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90% fail Year 5 scholarship exam

[Lakbima News, Sunday, 26 September 2010 07:57 No Comment]

The primary education system has taken a downturn with many primary school teachers complaining that they can’t handle the wide syllabii that have been newly formulated. They charge that the National Institute of Educatiion (NIE) does not consult any teacher representatives before formulating syllabii and as a result children have to suffer.

3-1 Meanwhile, plans are afoot to scrap the Year Five scholarship examination and to hold an examination for a higher grade. This comes in the wake of nearly ninety per cent failing the year five scholarship examination held this year where results were released earlier this week. Nearly 30, 000 children have got the opportunity to enter a better school while the overwhelming majority, around 90%, failed the exam. The ministry of education has decided to award a certificate to all students who have scored over 70 marks. Minister of Education, Bandula Gunawardane told the media about plans to hold the exam for year seven students.

However, education trade unionists and officials at the NIE dismissed this idea as being a quick-fix measure to a more serious malady prevailing in the education system. They charge that until the government improves schools around the country, parents will keep on pushing kids to pass whatever qualifying exam is set up in order to gain entrance to better schools. They further charge that the other malady affecting the education system was the new primary school syllabus which has been designed without consulting teachers, the new teacher assessment system which has reduced teachers to mere typists or book keepers , and the inability of the authorities to assure students of a satisfactory secondary education.

Education authorities claim “the present syllabus for primary classes has been designed by the NIE without consultation with teachers who are responsible for implementing the method at ground level. This has led to the creation of a syllabus which cannot be properly completed in the allocated time. The syllabus was created to build skills and to move away from the traditional method of taking down notes but because the syllabus is so wide teachers have resorted to giving longer notes than ever before, defeating the purpose for which the new syllabus was meant.” The syllabus is impossible to cover.

Impossible

‘It’s too large and there are always over 40 students in a class, so it is impossible to give individual attention which is a prerequisite of this syllabus. If someone tells me that they can manage the syllabus in the time given I would call him or her a liar,” said a grade five teacher from a leading school in Wattala. Teachers and officials blame the mess-up on the lack of coordination between various institutes responsible for education. Meanwhile, the four institutions that are responsible are the National Education Commission, the ministry of education, the NIE and the department of examinations. Although there should be co-ordination between the various departments, this is sadly lacking resulting in the students ending up as scapegoats. “There is no communication between planners (NIE) and the implementers (Teachers.) There isn’t any coordination between the various branches of each institution, for example in the NIE. As it is, the teacher is relegated to the role of a spectator — this is not practical. It is the reason why teachers and students are saddled with an unbearable workload,” said Ceylon Teachers’ Union General secretary Joseph Stalin

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Teacher Services Union (SLTSU,) General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe claims that although the new syllabus requires many teaching aids, the government has failed to provide the necessary resources or a proper system to procure these items at school level.

He added: “We know in the last few years the capital expenditure of the ministry of education has been drastically reduced. Nothing will be done to improve the quality of education. The new syllabus requires many teaching aids, sometimes audio-visual, to effectively teach, but in most of the schools such material is not available. For example children need to learn about computers but this subject can never be taught without practical experience. Schools are only allocated funds to buy basic of items like A4 sheets, gum bottles and varnish paper, and even to get these they have to go through a six member procurement committee set up by schools”. He further charged that most of the committees have been made tools for the principal and his associates to mint money.

A senior educationist said “the year five scholarship exams have turned out to be a parent driven exam putting a lot of pressure on 10 year olds. But parents are compelled to do this because they realize that entering a good school at year six is pivotal for the future of the child. After 50 years of free education and despite talk about improving the education system by successive governments the gap between popular schools and rural schools has increased. The Year five scholarship exam is the only door to many gifted rural children to enter Royal or Ananda College”.

NIE strikes back

The Director General of NIE, Upali Sedare claims that there is a plan to develop 1000 schools around the country so that all students will have access to good schools in year six.

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