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The Lankan Investor Forum - A more respectable and reasonable place for members to discuss matters regarding the CSEThe Lankan Investor Forum - A more respectable and reasonable place for members to discuss matters regarding the CSE

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    Economic development requires human development

    Sriranga
    Sriranga
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    Posts : 3226
    Join date : 2014-02-23
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    Economic development requires human development Empty Economic development requires human development

    Post by Sriranga Sat Nov 08, 2014 8:53 pm

    Education reforms a must

    by R.M.B Senanayake

    One of the problems ignored by the government is the unsatisfactory nature of education in our country. At the University level there is much student unrest which is totally ignored by the authorities. But the problem will not go away. University lecturers are demanding that the government allocates 6% of the GDP for education. But they don’t realize that the Government collects less than 14% of the GDP as tax revenue. This is not enough to provide 6% for education. There are other essential expenditures such as on public administration which includes expenditure on maintaining law and order and the administration of justice, which can be classified as general administration and requires a minimum of 4% of GDP in any country.

    There is the need to spend for community services required in agriculture particularly as we are a nation of small farmers. Their needs can be ignored only at the peril of reduced agricultural output. The minimum expenditure required for it is 4% according to calculations by development economists. Similarly there is the need for spending on public health, given our free health care service, to spend on maintaining the health services in the hospitals. These items of expenditure go as Recurrent Expenditure and the golden rule of budgeting is that such expenditure must be met from tax revenue and only capital or investment expenditure should be met from borrowings. But it does not mean they don’t contribute to economic development.

    It is an oversimplification to think that development depends only on investment. It requires human capital development and also investment in public administration which is the instrument of delivery for all the services provided by the state. Of course the government is spending only about 1.8% of the GDP for education. This should be increased to at least 3% of GDP.

    Reforming education is a priority

    But there are many improvements to education which do not require any increase in expenditure. These days everyone is for education reform. The question is which approach is best.

    At the top end, our universities are producing more and more graduates but they lack the knowledge and skills required for employment. So they can be employed only as poor relief workers in the government where they can be paid an income without any productive work being done. Who is to be blamed? Surely not the students. It is a failure of the government. Our politicians think of only the numbers but not of the quality. So they increased the numbers in the universities without increasing the facilities or providing extra funding. They destroyed a good university education system we had in the 1950s by changing the medium of instruction to Swabasha. The political leaders however sent their own children abroad to be educated in foreign universities and condemned the middle and poorer classes to an inferior university education locally.

     At the bottom each year, more and more drop out of elementary and secondary schools. In the secondary schools the children float from grade to grade learning little and even that little is of dubious quality. They are not challenged to reach their full potential. Much of the learning is rote learning following our ancient tradition of memorizing Buddhist texts which constituted learning in those days. The world and its nature were given scarce attention unlike in the West.

    University education cannot be free

    Let us see what China has done since our political leaders are so enamored of China. China Today magazine reported that China’s higher education started market-oriented reforms in the 1980s. Since then, colleges have charged tuition fees, and graduates have to seek jobs themselves. It is time our university students realized that free education does not prevail in any country developed or undeveloped. China Today reported an interview with the Minister of Education.

    "How do you evaluate the impact of this reform?"

    Zhu: Marketization is the direction of development. As a developing country, China needs to give priority to fundamental and compulsory education, instead of paying for all education. Charging for higher education is a common practice around the world, but now we have two problems. First, whether the tuition fee is reasonable. This problem relates to the cost and efficiency of higher education. We have so many spare teaching resources, and we didn’t keep a strict account of the cost, so tuition fee standards should be carefully reviewed. But we have a good solution for helping students from poor families. According to related regulations, 15 percent of the tuition fees collected should go to scholarships or student grants. The only problem is this policy has been under-promoted and not enough students know of it."

    Our university students must accept the economic realities. If other countries charge fees for higher education how can we alone provide free university education. It is meaningless to say that degrees are being sold. What is sold is not the degree but the education leading to such degree. The award of the degree will depend on performance. I wonder whether this holds for our state universities.  The quality must be monitored in both the State and private universities. Unfortunately free education has become a political slogan- a sacred cow and no political leader dares to challenge it.

    The university administration has been politicized. The university should be an autonomous institution and the minister should be debarred from interfering in its administration. His job is to implement educational polices formulated by experts in the field. He has neither the knowledge nor the skills to run the universities. If he interferes using his authority he will only disrupt the working of the universities. The cult of politicization introduced after 1956 is the bane of the country. It has destroyed the country and brought it to the chaotic situation which prevails today. The earlier laws establishing Boards and Corporations did not provide for the issue of directions by the minister. It was introduced by Philip Gunawardene. The minister should be barred by law from interfering in the administration of the universities.

    The schools system

    The denominational schools which provided a good quality education were nationalized on the ground that they were being used for proselytization of Buddhists. Whether the charge was true or not, the remedy was in the hands of the individual parents who could send their children to Buddhist schools if they believed the charge was true. Why deprive those who do not share their view from sending their children to denominational schools? So the restrictions imposed on such schools that opted to join the free education scheme should be removed and these schools allowed to manage their schools although the government grants should continue. The law must be changed to allow the setting up of new private schools. There should be freedom for individuals, companies or the denominational groups to set up new schools either as fee levying schools or as part of the free education scheme.

    School management should be freed from bureaucratic control

    The schools should be freed from bureaucratic and ministerial control. School management should be decentralized .They need to be responsible to the parents and School Boards should be set up to manage the schools with funding by the government as at present. Funding should be fair by ensuring a per pupil basis of school funding. The parents should be given the freedom to recruit teachers provided they have the minimum qualifications. Remote schools are said to be neglected because teachers don’t like to serve in such areas. Some primary schools are still single-teacher schools. At least these schools should be permitted to recruit themselves if they can’t get teachers from the centralized system. Politicians should not be allowed to recruit teachers. There is evidence that many new teachers are being recruited on political favor and patronage. Some principals are reported to be unqualified according to a recent press report.

    The government must foster initiatives for strong school leadership by giving more power to the principals. A strong school level leadership of the headmaster or principal is very effective in improving school quality. Some of our outstanding principals took pride in their work and raised their schools to a high standard because the success of the school was identified with the leadership of the principal.

    Teacher training and development

    The government must invest in continuous teacher professional development. The quality of pre-service and in-service teacher training should be improved. Teachers need high-quality professional learning opportunities relevant to classroom teaching. In addition, regular academic discussions and on-site support are crucial. The Ministry should instead of micro-managing the schools confine themselves to providing such a school academic support system as during the days before denominational schools were taken over allowing them to function with freedom. Teacher training and educational policy are the proper field for the government. The monitoring of the schools should be devolved on the School Boards. The government needs to commit itself to improving teacher training institutes.

    Most important is a strong political commitment to the agenda of school reform and transparent, accountable governance. Discretion, nepotism and corruption have eroded the credibility of the education system. Ministers and senior education administrators have to curb their desire to use discretion and dole out favors and instead encourage initiative in self management for schools.
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