partnerships at all levels will be necessary; partnerships among all sub-sectors and forms of education; partnerships between government and non-government organisations, the private sector, local communities, religious groups and families.’ (Article 7).

The principle of partnerships have grown 19% amongst the members and it ‘will remain one of the keys to the achievement of appropriate quality and quantity of education for all’. All actors should find ways and means of collaborating to strengthen the pursuit of the common goals of EFA.

Also think of the monies that go for private education at different levels from pre-school to foreign countries. Private tuition is part of the ‘free education’ of those who keep on shouting that ‘free education is destroyed’. Why do they not compute the expenditure involved in these? It is costing more the poor since they -have to travel from the village to the towns or get boarded in the cities to get quality tutors and access to resources. What happens to those who fail admission to the university by few marks? They fail for ever and if a private university facility is available this situation could be changed. It will help to covert a failure to a resource for the country. Thus those who agitate against private universities should look at the issue from various angles rather than purely for short term political gains.

Education as a product for export

Another important aspect that needs concentrated efforts is ‘education for export’. This will have the support from the above policy of encouraging private education. As an island Sri Lanka has limited natural resources unlike India or Pakistan. We have to find ways and means to provide employment for the growing population and specially the youth in the coming decades. Our own resources in the country will not be able to expand to accommodate the growing numbers. Although we send men and women at the moment mostly to the middle east to work as house maids, at very low salary levels, experiencing untold miseries and bringing individually little income, although collectively they provide the nation a large resource and presently one of the highest foreign income earning sources. We have also seen recently state run technical institutions formally encouraging their trainees to focus on foreign employment. This very encouraging and positive. This process should be further strengthened and supported as matter of state policy. One way would be to identify the needs of the markets around Asia and or even in the west and develop skills training programmes for our youth including a language course. In fact Sri Lanka could enter into MoUs with developed countries to provide technical skilled labour for which the host country could provide Sri Lanka with trainers and other resource needs. The advantage of such MoUs would be that Sri Lanka would gain by the experiences the youth will acquire and eventually in the long run provide experienced technical manpower to develop our own industries. In this the planned private universities discussed earlier should develop course to meet these ends as well. The issues related to unemployment or catering to privileged (kiri) groups, will not become a major bottleneck.

Multiple avenues for knowledge and skills

The concept of ‘Open Schools’ (OS) about which the writer developed a policy/working paper in 2004, is yet another innovative action that would provide the youth and adults at all level in far Rung areas to improve the academic and technical skills. It is not envisaged to discuss this programme in detail here. One has to understand that Sri Lanka has been using only the traditional means to develop human resources in our country over the last fifty decades. The principles on non-formal education (NFE) is ingrained in the concept of OS. Its flexibility in terms of time, space and resources answers the needs of countries like ours. In fact NFE is an important learning mode in the developed world. Unfortunately NFE has been associated mainly with literacy programmes, in Sri Lanka which has given a wrong perception of the concept of NFE. Hence it is not thought very useful in the context of our needs at present. This has diluted the significance of NFE NIT is a development oriented programme and OS would be well disposed towards the use of NFE strategies in its operations. India and most Asian countries have been using NFE as a development strategy. We -here could use the experiences of India in relation to OS to meet our development operations at all levels.

The NEC report (2003) has made strong recommendations to bring about new dimensions in the area of NFE in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the action research projects commenced by NEE in the 1990’s were disbanded which would -have provided immense depth and added new directions to these proposals, if the NFE projects continued to date. What is lacking is an understanding of concept of NFE in modem development contexts. NFE is not ‘literacy’ or ‘income generating activities’, it is much more and an important arm of development. "Literacy is now viewed as a product of educational, social and economic factors that cannot be radically changed in short periods of time’ (UNESCO). Now the thinking is that there are many kinds of litracies or rather multiple levels which includes numeracy, technology, understanding real life situations. All these, referred to basic learning competencies, are thought to ‘promote empowerment and access to rapidly changing world’. These are concepts that should enrich the development of NFE programmes in Sri Lanka. Experiences of Thailand indicate how far they have progressed and overtaken Sri Lanka in the use and application of NFE as a development tool. NFE should be combined with FE to get the maximum benefits to the learner. Tins should be a high priority in the educational development of Sri Lanka.

