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Monday, 24 May 2010

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Education: Are there enough dividends?

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?

Suggestions to improve Parliamentary system

It was agreed that the current Parliament had deteriorated and been greatly devalued in relation to its predecessors. Many thought this was not particular to Parliament under the 1978 Constitution, though the situation became worse under that Constitution. Devaluation began with the Constitution of 1972 when absolute power was concentrated in the National State Assembly (as Parliament was than named). For the first time executive, legislative and even judicial power were concentrated in the legislature. This supreme power of the National State Assembly meant its unrestrained use by the parties that commanded a majority.

Full Story

I will not be ‘polythening’ this Vesak

The Morning Inspection – Malinda

A little boy makes a vesak kooduwa with great effort. He makes the frame, pastes the saukola (tissue paper), makes the frills and pastes these too, fixes a candle, lights it and hangs it on the branch of a tree. It is a pretty picture. It rains. There is wind. The vesak kooduwa catches fire. The little boy is distraught. Time passes. He moves from child to adult to middle-aged and old. He acquires things, loses things and in the evening of his life remembers the vesak kooduwa. The images of its making and its burning, the joy and the sorrow flash across his mind. The lesson is impermanence.

Full Story

Reflections on the end of the conflict

A year ago the Government officially declared victory over the LTTE in one of the most extraordinary counter-insurgency campaigns in recent times. The endgame of the conflict, particularly from January to May 2009, saw the bloodiest fighting, often with the presence of tens of thousands of civilians that the LTTE desperately used to fend off its inevitable defeat. Since then, new evidence has become public that offers further insights into the final months of the country’s secessionist civil war.

Full Story

 

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