ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 14

School admissions: Crisis bells still ringing

By Isuri Kaviratne

The ding-dong battle over Grade One admissions set off crisis bells when the Cabinet on Wednesday rejected a proposal to grant marks for the aptitude of the children to be selected for admission and called for greater consideration for children of security forces personnel.

The changes are to be submitted to the Supreme Court again this week before the selection scheme is hopefully finalized after nine weeks of confusion and controversy.

Education Minister Susil Premjayantha told the Sunday Times the Cabinet secretary would inform the Education Ministry Secretary and he would inform the Supreme Court of the proposed amendments.

According to the policy framework approved by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 20 marks will be given for the aptitude test and ten for the children of security forces personnel.

The minister said more marks should be given, as done earlier, to children of security forces personnel and five marks for children of public servants or teachers serving in remote areas.

According to Minister Rajitha Senaratne the earlier system assured at least five admissions to every Grade One class of any state school to the children of security forces personnel. This meant about 8,000 such children would be admitted. But if the new marking system of ten points was followed, the number would be much less and that was why the Cabinet objected to it.

Education Ministry Secretary Ariyaratne Hewage said the proximity rule in the new scheme might also cause problems. Marks would be deducted according to the number of schools situated in between the school applied for and the residence of the applicant.

He said that according to the new scheme, the number of applications for admission to popular schools might increase from the present figure of about 3,500, creating further issues for those schools. Western Province Education Director J. A. D. L. Hemachandra said popular schools in the province might have to set up five or six interview boards to cope with the heavy increase as the one-mile radius rule has been changed.

Bowing to the Supreme Court ruling, the National School Principals’ Union has handed over a letter to the Education Minister, requesting that they be kept out of the Grade One admission process.

The President of the Union, Royal College Principal Upali Gunasekara, said the Supreme Court had ordered that they be kept out of the selection process and their principals wished to step down accordingly.

According to new Supreme Court formula, the eligible area for admission will be the administrative district in which the school is situated. But, parents living in the adjoining Divisional Secretariat area will also be eligible to apply.

Another contentious issue is that children of past pupils appear to have been given preference with as much as 20 marks while those who qualify under the residence rule will get much less.

Lawyer Sarath Walgamage said that in popular schools children who qualify under the residence category would have little or no chance as children of past pupils would be admitted in large numbers.

However, another lawyer, U. Egalahewa, who appeared in one of the cases regarding admission, said children of area residents like children of past pupils would get the same number of 20 marks but the difference would arise when marks are deducted according to national schools in between the residence and the school applied for.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.