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President to scrap Grade 5 schol exam

President Maithripala Sirisena earlier this week announced an apparently unilateral decision to do away with the Grade 5 scholarship examination.

Announcing this decision at a ceremony held at the Polonnaruwa Royal College on Monday (25 March), Sirisena said only 14% of those who pass the grade 5 scholarships examination have gone on to join a university. The remaining 86% had not passed the much-emphasised exam in their childhood, he said.

President Sirisena also said that it is clear from these statistics that the exam has psychological as well as pedagogical problems inherent to it, adding that the Government has decided to abolish the examination following a proposal submitted by him.

However, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam was unaware of the decision, according to media reports, and was to hold discussions with the President at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

C.W.W. Kannangara, the father of free education, started the exams with the intention of helping children from poor families get into good government schools, which had hostel facilities and offered an allowance for monthly expenses, said Sirisena in his speech.

“But now, intentions have changed and it is all about getting the child (rich or poor) to a popular school, so it has become a crisis which affects children mentally and physically, and has a negative impact on parents as well,” he said.

The President also mentioned cases where in 2017, a child was thrown out of the house by a kick from the father because the child had failed the exam, and how a child had committed suicide last year because the parents had scolded the child for failing the exam. He said that it is necessary to provide the schools in every district with resources instead of having a competitive exam for children.

He stressed that it is the responsibility of all the government officers, parliament, and provincial ministers in every district to work toward this.

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