The Sunday Times Editorial

24th November 1996

47, W. A. D. Ramanayake Mawatha Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2.
Telex: 21266 LAKEXPO CE
EDITORIAL OFFICE Tel: 326247,328889, 433272-3 Fax: 423258, 423922
ADVERTISING OFFICE Tel: 328074, 438037
10, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2. Tel 435454, 548322

With a staggering 400,000 of the 499,000 students crashing the GCE ‘O’ Level last year, the President and the Education Ministry have put the full blame on teachers, accusing them of inefficiency and indiscipline among other things. But educationists believe that mass failures are not due to bad teachers alone, but because the whole education system is in a mess. If the Govt.. sees private tuition and the drop in school teaching standards as the main reasons for the crisis, educationists see excessive political interference as one of the principal causes.

It is pointed out that Govt.. school heads today cannot as much as open a book without getting permission from some petty official at the Education Dept. Thus it is clear that the whole problem is highly complex and multifaceted. We need to look carefully at every dimension of it identify and tackle the structural flaws.

Instead of such a broad and objective approach, it is unfortunate that President Kumaratunga has publicly caned all the teachers while shoving all the other problems behind the blackboard.

The famous book 1984 written by George Orwell expressed what became known later as the Orwellian theory of the awesome authority of the state over individuals and where children were asked to sneak about their own parents.

Real life and realpolitik was different- the communist empire collapsed, the pink socialists became converts to free market theories and that horrible scenario of children sneaking on their parents never came to being.

But now, another declaration from Veyangoda comes much in the Orwellian doctrine asking school children to sneak to the President of the country, the Head of the State about their teachers.

This week teachers became the butt-end of jokes from their own pupils. Apart from the bad principle of asking the students to sneak on their teachers, the remarks have focused on the general affairs in our schools, especially vis-a-vis teaching.

What indeed is happening in our schools? Teachers in small schools where facilities and opportunities are few, fight to get into the big schools. But even in big schools there is a problem where the international schools are poaching for and plucking good teachers, offering almost double the salaries that the state offers.

Now these international schools are offering scholarships to the better students from other schools and we wonder whether all this means the bells toll for free education.

In a full-page insight on this crisis today, The Sunday Times has focused on various dimensions of the issue. Teachers and principals have spoken of problems such as an overloaded syllabus, lack of facilities and political interference.

It would have been more prudent to get the teachers’ views on the problem before asking the students to sneak on them. Further, by asking the students to report directly to her, the President appears to be saying she has little confidence in the Education Ministry itself.

Go to the Political Column

Return to the Editorial/Opinion contents page

Go to the Editorial Archive