Freelance learning and school cycles

Changing the cycles of the school system would be another important need of the day. The present cycles consisting of primary, junior secondary, senior secondary covering a period of 13 years or so with changes over the decades has been the structural format through out the world. Do we need to continue the same system? Can we change this structural arrangement to meet the needs of those deprived? Thus reduce the number of years in the primary cycle say from the current 5 to 4 years combining grades 3 and 4 adopting a concept approach to leaching learning. This would mean identifying the key concepts in grade 3 and 4 combining/bringing these into one grade so that one would have grades 1,2, 3+4 and 5 and then again grade 6 at the junior secondary level. Such combinations /reductions could be made in the junior secondary cycle as well. It will not harm the acquisition of concepts and skills if the curriculum is developed rationally. The years saved could be used to develop skills needed in the society through the use of NFE. Of course this should be planned, curriculum and teacher guides developed and teachers trained . This will provide opportunity for non-educationists to bring new dimensions into the system. The child will be relaxed with no tensions. On the other hand if nothing can be done by the system this will avoid children staying too long in the school system for nothing. The opportunities for them to learn from outside is more than ever before and external agencies could be harnessed as in ‘dual training systems’ in Germany. Of course one - has to be mindful of problems that may crop up when children are outside the school, although it will be good opportunity for them to learn from reality and apply their learning in real situations. This is the challenge for the educationist and policy makers.

Literacy and realities

Another issue that needs attention relates to the nature of statistics on literacy. These more often than not do not reveal the endemic problem associated with adult literacy. The absolute way of defining literacy has little relevance to day and most definitions portray literacy in relative terms than in absolute terms. There are ‘multiple levels and kinds of literacy ‘instead of a single level of skill or knowledge that qualifies one to be a literate person.’ ‘In order to have a bearing on real life situations, definitions of literacy must be sensitive to skills needed in out-of-school contexts, as well as to school -based competency requirements’. Is it not opportune that authorities responsible for education over the decades should revisit the system in the context of Sri Lanka ? Has Sri Lanka’s image of a highly literate society is actually so in reality? What has gone wrong with the quality of the impressive data? Think of the political leadership and the politicians we have and had to guide the nation. With the exception of few dedicated men and women since independence irrespective of parties the majority has let down the nation. Nations in Asia which were way behind Sri Lanka in the early 60s have not only overtaken us in literacy levels but also in economic development aspects. -These nations used education for development and production while Sri Lanka made use of education for political expediency and led the nation along the garden path. Most often the educational policy of the political parties bad been to promote favourites , transfer others and undo what was practiced earlier, without any rationale.

Equity and disparities Historical tragedies

As in most of the developed countries, in Sri Lanka the education system is elitist and selective attempting to the status quo following -the ‘reproductive theory’. Although -the principles of education are to bring equity, soften the differences and provide social justice education has always brought conflict amongst its beneficiaries and supported social class differences. Seemingly the prevailing education system accords equal access to all, pretending rather innocent and neutral playing a ‘confidence trick’ (on the participants) by providing unequal levels of quality to the participants. ‘Me factors that give credence to the education system are its ‘relative autonomy of the system from other social and cultural structures’ and subsequent legitimisation through certification and acceptance of the authority of the education system over and above the others.

