This Preliminary Note outlines the proposals that have been considered so far for reforming the system of general education. The framers have worked within a framework defined by Relevance, Quality, Access, Equity and Safety. They have courageously addressed some of the key problems and issues that have been haunting the corridors of reformers for decades. Thus, they have focused on many problems and evolved many ideas, and I am outlining eight main problems, 16 solutions, and many stakeholder benefits attached to them in order to indicate the nature of the reforms forthcoming.
Comprehensive education reforms are overdue in Sri Lanka. Some of the problems the country is experiencing today would have been avoided if we had implemented wisely-formulated reforms decades ago. There exists serious gaps between education, knowledge generation and economic development. We are in a knowledge society, but the contribution of the educated to the economy remains at a very low level. When Dr. C. W. W. Cannangara adopted free education policy in the 1940s, the expectation was to create not only social justice but also an economy shaped by the work of an educated workforce. The successive governments failed to introduce the policies and reforms necessary to take forward the free-education policy goals.
Serious gaps remain in the areas of competency development and orienting education to the 21st century skills of the workplace and society. While the educated remain largely underemployed and unemployed, the economy depends on the hard work of the school leavers. Reforms are necessary to reduce the burden of learning among children, and correct the distortions that have resulted from excessive focus on examinations. Disparities among schools in terms of resource availability including quality teachers need urgent solutions. The system of education administration and the management of schools require reforms to increase efficiency and effectiveness of education delivery.
It is important to say a few words here about the approach that the proposals developers are consciously adopting. Briefly, the approach is adopting six guidelines:
One: Outcomes-driven – Right from the outset, reforms proposals must be conceived and drafted with a focus on the expected outcomes of reforms. E.g.: problems, issues and benefits of students and parents
Two: Strengthening Capacity at Delivery Points – Successful implementation depends on the ability to deliver and hence focus on the capacity at delivery point. E.g.: classroom structure, size, and equipment/materials required for students’ group work/practical work.
Three: Stakeholder Understanding and Engagement - Stakeholders such as students, parents and teachers must understand the new curricula models and expectations for successful implementation. Hence reaching them to foster support is essential and that affects the time-line.
Four: Inevitable Technology Trends – Future trends of technological change will transform the nature of the economy, skills required, and relevance of the traditional school, education curriculum and its delivery (e.g.: Google education). Therefore, reforms should be both futuristic and transformational.
Five: Constraints of Financial and Other Resources – While both capital and recurrent budgets will be limited, reforms should attempt to use existing resources in novel ways.
Six: Be pragmatic – Even though the desirable range of reforms looms large, what we can practically achieve is constrained by various factors of the current economic crisis facing the country including financial, institutional, attitudinal, contextual, environmental and deliverable limits. We should not propose reforms to fail at implementation, as it has happen frequently in the past.
In terms of scope, reforms to come will cover General Education, Higher Education, Technical and Vocational Education, education administration, and institutions building for human resource training and development in the sector. I am expecting to complete the major parts of reforms proposals in the next few months, and commence reforms implementation as early as possible. Priority will be given to administrative reforms and capacity building so that curriculum and other related reforms could be launched thereafter.
Contributions of the public were called from the public some time ago, and the responses received were summarized in to a report, which is included among the reforms documents in this website. I take this opportunity to invite reforms ideas from the concerned persons and organizations even at this late stage of the process.
Dr. Susil Premajayantha, MP
Minister of Education