Let the student decide

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

OPPORTUNITY requires motivation. Without the chance to do better, few people would be motivated enough to try. Most sane people would be well aware of this, but politicians are a different breed, who at times miss the blatantly obvious.

Education Minister Bandula Gunawardana has already amply demonstrated this by observing that a family can exist on Rs. 7,500 a month. While this caused many people to doubt his sanity, it seems that he is confident of stumbling on to another blunder – unfortunately it will cost the school children of this country the chance to obtain a better education.

The search for better opportunity dominates Sri Lanka’s education system. From the point of entrance to Grade 1 right up to university level, students endure intense competition, all for the chance to have a better opportunity. Many are the accusations of corruption and unfair practices that hit the headlines regarding the education field, but there is one saving grace: for the lucky few, it is the chance to have a better life.

So what happens if the chance to have a better life is rudely taken away? For this is what Gunawardana proposes to do by making it mandatory for students who have completed their Ordinary Levels to remain in the same school to do their Advanced Level exams as well. This would not be a huge issue if all schools in Sri Lanka had the same facilities and therefore gave the same level of opportunity for students, but sadly this is not the case.

Parents who are not fortunate enough to have their children enter prominent schools hope that at least the academic prowess of these children will give them a chance to forge ahead of the pack. Yet, when regulations are changed arbitrarily and without consultations, such opportunities are lost forever. Without the chance to move to more recognised schools, children would be de-motivated to even try getting the best results that they possibly can since it would not obtain them a corresponding higher opportunity.

Given that university education is geared on competitiveness, it seems unwise to trap children in under-resourced schools simply because the authorities have lost their heads and fail to understand that schools also work according to supply and demand principles. If a child has the grades to move to a more recognised school, then he or she should be allowed to do so, not only because it gives them better opportunities but also so that the lesser schools will have the motivation to become, it can be hoped, of better standard.

Trapping students into an arcane system is impractical for many reasons; one of them being that the school that one comes from can go a long way in cementing a person’s career. This is unfair and bigoted, but it is also the reality. Unless the Government can divide its resources so that all schools are at equal standard, it is unjustifiable to prevent students from seeking better opportunities in other schools.

What is seen as brain drain to a school can be brain gain for a country. Students who are competitive and smart are the future harbingers of development and they will be ignored at the peril of all.