Education: Are there enough
Education has been a perennial topic in Sri Lanka that
for the most part has invited criticism from the public. The
recent fiasco with regard to question papers is one such
occasion where the authorities had to take a lot of flak.
There is also frequent unrest in the Universities and other
institutions of higher learning that always bring the Education
Ministry into public focus. The scourge of ragging - which
hopefully the new incumbent will control as promised in the
first flush of his appointment - has also not earned much kudos
for the Ministry.
It however soldiers on accepting both bouquets and brickbats
but also has been generously lavished by the State with extra
allocations each year by successive Governments even in the
midst of grave financial constrains. For education is one topic
that no Government can afford to ignore since it is the base on
which a nation’s development and prosperity rests.
Hence the statement by JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara
Dissanayake in the House the other day that the Government had
slashed the education budget by 42 percent naturally more than
irked the Government which promptly fired a statement that
revealed a totally different picture. According to the
statement, expenditure on education had progressively increased
since 2005 until it (increase) reached 92 percent in 2009.
This showed that the emphasis laid by the Government towards
producing a generation of educated youth who will be up to the
task of meeting the new challenges thrown out by a rapidly
advancing world and breach new frontiers.
The progressive increase in the budgetary allocations since
President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office in 2005 also
demonstrates the emphasis he lays on education despite
constrained by war expenditure.
No doubt he has given pride of place to this vital sector
well knowing the bearing it has on the future progress of the
country. In fact the President has shown a keen interest in
bringing the country upto date with the latest developments in
the modern world by taking English and IT education to the
furthest corners of the land. The Government has also built new
schools and upgraded many others to afford the maximum
opportunity for a sound education which carries the key to
success in any field of endeavour.
As mentioned, no Government can afford to ignore the subject
of education even at the most perilous time for the economy.
Hence the yearly increase of the education budget. But can the
country be satisfied with the returns on this massive
investment? For, it is expected that which is invested on
education will always be paid back to the State by the pool of
rich talent which it has produced by giving of their
professional service to the country.
We say this since it is also mentioned in the Government
statement that the expenditure borne by the Government on each
student has been doubled from Rs 11,354 in 2005 to Rs 22,077 in
2009. But is the country getting back at least the equivalent of
this? It is here that the Government should step into ascertain
if this near 100 percent increase in the education budget has
paid dividends.Is it getting value for money? We say this
because there has been a steady brain drain down the years of
rich talent produced by our free education system.
Those leaving our shores for greener pastures are those who
have gained from this heavy allocation on education. Their
talents developed at State expense are being made use by other
countries for their development needs. It is in this context
that the Government should reassess its policy for expending
such a large chunk of the national budget on education.It should
find ways of getting back its worth for this doubling or
quadrupling of the allocation for education which is done at the
expense of other public welfare measures.
How will the public gain from the sacrifices it has made to
produce a more educated and enlightened society? Won’t they feel
cheated ? The Government owes an explanation to the public.
Today it is no secret that most of our qualified professionals
are waiting for the first opportunity take wing for ‘better
prospects’. Some medical interns who go on overseas scholarships
never return laying waste all the expenditure incurred on their
behalf by the State. In the present context no body can plead
unsettled conditions in the country since the war is no more.
Those who gained from the free education of the State should
act conscientiously by giving priority to the country. There are
also plenty of avenues beckoning those who entertain ideas of
seeking greener pastures abroad with the economy being activated
post war leading to opportunities in the development fields
where their expertise could be used.
The President has already invited Lankan professionals
domiciled abroad to return to the Motherland and be partners of
the massive development that is in store. It is hoped that those
who benefited by the State to make them what they are today
would heed this call. What more patriotic and noble deed than
serving the Motherland that helped them take their first steps
in the ultimate success they enjoy today?