School-based system to replace Z score; new trilingual national schools on the cards

The Cabinet announced a decision today to introduce a new “school-based scientific method” to select students for government universities in place of the existing district-based Z score system.

Cabinet approval has been granted for a proposal by Education Minister Dullas Alahapperuma to appoint a committee of experts to provide recommendations for the proposed system.

Minister Alahapperuma told reporters at this morning’s Cabinet press briefing that the current Z score system that was introduced in 2001 selects students for university entrance on a 55 per cent district, 40 per cent national and 5 per cent rural basis.

The primacy given to the district level, he said, results in a disadvantage to other students in the same district. So instead of the district basis, 55 per cent will be selected on school basis, while keeping the other selection criteria unchanged.

For example, said the Minister, he cut-off mark for the Colombo district is the same for Royal College in Colombo 7 as it is for any other school in another corner of the same district which might fewer facilities in comparison.

According to Alahapperuma, all 3,098 schools with GCE Advanced Level programmes in the country will be categorised by an expert committee representing the Ministry of Higher Education, the Ministry of Education, the University Grants Commission and will also include other education specialists without any political intervention.

The new method will be introduced from next year onwards, he said.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has also decided to increase the number of national schools in the country 1,000 with three national schools in each divisional secretariat with improved facilities. A new trilingual national school will also be established in each district.

Twenty such schools will be established within two years, according to a Cabinet statement.

Minister Alahapperuma said that currently there are 10,175 schools in the school system, out of which only 374 are national schools while 124 divisional secretariats out of 330 have no national school of their own.

This, he said, was due to the fact that most national schools tend to be established in and around urban centres.

A technical team has been appointed by the Cabinet in order to identify schools which can be converted to national schools, he added.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has also approved a proposal by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to set up a multi-purpose development task force as a government department to provide 100,000 employment opportunities for qualified low-income youth.

The proposed recruitment drive is expected to fill numerous unskilled employment opportunities in the state sector.

According to a statement by the Cabinet, recruitments will be made at a transparent district level and operations of the department will commence on 15 January 2020.

The government, government-affiliated institutions and the private sector will be able to access the services of the said task force on a cost-effective basis.

Co-Cabinet spokesman Minister Ramesh Pathirana said that a further 30,000 will be given an opportunity to join this task force and contribute to the development of the country.

The establishment of this task force can be considered a special turning point in the development of the country, he added.