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Thursday, 12 November 2009

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Free education

Government has never attempted to curtail free education and is committed to protect and promote it, said President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the inauguration of the Ruwanpura National College of ICT Education Tuesday.

Provision of free education has been one of the most rewarding enterprises undertaken by the government throughout the post-independence era. If one is to take a cost-benefit analysis of the funds spent on maintaining free education, it is sure to reveal a very positive result. Education is an investment and should not be considered as wasteful consumption. It is through education that human resources of a country are developed.

It is no secret that the total Sri Lankan work force, except for a minuscule, has benefited from free education. Actually it is hard to imagine what would have been the status of the country if there was no free education. Without free education, we would not have seen the vast expansion of educational facilities throughout the country. Today even the remotest hamlet has a state school which provides education free.

Most of the renowned scholars Sri Lanka has produced had the benefit of free education. Besides, it remains up to date the most reliable path to upward social mobility.

Whatever the defects of our education system the system of public schools has produced good results, sometimes with minimum facilities. The defects of the system arise more from wrong planning and the lack of a holistic perspective in planning human resource development.

As the President underlined, the government has no intention of abolishing or curtailing free education. In fact it is increasing allocations for education with every budget. However, there are financial constraints that prevent huge increases in capital expenditure.

This calls for new and innovative methods of getting optimum use of the limited resources available through pooling the resources of different institutions or with industry links.

One has also to acknowledge that private sector participation is also helpful to augment the resources and facilities for educational development. Those who agitate against privatizing education see a hypothetical threat to free education. However, there is no threat in reality. What is envisaged is a system of private educational institutions that would complement the state educational system.

As to standards of teaching and curricula the government should regulate them. The private sector is looking at education as a business or an industry. Hence, the need for regulation is urgent. All such schools must be made to comply with national standards as regards, content and quality of education imparted and the suitability of academic and other staff. Also the fee structure in private educational institutions has also to be regulated for some such institutions are charging exorbitant fees without providing facilities commensurate with them.

The Sri Lankan private sector has a long way to go in fulfilling its social responsibility. It does not exist in a vacuum. They are getting benefits from state by way of tax concessions and duty waivers on imports etc. Hence, they have an obligation to give back to society at least a small quantum of what they receive, through scholarships to students from low-income families and by other means.


Work to rule

Members of several trade unions are on a work-to-rule campaign for three days beginning yesterday. In fact they were preparing for it for some weeks. This raises a series of questions.

By announcing that they would be working to rule, they have tacitly accepted that they were not working to rule on other days. Normally, all employees should work according to rules and regulations. However, the daily experience is otherwise. You cannot get a simple eight hours' work from public servants. If all work is changed to a piece-rate system, we could see how many work to rule on normal working days.

On the other hand this work to rule will show the real worth of the trade union claims. There is a saying that the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Likewise the current TU action would either disprove or approve the claims they have made so far.

As far as the ordinary mortals are concerned work goes on as usual. While there were many media reports of possible fuel shortages most of the filling stations were working as usual with no threatening long queues to the dismay of the union bosses and their political masters.

Sri Lanka boosts historic Myanmar links :

A land of breathtaking beauty and charm

‘Mangalaba’, is a word similar to ‘Ayubowan’ people of Myanmar use to greet people they meet. During my brief stay I have been able to view some of its ancient kingdom’s and the famous floating villages on a lake which are popular tourist attractions.

Full Story

PARALLEL Perspectives

Fine tune the executive presidency for post-war growth

The executive presidency that proved to be an incomparable asset for fighting terror could be an equally potent vehicle for rapid development during peace times.

Full Story

Reviving Lanka-Myanmar ties in post-WW II era

The forthcoming visit of Myanmar’s Head of State and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, Senior General Than Shwe, marks another milestone in the historical relations between Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Full Story

 

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