The above factors are well reflected in the system in Sri Lanka even after over 5 decades of independence. What we follow today is a system that is common in most of the developing countries, modeled and molded upon the systems of the western world. We have been producing manpower for a market that is already full up leading to no productivity government services and a narrow modem sector. Since the education system is oriented to wards the education of those in relatively better environments the children in the rural areas including city slums are unfairly deprived. The role of the rural folk in the economic expansion has thereby relatively limited and consequently have enjoyed less of the fruits of better times. This is aptly described in the saying ‘kolombate kiri gamata kekiri’! The strategy of equal opportunities has not improved the situations of the poor. Thus one could see the dominance of few areas in the country enjoying the benefits. The so called ‘inverted educational anchor’ covering the western coast and line to Kandy. The Jaffna district is the exception which falls outside the anchor while the rest of the country - have been deprived of the full benefits of education throughout the colonial period from the 16th century. This continuous dominance of a few given areas is well seen in the studies conducted in the 1980s (Gunaratne and Navaratneraja, 1987) The four indicators used for this study were participation rates (5-14 years), enrolment in science stream for GCE A level, pupils years needed to produce one graduate at the primary level and the literacy rates for the areas. The comparative analysis of the districts in 1971 and with that of 1981 indicated a high correlation in the ranking order between developed areas and the indicators. This factor is still true when one analyses the results of the three key public examinations for children viz grade 5 scholarship, GCE ‘0’ Level and GCE ‘A’ Level. The best passes in these examinations are always from the main two or three towns in the country in spite of free and now compulsory education for decades. All key indicators of education in the country such as expenditure (public and private), provision of education (schools, teachers, school places and expenditure), participation in education (distribution of access, amount of education, achievements, participation in examinations) are skewed in favour of the littoral areas (Nystrom).

Setbacks and precedence

Let us look at development and its relationship to education and vice versa. During the latter part of the 20th century development has been closely associated with education. Education has been considered as an investment and this position has never changed there after. The ‘human capital’ perspective gained strength as a decisive factor in economic growth. The successes of Japan and Germany after War II has been entirely a result of their human capital. Consequently education became a prominent item in many national budgets. UNESCO has -been arguing for the need to have increased budgets in the development of nations. It would be interesting to look at the situation in Sri Lanka. The national budgetary allocations for education and more important allocations of the amounts to districts.

Elitism and establishing the foundation for disparities commenced from Colebrooke recommendations (1837). Later this was further supported by the Morgan proposals (1867) by brining a dual system of education recommending English education for the elite and vernacular education for the masses. Added to this was the dual system of control with aided missionary schools and system of state schools. These led to the growth of inequality by the 20th century. The establishment of schools on the littoral since Portuguese gave added advantages to ‘those living along the coast and also in the north around Jaffna gave some Tamils considerable advantages which have persisted to the present day’ (Lewin and Little, 1985).

The curriculum was another factor that augmented inequalities. Type of school, management differences were other factors that added to the disparities. Some of these factors remained so even after independence. Hence why Jayasuriya (I 979) was very pertinent when he stated that ‘the immediate consequence of the principle of free education accepted in 1945 was to give bonanza to the well to do by giving them without payment good education that had hitherto been paid for by them. The masses continued to receive free the poor quality education that bad all along free to them. The lion’s share of finance also went to these schools. The welfare of these schools was uppermost in the minds of bureaucrats . (Jayasuriya 1979).

These historical factors were responsible for concentration of privileges in certain parts of the country which has aggravated the crisis since 1970s. The favoured groups were in the littoral areas from Colombo to Galle. It is undeniable that the percentage of Tamils in different levels and types of higher education is generally higher than the proportion of Tamils in the population. However, this was not a result of ethnic affiliation but a cause of historical factors. All these enabled those who were living in the educationally advantages areas to gain positions and power and influence. They enhanced their positions to gain privileged status in society and exacerbating inequalities and disparities. These have brought in economic disparities amongst the population and the poverty line remains with in the educationally disadvantaged areas and people. The less educated seem to be the ‘have not s’ as well.

Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Social cohesion depends on steady and inclusive growth of economic opportunities for the poor and these include equal access to high quality education, good health and social protection systems. Governments should be active with the goal of redistribution of services to enhance equity and efficiency of social spending. A sense of nation hood can be enhanced by combating social exclusion. In societies where social cohesion is low there is the tendency to reflect low intensity in investments in the development of human capital. Thus there are a number of pre-conditions for quality expansion of education. Thus mere increase in enrolment of children at the primary level does not mean that there is equity in quality of education at the peripheral areas. This can be seen in the survival rates and the achievement levels of children at grade 5. Disparities can also be seen in the conditions of school equipment and supplies. It means that increase in the enrolments of students at the primary level may also mean that overall conditions may deteriorate than before. Therefore supplies have to be in keeping with the numbers enrolled.

