Of beams and motes
This country's progress hinges on its ability to produce an educated and skilled workforce, knowledge being the currency of the modern world. It cannot depend for survival on exporting traditional agricultural products, stitching lingerie and the despicable slavery of illiterate and semi-literate housemaids in West Asia till kingdom come in a highly competitive global environment.
But, we don't seem to give a damn about education which is so essential for national development. It looks as if we were determined to remain what we are without making an effort to improve our lot. Else, the education sector cannot be receiving this kind of step-motherly treatment for so long. It is in deep crisis from school admissions to university education and even beyond. Most of the university products are not employable and therefore have to be absorbed into the ever burgeoning State sector at a huge cost to the public purse. Ironically, we are still boasting of a high literacy rate!
The infamous GCE (O/L) maths fiasco has taken a new turn. Now, we have the Ceylon Teachers' Union (CTU) baying for blood of the Examinations Department (ED) bigwigs for the bungling that led to the cancellation of the new syllabus maths paper II. The CTU is shedding crocodile tears for students whom it has no qualms about holding to ransom at the drop of a hat, as could be seen in last year's boycotts and strikes teachers launched.
The ED, no doubt, erred badly where the controversial maths paper was concerned. But, that does not mean teachers can absolve themselves of the blame for children's ordeal. Who should be held responsible for the high failure rate in maths (57 per cent) at last year's GCE (O/L) examination which was free from bungling on the part of ED? Teachers and their harum-scarum union leaders must take the full responsibility for this sad state of affairs.
Teacher unions must explain to the public who pay their salaries why many of their members aspiring to be principals do not still know the Balangoda Man from the late erudite Buddhist prelate Most Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thera and why many maths teachers failed to score more than five to ten marks a few months ago at an examination to select maths instructors, as we pointed out the other day .
We make no attempt to look down upon teachers. We have nothing but utmost respect for that noble profession. But, it has sadly deteriorated to the extent of posing a threat to the future of education sector. Good teachers are doing precious little to obviate the causative factors and restore their profession to its pristine position.
Teacher unions are sinning themselves and therefore cannot claim the moral high ground and demand that other sinners be stoned. They ought to cast out beams in their own eyes before trying to do anything about the motes in others’.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa must order a special probe into the extremely poor performance of students at the GCE (O/L) so that remedial measures could be adopted to change the course of the country's education, which is manifestly heading for disaster. Let that investigation be considered a national priority!