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Education for peace

Murderous acts by illegal power maniacs were not even heard of all three communities lived in peace in the whole of Sri Lanka - eg. Colombo District, say Wellawatta was vastly inhabited by the good Tamils, while a fair Sinhala population lived in the Northern province - there was the most popular well developed Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya in Jaffna town and six other schools in Puttur.

I write on education for peace and conflict resolution - focusing on the present terrorist ridden inhuman beastly ways of destruction in the use of bombs and suicide squads. If education and human thought had the say among the rogue elements hiding in animal infested wilds, the situation may have been different.

As the CEO in education. I had spent several months of education in the development of schools along with all types of Sri Lankans (Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims - STM) say in Jaffna, Kilinochi, Mullaitivu, Mutur, Kalmunai and also Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and participated actively in educational works. STM brotherhood was highly evident as one family unit of genuine Sri Lankans.

Education is a channel to build peace. File photo

Suicidal, murderous acts by illegal power maniacs were not even heard of all three communities lived in peace in the whole of Sri Lanka - eg. Colombo district, say Wellawatta was vastly inhabited by the good Tamils, while a fair Sinhala population lived in the Northern province - there was the most popular well developed Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya in Jaffna town and six other schools in Puttur.

Self had the privilege to spend a week in developing eight small schools in Delft under the national SSDP program Consultation and Cooperation guided the community welfare.

Where necessary the ballot overruled the bullet. Inhuman conflicts were rare. Let me request the EU nations and Human Rights sponsors to note that Sri Lanka was a very peaceful nation then, and now can try to go back to the former Lanka provided external interference is out.

As a CEO then in Education I could state that this new awakening urged us in education to develop a very close relationship with other Government departments. The public service showed a mighty change in attitude in dealing with peoples' socio-economics issues.

This humanitarian awakening that spread into the public service mainly highlighted a new type job discipline, punctuality and expeditious action in and out of the work-place were note-worthy in giving ear, mainly to the once neglected poorer classes in rural areas, in settling their long drawn out problems. This procedure was highly perspicuous at the many mobile offices held in most districts.

The North-East was catered in a large way. Action to upgrade the state Services efficiently and effectively through a large force of Government officials at the mobile centres was evident at workplaces - eg. in Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Ampara and Vavuniya. Official evaluations showed a massive load of productive work done in meeting the people face to face. I had the privilege of participating in all these mobile offices.

The new mind-set concepts on real work seemed to be instilled into the thoughts and deeds of the officials - may be voluntarily or by order or direction of the President. It stressed on rural problems and village welfare works.

Formal education: the primary aim was to strengthen the delivery of education to the student population by reinforcement of the work-force in education among teachers in particular, principals, Supervisory staff (Education Officers), other Staff in schools and offices.

Total numbers involved amounting to about 300,000. The main vision was on the improvement of services rendered to the four million pupils in the schools system with an emphasis on those in the deficit areas, in the dry zones in particular.

By the grant of extra inputs in personnel and resources to ensure the proper delivery of education in schools, monitoring of education was felt essential. A systematic scheme of annual and casual or surprise school inspections was enforce through supervisory teams comprising education officers and Circuit Inspectors of schools.

Currently well programmed school inspections are not done. Annual school returns, updated school files and reports may be in neglect now.

As such proper assessment of work in schools and teaching staff may not be done. The grant of annual incremental credit and useful work reports for promotions are not maintained, as is mandatory and accordingly done in respect of public officers in others services.

A few unique action taken then to further informal education.

i. Parents Charter prepared in Sinhala and Tamil was sent out to all schools in the country in NESW for discussion with parents on their rights and duties to participate in the education and welfare and health of their children.

ii. Appointment of teachers: The majority of teachers were posted to rural areas - eg in 1989/90, 25,000 teacher trainees were selected from all Pradeshiya Sabhas and given appointments in their home towns except the Science, Maths, English qualified who were sent to deficit areas.

iii. SSDP Project: As there were more than 2,500 small schools with a student roll of 200/100 or less, a special project was implemented nationally in North Central, Northern, Eastern Provinces and Hambantota areas. Fortunately, the UNESCO gave a large grant to fund the cost of school development in poor areas.

iv. Teacher Supply in quality and quantity - A system of appointments were approved by the Cabinet. About 90,000 teacher appointments were given for three years.

From 25,000 Teacher-Trainees, who had to serve a four year apprentice period and complete an OJT (On the Job Training course), 6,000 graduates, 15,000 other teachers from 8,000 Volunteer Teachers, 1,500 Advanced Level qualified Science/Maths Assistance 2,230 English Assistants 200 Moulavis, 520 Diplomates from the then Colleges of Education in Home Science/Agriculture/Handicraft, 350 physical education sports.

In addition 250 terrorist victimized qualified persons in North-East were given concession appointments.

v. Promotions to the Principals' Service - As several schools did not have permanent Principals a series of formal examinations were held in 1991 to promote qualified teachers to the grades of Principal 1,2,3. The total number appointed in 1991 was 4,996.

This was based on an approved STM ethnic ratio.

Among then, 2,510 were Sinhala, 812 Jaffna Tamil, 216 Tamil-Indian origin, 343 Muslim. Boards appointed by the PSC/ESC conducted the interviews. Appointments were made by the PSC. The selections were publicized by each AG division in each subject area.

vi. Appeals on non-selection/allocation of marks, protests against selectees were investigated objectively.

The ESC/PSC Board and as OIC. I can stand up boldly and say a very honest job was done within a short time. There was no delays thanks to non-party political will and impartial monitoring by Education Ministers and the President. This was at a time few years back when the notorious Job-Bank and Chit system was in operation, adversely affecting the recruitment systems. We overcame this malicious system that was denying justice to the socially, politically and economically poor applicants.

(The writer is a former DDG Edn, Chairman ESC of the PSC, UGC member.)



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