Jul 09, 2019

The yawning GAP between Tabs and Lats

In a country where there are many who aspire to be the next President, wonder how many know the crisis in education. Apart from the total breakdown of education from syllabi, curricular, teaching quality, administration and policy making, that applies to university and tertiary education also, the formal school education has much unseen and unnoticed disparities in day to day life, that makes “Free Education” a complete loss.

There are 10,194 government schools in the whole island with 4.1 million students and a teaching staff of 241,591 teachers. Of those schools, only 1,029 schools (1AB) have Science and Maths for A/L students. There are also 1,818 schools (1C) that provide only Arts and Commerce streams for A/L students. Of the balance number there are 3,288 schools (Type 2) with classes up to Year 11, which means up to the O/L examination.

Going into more details of these schools show how the whole concept of “Free Education” in “Kannangara Reforms” has been wholly miscarried. Kannangara Reforms were about creating “equal opportunities” within a “national education” system, with common facilities to all children; rural and urban, rich and poor. The State was brought into level the playing field, to support parents who cannot afford their children the same opportunities the affluent parents could afford within the national education system. That was how the whole education system came to be a responsibility of the State funded by Tax payer money. That was begun, but was not carried through as Kannangara expected and planned. Therefore, even in the decades of 50s and 60s there remained serious disparities within the school system. During the past 40 years, when the open market economy took over education as a profitable sector for investments, the responsibility of the State and governments, was gradually relaxed without any policy change on education declared. This is where we have come to, thereafter.

Let’s compare these schools to understand how opportunities and facilities in schools have an inhumanly yawning gap for the disadvantage of the larger majority.

Do you know that –
There are 1,486 schools with less than 50 students?
There are another 1,560 schools with over 50 but less than 100 students?
It means out of 10,194 schools, there are 3,046 schools with less than 100 students. They are all Type 3 schools with classes up to year 05 or year 08 only.
What facilities and opportunities would children in these 3,046 schools have, compared to Type IAB and IC schools? These certainly are wholly neglected schools.

Please note that from among 10,194 schools –
There are 54 schools with only a single teacher
There are 97 schools with only 02 teachers
There are 2,979 schools with less than 09 teachers
They add up to 3,130 schools with less than 09 teachers.
What type of schools could they be? What education would children have in these 3,130 schools?

Note this yawning disparity –
There are 3,262 schools with classes up to year 11 which is up to O/L examination.
Students in these schools who qualify for A/L studies, have to find another school for A/L studies.
If some of these students wish to pursue Science or Maths for A/L, there are only 1,029 schools scattered across the country.
Of them, Western Province has 201 (Kalutara nevertheless is disadvantaged), while whole Eastern Province has only 99, North Central has 64 and Uva only 83. Not that most other provinces are far better.
How many of those students who wish to pursue Science and Maths studies for A/L in these provinces can find a 1AB school within travelling distance? Given that public commuting is as bad as any other service and the cost parents will have to bear, most are deprived of Science and Maths education. They end up in Arts or Commerce streams in a 1C type school. Some give up higher education altogether. Can anyone say there is equal opportunities and equal facilities in this “free education”?

Now this is far worse –
There are schools with no acceptable sources of drinking water and schools without any water source.
Western Province has only 54 percent schools with pipe borne water supplied by LG bodies. 40 percent of the schools use an open well or a tube-well in the school premises.
Northern Province only 12 percent with pipe borne water from a LG body. 73 percent from open wells/tube wells, 05 percent served by bowsers and 10 percent with no water.
North-Western (Wayamba) Province - 25 percent of the schools have no water
Uva Province - 26 percent have no water while 21 percent depend on streams/springs
North-Central - 21 percent have no water
Central Province - 23 percent have no water while 20 percent depend on streams/springs
Sabaragamuwa - 19 percent have no water and 20 percent depend on streams/springs
Eastern Province - 13 percent have no water

No water means, no toilets and latrines. What does it in reality mean? Schools dependent on streams/springs and open wells also would not have proper and decent toilets and latrines. Thus, the number of schools without proper drinking water, toilets and latrines would be around 20 percent at least. That comes to 2,038 schools in the country. Yet the national figure 16 percent is only about “no water” anyway.

Meanwhile the UNP government and its Education Minister proposed Tabs to schools with A/L classes that totals 2,847 schools. President Sirisena is said to have reduced it to 353 national schools as a pilot project. What a yawning gap between Tabs and Lats!

How will those who aspire to be the next President solve these yawning disparities among schools?
(All stats and data – School Census Report 2017 / Ministry of Education)

Kusal Perera

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