An Echelon Media Company
Tuesday July 27th, 2021

A centralized education system is a hindrance to reform experts say

FILE PHOTO – Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

ECONOMYNEXT- Centralization of the administration of the country’s education system is the biggest problem which needs to be addressed first when reforming Education in Sri Lanka, Dr Sujatha Gamage, Co-convener of the Education Forum Sri Lanka said.

Gamage, a Fellow and Senior Researcher at LIRNEasia participating in a webinar held by the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) yesterday said that the Education Ministry should clearly identify its role in the education system, which is to create policies, exams and the curriculum required for the students.

She said after continuous demands, the country, at last, got one separate ministry for education, but she added that with the ministry, the country also got 5 silos, referring to the Education Ministry and the 4 state ministries under it.

“Every minister, when they come they think they will become another (CWW) Kannangara, they try to do everything, there are 10,165 schools in the country. Back then when a circular is issued from the ministry, I don’t know about it now, it was copied to the Provincial Secretary, Zonal Secretary and Divisional Secretary of Education and then the principal. It is not necessary, we have 9 provinces, there is no need for the central government to send instructions for them,” she said.

Gamage said that when the ministry conveys the expected results or learning outcomes through policies, the Provincial, Zonal and Divisional secretaries should have the ability to achieve them.

“Instead of that what did the education minister did in the past year? He talked about schools opening and whether the exams will be held, so they have no time to do anything else,” she said.

Also, speaking at the webinar, U.C Wijerathna retired Additional Secretary (Planning and Development) to the Ministry of Education said that out of the educational reforms presented by the current government’s policy statement, attention should also be given to the reform of the management layers in education.

He said that there are delays within the education system due to this increased number of management layers.

Especially, he added there are obstacles in providing solutions to the problems faced by teachers due to the increased management layers.

Currently, he said the issues of teachers are addressed both in Zonal and Divisional levels, “It should be changed to one either Zonal or Divisional level. We have to increase the divisions from 200 to 300 or zones from 99 to 200 which could connect them to the provincial level, for an efficient management structure,” he added.

However, Dr Gamage said that the real problem is not the increase of management layers but the micromanagement of the central ministry.

“Centralising the education system is a problem, Circulars are issued about the requirements for admission for schools but there is a great variety, how can a farmer qualify for those requirements which are issued for the entire country,” she said.

Moreover, she said that the ministry cannot even control the existing 350 national schools properly, “Ministry is not a place which does operations,” Gamage said.

She also said that the requirements of the school in zones and divisions are only known by those officers, so an increase in the management level is not the biggest problem but centralisation of education.

Further, she said that current government policy statement ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour is the best policy statement she has ever seen which talks about education and also the first of the kind to talk about student-centred education rather than examination-centred education.

But she said without providing solutions to structural problems, there is a capability to fail no matter how much the government tries to do educational reforms.

She said that there are structural problems such as politicising education as education is the best sector to gain votes by providing jobs.

Dr Gamage added that out of the current teachers 49 per cent are degree holders but it has been identified that teaching methods of degree holders have failed while teaching methods of teachers who were trained by National Education Colleges are a success.

“Do we need degree holder to teach up until Ordinary Level Examinations? We should create a debate about it. The degree holders were appointed for nothing else except to gain points for the government not only this government but every other government,” she added. (Colombo/Feb15/2021)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe

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