The Education Forum in a latest press release states that they are dismayed to see that the teachers and principals had to launch a strike at this difficult time, but their grievances are understandable. Whilst we endorse their claim for higher wages, what we wish to highlight here is the lack of trust and respect shown towards our teachers by authorities.
The latest is a news item which said that the Ministry has established a program which calls on teachers and principals to issue weekly reports after evaluating students and appoints education instructors to supervise teacher performance on a regular basis. This kind of scrutiny on teachers is totally unnecessary and unacceptable. Teachers have been reaching out to students on their own since March 2020 without being recognized, rewarded, or guided by the authorities.
Though we are pleased to note that the vaccination for teachers are in progress, teachers need to be appreciated and motivated if they are to bring the children up to standard after a long break in their education. We urge that the Ministry take the following actions without delay to rectify the situation.
Recognize teachers for their initiatives during the past 16 months
All teachers should be compensated immediately for additional costs are borne by them during the last 18 months in carrying out distance education and paid a monthly allowance for future costs.
Trust the teachers to do their job
The central government provides teachers with curricula including expected learning outcomes and teaching guides. Fifty percent of teachers are trained at National Colleges of Education and the other fifty percent are graduates. Ministry should not dictate how they should teach. Teachers should be judged on the performance of their students. It is the Ministry’s responsibility to develop diagnostic tests for student learning, and methods for the administration of the tests.
Reduce the examination burden; Decide examination dates after schools reopen
After 16 months of school closure with more than 50% of students not having had any form of continuous education, it is not advisable or morally correct to hold exams as if it is business as usual. Each examination should be assessed for its purpose and criticality.
The stated purpose of the Grade 5 scholarship examination is to select bright students to award scholarships, but the exam has expanded since 1995 as an assessment of learning by all students. It is time to get the exam back to its original intention and mode.
Grades 6-9 is a time for activity-based learning without pressure to remember facts for examination. Covid is an opportunity to do away with any form of examination for this age group.
The GCE O/L examination is not as critical for Grades 10-11, except for moving onto a popular school. The exam should be postponed to 2022 and travelling long-distance for schooling at this time discouraged.
The GCE A/L examination is the most critical examination for students in Grades 12-13. Every effort should be made to give students adequate time and equal opportunity for preparation.
· Grade 5 Simplify the Scholarship examination as an intelligence test
· Grades 1-9 Abolish all summative exams for Grade 1-9 except for language and math
· Grades 10-11 Postpone the GCE O/L for after mid-2022
· Grade 12-13 Ensure each first-time student has had the opportunity to prepare for the exam
Dr. Sujata Gamage and Dr. Tara de Mel
Sri Lanka Education Forum