Prior to rain falling to the earth’s surface, clouds gather in the skies in an organised manner, usually accompanied by lightning. Similarly, each nation concentrates on an education policy that needs to be carefully thought out; with wisdom. Education primarily is the cornerstone to mould the young to become citizens of a country and the world at large. Educational authorities, therefore, are duty bound to help the young and to instil in them patriotism and discipline students from their kindergarten stage. The spirit of patriotism is a means to help control corruption in a country. In such a scenario teacher plays a critical role in guiding the young.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka provides free education as a fundamental right; where it becomes compulsory for every child to attend school from the age of five to thirteen. Sri Lankan literacy rate and educational attainment levels have reached the peak among South Asian countries, despite students having to undergo dire restrictions and competition in entering the few universities available in the country. Even with such handicaps Sri Lankans have been able to shine internationally as specialists, doctors, engineers, eminent scientists, authors and the like.
Today, there is a new breed of schools- International Schools, in addition to the government-funded schools and private seats of learning. This category of English medium schools has been mushrooming effectively, with approval and registration. Those parents who are unable to come up with financial requirements to enable their children to obtain entry visas to send them abroad, and are unable to finance their children for two to three years in a foreign country, prefer to send their children to International schools locally, where Business Diplomas and UK based University Degree certificates are offered, on completion of studies and being successful in the UK based Examination Boards.
Those parents attempt to scrape through in their savings and even mortgaging their houses and properties and send their children to these local International Schools, where it costs an arm and a leg every semester, at school fees, hoping at least the children may be able to succeed at Edexcel G.C.E. O/L and Advanced Level examinations. These International Schools follow a curriculum set by either the Cambridge or other Examination Boards in the UK. Parents believe that children attending these International Schools are able to come to grips with the English language, which is vital in seeking suitable jobs in the private sector.
It is unfortunate that children in this country, today, have lost their childhood due to the extreme competition in the education system, where the private tuition class mafia seems to dominate. Naturally, every parent’s wish would be to see that their children shape their future with a good education; however, this has led to the building up of a new industry called ‘Private Tuition’ classes, which make it compulsory for the majority of the children to attend these private tuition classes; after school. This leads to children starting their daily routine as early as possible and return home fully exhausted late in the evening.
Many parents tend to believe this is where the Government has gone wrong by allowing such private tuition classes to thrive. Usually it’s the responsibility of the Department of Education to ensure that, that a syllabus set officially is carried out in every Government school to the letter, and ensure that teachers are committed to such tasks. But, it is unfortunate to hear from parents how the very class teachers advising parents that their children need additional private tuition classes they hold after school hours and on Saturdays, and even during school holidays. This tends to deny and destroy the children’s childhood completely.
Today private tuition has become one of the best money spinners, while these private tuition masters are constantly accused of avoiding income tax to the Inland Revenue Department, while moonlighting openly. Is it necessary to emphasise on the extent of these private tuition masters’ advertising campaigns, through the television, bill boards and so forth akin to Parliamentarians engaged in election campaigns?
Apart from children losing their childhood, the repercussions on parents is also enormous. Firstly, the extra cost on private tuition classes – say a family that has two or three children who need private tuition. Secondly, to find time to accompany the young ones, girls especially have to be chaperoned on top of that both parents have to go to work!
First and foremost, in formulating an efficient and effective education policy, the Government needs to allocate more funds to the Department of Education, and ensure that everything with regard to children’s education is strictly adhered to.
Here the prime factor would be to make class teachers responsible for the children’s success in their studies by concentrating on teaching, and not degrading their profession by conducting private tuition classes, after school hours. In such s backdrop private tuition, which has turned into a contagious disease, has to stop.
After all the young need to be involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities rather than grooming to be ‘book-worms’. The worst thing is not having a proper education policy and when governments change, policies being altered.
Another complaint that parents have is the ‘school building fund’ that goes on unabated, despite the Minister of Education attempts to rule it out. Today, certain Principals of Schools are exposed on TV for taking bribes to enrol young children to reputed schools. Despite such rigid restrictions from the Minister of Education, apparently it is still in existence covertly as every parent’s wish would be to send their children to a ‘better’ school. Having said so, there are no better schools as such, if teachers are dedicated and do their job effectively. What more examples are needed than that of central and village school where children have excelled, by sheer diligence, without any private tuition at all.
Another area of complaints from parents is where school teachers demand payments (through children). There have also been certain instances where children are advised to request their mothers to attend to sweeping jobs of classrooms!
The million-dollar question that arises in such a backdrop would be, to find out what happens to the allocation of funds to schools by the Department of Education to do such tasks? Why aren’t schools employing adequate staff rather than keep on pestering parents, through pupils, to carry out maintenance staff responsibilities such as cleaning and sweeping of classrooms? Another area of complaint is whenever there is an occasion of a member of staff leaving a school, it’s the poor parents who have to face the brunt, by having to contribute a minimum of Rs.300/- per child to
Whenever there are school sports meets, every child is asked to inform parents to send a certain amount of money towards its cost. Say, a poor family has three children attending a particular school, and parents have to pocket out nearly Rs.900 to Rs.1000 extra to satisfy the school principals’ and teachers’ needs.
In a new and spanking brain wave, schoolchildren are afforded a dash of ‘political experience’ allowing them to sit in the August assembly, with the fervent hope that children’s outlook would be expanded by giving an insight as to how Parliamentarians debate on vital issues that affect the country. This is believed to be to improve schoolchildren’s oratorical talents while sharpening their astuteness. With the type of behaviour the nation has witnessed, of late, when the Parliamentarians behaved like thugs and criminals, with Sri Lanka’s Parliament, what guidance or example can they give to the young?
The point in question is, should children be exposed to some of those unruly members of Parliament, as much as to those who suffer from insomnia at home and coming to relax and enjoy a siesta during important debates in Parliament and suddenly getting jerked by a high-pitched tone of an aggressive debater next to him or the ‘cream of Sinhala language’ coming out of another unruly member.
This naturally tends to send a negative message on the most prestigious institution of the country to young minds. On the other hand, ‘bad guys on the show’ would not be bothered at all, for they know they are heroes in their own electorates by amplifying their arrogance while using their ‘power’!
picture credit: Ceylon Today, google stock pictures