The concept of “national schools” will soon disappear with the introduction of the new National Education Act, under which “national” or “nawodya” schools will be categorised simply as primary and secondary schools, bringing them in line with other schools in the country.
The decision to re-categorise the privileged schools is part of an effort to reduce corruption surrounding school admissions.
“This will help minimise corruption, especially with Grade 1 admissions,” said Dr. P. B. Gunawardena, chairman of the national committee appointed to help formulate the new National Education Act.
Dr. Gunawardena told The Sunday Times that the Ministry of Education had consulted a number of education professionals and experts, including local authorities, parents and past pupils, politicians and unions, on the subject of corruption in the education sector. More than 90 percent, he said, had agreed that the changes in the Education Act were necessary to minimise corruption.
Schools once described as “national” schools will be renamed senior schools and junior or primary schools. Students who performed well at entrance exams would gain admission to secondary schools.
The Ministry of Education has decided to scrap the outdated Education Ordinance No. 31 of 1939, and is presently using the amended 1961 Act for reference.
“We are in the process of finalising the Education Act and hope to present it to Parliament within the next three months,” Dr. Gunawardena said.
Trade unions in the field of education welcomed the new Act, saying they would support it as long as it was implemented fairly.
Ceylon Teachers’ Union President Joseph Stalin said there were 327 “national” schools, and that Grade 1 admission to these schools had become hugely competitive. “There is heavy competition to get into these schools, and other schools are not even considered,” he said.
Mr. Stalin said this move could and should have happened earlier.“Two years ago the National Education Commission made a similar proposal, but the Ministry of Education did not present it to the Supreme Court during the hearings on Grade 1 admissions. There was pressure from certain quarters that were encouraging corruption in the education system,” he said.
Ceylon Principals’ Union secretary Lal Chandrakumara said there would be less corruption when popular schools were made secondary schools and children were admitted under an examinations system.
Ceylon Teachers’ Services Union general secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said it was time the education sector had a simple, straightforward categorisation of schools.