Teacher pupil ratios is yet another indicator of disparity. High UP ratios combined with low supplies and inadequate instructional equipment and low teacher motivation cannot enhance to quality learning. Thus to minimise the disparities UNESCO suggests the following approaches. Thus the system has to move from lower level to higher levels to provide equal opportunities in order to reduce disparities These, inter alia, include a) harmonisation of enrolments with attainments of sufficient quality standards b) learning outcomes to be based on reliable data and regularly monitored c) Gaps to be identified regularly using successful initiatives and policies and d) the pursuance of concepts of collaboration, cooperation, peace to be highlighted and shared

Previous studies

A study done on this issue Rupasinghe 1982) very categorically states that ‘ Even though strident measurers have been taken during the last fifty years to provide greater educational opportunity, the state school system still continues to remain elitist and exhibit several disparities and shortcomings. Children from upper socio-economic families enjoy distinct advantages over the rest. The school system in Sri Lanka, as elsewhere in the world, manifests existing social disparities and in turn tends to reinforce such disparities’. This is -further supported by another case study on ‘Multiple class teaching and education of disadvantage groups, Sri Lanka’ (Ekanayake, UNESCO 1982). According to this study, ‘The overall data (education) gives a wrong picture of the educational scene in Sri Lana ... In the opportunities for learning, there are glaring imperfections and inequalities between urban and rural areas, between privileged and deprived regions of the country and between social classes’. Baker has also focussed on the ‘glaring dualities’ in the education system of Sri Lanka. Baker has even gone to the extent of questioning the effectiveness of the ‘free education’ reforms (Victoria Baker, Blackboard in the Jungle’ 1988). All these indicate the continuation of disparities for decades up to the 1980s. It is true all governments have taken multiple steps to reduce these inequalities which have brought positive results but again unequally keeping the relative differences to the same levels as ever before. Drastic policies related to positive discrimination have to be implemented. This is the challenge for the policy makers.

Conclusion

Finally it should be stressed the need for changing the learning process from an examination perspective to development of morals, good behaviour and value development. Development of happiness should be one of the prime targets of education. Education should lead to development of a society where there is courtesy, respect for individuals and law and order, fear to break and destroy public property, freedom for women to get about at any time of the day, ability to rationalise issues etc. All these should be part of the education process commencing from the primary stage. Do we have that or do we perpetuate cut throat competition and disregard for rules regulations?. The latter could be seen in the struggle for admissions for a few ‘prestigious’ schools in the country. Have we made use of the correct persons for the right position? Education is a good example where this has not happened over the last two decades. An array of PVCs for flimsy reasons have gone up /promoted destroying the morals of the whole community, teacher, student parent which has led to arrogant leaders than respectful academics at the school level. These and many more known in detail by the community have been responsible for the destruction of the learning edifice, cultured behaviour. These have led to the creation of unfit , mentally traumatic persons to lead institutions adding to greater disparities. The victims and the most vulnerable have been always from the peripheral and disadvantaged areas and groups. For all these persons the above will not mean anything.

Look at the countries around Sri Lanka and how fast and quick these countries have developed in spite of their major problems. Sri Lanka is on the verge of becoming a failed state. We may have to import resource personnel from the SARRC countries in the near future if our rulers and planners work in the way they have been doing for the last few decades. Lack of an overall policy on development with stakeholders from the academic world (not political academics) , scientists and practitioners over and above politicians would be the need of the hour, although long over due and similar to the Indian National Planning Council. These plans should go on even with changes with the governments in power. We have only ad hoc ‘political’ policies and agendas. The biggest problem with our nation has been politicians who have been eyeing the ballot box, while exploiters both local and international have been waiting to grab the spoils.


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