An open letter to minister Akila regarding the 1st year school admission of national schools

by A Professional

(Lanka-e-News 18.Jan.2017, 3.30AM) After a long time, I heard a good news that Grade -I admission lists are suspended in some of the prestigious national schools  and investigations are being held to inquire the  legitimacy of the applicants. I who had the chance to study in one of these prestigious national schools in this country, not by forging documents by my parents, but by my skills at fifth standard scholarship examination in good old 80's, remember the glorious days we spent in our school times. We were proud of our school and the envy at the eye of others who could not enter these schools. We cheered in big matches and boasted about our teams. But after entering the University, I understood that name of the school was next to nothing. 

While thanking the Minister of Education for the bold and unprecedented action taken to curb the school admission mafia, I as a professional wish to bring into Hon. Minister's attention the following facts. I am not a good writer at any rate, I should humbly first admit.

Most of these prestigious national schools in this country were modeled  in the model of colonial England in the 19th century. This is true for even the Buddhist schools where only the religion was different. The schools at the colonial England were pay levying schools where parents had to pay for the education and the maintenance of their children. We can see most of our prestigious national schools are residential, meaning that they targeted the intelligent students all over the country and not a privileged group in the vicinity of the school. We have to rethink whether this vision is there anymore and these prestigious schools have become a property of some privileged group in Colombo. 

How can the proximity to the school be a qualification to enter that school at the first place? This is a clear human rights violation as the government is not able to provide high quality schools to the whole citizenry. Therefore the very notion of considering the proximity as a qualification to enter a prestigious school is wrong and discriminatory. 

Why all these prestigious schools were made national schools? The point is that if a provincial council passes a law that they will only admit the students of their province to these prestigious schools, then it will deprive the students of other provinces enjoying the opportunity of studying in these schools. It shall be noted that these popular schools are concentrated into few provinces namely Western, Central, Southern and Northern.  Making these schools national schools means that these schools are national assets and not even the provincial council can intervene in their affairs. While the situation is such, how fair is it to give the residents of the proximity of these schools to enter their children to these schools.
There is another basis apart from the proximity and that is old student basis. That means if your father or mother was an old student of a prestigious school, you automatically inherit the right to enter that school. This is okay if you are paying that school and the school is a private property. Because at the colonial times the character of a student was very important and the school management boards did not hesitate to admit a student whose father or mother was known to them. But the situation has changed and now all the government schools, including these prestigious schools are maintained with the tax payers' money. Then how can somebody inherit the right to enter a prestigious government institution just because his father or mother was there few years back? I must admit that old student basis is also discriminatory and it looks at the students with prejudice. It should not be practiced in a democratic country like ours.

Then, what about the opportunity government servants get to admit their children to Grade-I of a prestigious school, after a transfer. This is another discriminatory practice since the colonial times. One has to understand the root of this practice out of the frame. At the time of the British Empire, government servants were considered as collaborators of the Empire. We very rarely use the word 'collaborator' in this country. After the second world war the word 'collaborator' was practically obscene in France as these were the people who cooperated with the occupying Germans. But in this country the collaborators were always the esteemed people since we did not have an independence struggle at all. So the colonial government gave all benefits to these 'collaborators' like school admissions, pensions, official residences etc. Should we continue that practice anymore? It is now our very own government and not an occupying power. Collaborating with the government is not a choice against your locals but your duty and responsibility. So this ugly practice of giving preference to the children of government servants who have got transfers should be discontinued. We saw some ugly episodes of misusing this privilege few months back.

In order to see the graveness of these irresponsible practices like considering the proximity to school, old student basis and government transfer etc, let me cite and example. What if government decides tomorrow that the admission to University of  Colombo is based on these criteria without considering the Advanced Level Results. Remember both University of Colombo and any prestigious school in Colombo are government educational institutions maintained by tax payers' money. 

Therefore, Hon. Minister, I as a Professional propose following measures to solve this problem once and for all to curb the ugly mafia of Grade-I school admission;

As an immediate measure, do not register any student for Grade-I under name of any school. Register them under the Department of Education instead. Consider a prestigious school X. Proximity, government transfer etc can be considered for its Grade-I admission. But students are registered under the Department of Education and do not have the right to use the prestigious name of school. Later at Grade-V, they also have to face the Fifth Standard Scholarship Examination and their place in School-X will only be secured if their marks are up to the cut off marks of School-X in that examination. Otherwise, they will lose the chance to study in that school and have to get another school as per their preference and marks. 

Year by year, admission to the Grade-I of these schools can be stopped and the primary section can be cancelled in 5 years, making these schools only available to the students with highest marks of the fifth standard scholarship examination.

There are many parents who have the will and ability to pay for their children's primary education in private schools. But their unwillingness is partly due to fifth standard scholarship examination is not available in private schools. Make fifth standard scholarship examination available to private candidates as well so parents can sit their children to that examination as private candidates and seek government  school admission in Grade-VI. This will largely reduce the burden of government on primary education.

These proposals may not be the best and I am not an expert in education. But I hope these proposals will be given due consideration in forming a fair-for-all education policy in the future

By A Professional

by     (2017-01-17 22:07:13)

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  3 discussion on this news

When we were in Royal Prep School in the 1940's, it was NOT a part of Royal. We had to sit the entrance exam to Form 1. Those who failed could not get into Royal. If the Prep School is separated as before, and entrance to Royal is ONLY by the entrance exam, the question of school proximity will be eliminated. This would apply to ALL leading schools as advocated by ' A Professional'.
-- by Very Old Royalist on 2017-01-18

Old boys/girls considerations should be totally scrapped. Just because father or mother got the free facilities and education from the government school should the child too be eligible for that free facilities. What type of criteria is that? In that case, Javasaviya, Samurdhi benefits too be passed on to the same generations.
-- by Nihal on 2017-01-18

Commendable viable concept good for implementing to clear the mess of school admissions.
-- by Vijitha on 2017-01-18

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