Question paper muddle
authorities in several provinces have become the laughing stock
for their foolhardy actions on many an occasion. The latest is a
comedy of errors in setting term test papers for schools in the
North Central and Southern Provinces. In one case, the question
papers had incorrect facts and was full of spelling errors and
in the other the question papers also had the answers.
This simply shows the ignorance and incompetence of the
provincial education authorities who had taken over a task best
left to the school authorities. The predicament of the
provincial educational authorities is not dissimilar to what
happened to the proverbial donkey who tried to perform the tasks
entrusted to the dog and got whacked by the master. For decades,
term test papers were prepared by school authorities and tests
were conducted without such incidents.
The introduction of term test papers on a provincial basis
was somebody’s brainchild since the setting up of provincial
educational authorities. Ostensibly its aim was to ensure
uniformity in test standards and in education standards as a
However, tests only monitor the standards and not set them.
Uniformity of educational standards could be achieved only
through equitable distribution of education resources - teachers
and other facilities. The provision of such facilities is a
precondition for setting quality standards in teaching and
learning. Therefore, ensuring uniformity in standards by common
test papers is a futile exercise and a case of tail wagging the
t is no secret that this system has given an opportunity for
unscrupulous elements among the educational bureaucracy to earn
a quick buck by way of commissions etc. from ‘friendly’ printing
establishments. Further, poor students and parents were fleeced
by collecting test paper fees which were more than the required
We have already seen the mess that has been created by the
education authorities in the question of Year One admissions.
Firstly, it was an arrogant Ministry Secretary with no
previous experience in the education or administration fields
who took over the entire admissions of the island into the hands
of the bureaucrats at the Ministry. The mess was so immense and
so unwieldy, the system had to be abandoned. Then the provincial
bureaucrats took over and faithfully carried on the mess.
Once again the excuse given is to install a fool-proof clean
system sans corruption. Instead of weeding out any black sheep
among the Principals, the result was corruption on a grander
scale and the denial of the right to education for many a child.
These are matters best left to the school authorities. The
task of the provincial or central administrators is to monitor
the performance of school heads, teachers and pupils and not to
take over their activities. It is strange that authorities who
have entrusted the future of tens of thousands of children in
the hands of school authorities fail to place trust in them in
just a few actions like Year One admissions and term tests.
One thing is clear. This is poor or bad management. It has
made both admissions and term tests more a business activity run
on profit motive rather than an educational service.
Deciphering an old parable
Once upon a time,
there was a wise cat in the jungle. It accidentally found a
mirror thrown out by somebody and had a peep into it. Lo and
behold! It saw a nice looking cat with long whiskers. It told
the lion about his adventure.
The lion was curious to have a look at the nice stranger and
rushed to the mirror and peeped into it. He saw a lion as
ferocious as itself and thought the cat was a liar. A tiger
having heard the news from the lion also had a look but could
see only a tiger as beautiful as itself.
The news spread like wildfire and all animals had a look at
the new creature but no two of them could agree who it was
really. All were unaware that it was their own mirror image they
Similarly, in modern times, the news has spread everywhere
that a new system has appeared in history but no two persons
could agree what it really is. It is generally known as