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Monday, 22 November 2010

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A welcome decision

The decision taken by the Education authorities to appoint a monitoring committee to oversee the activities of so-called International Schools is to be welcomed. These schools for long have been functioning as autonomous bodies introducing their own curricula and other practices and aspects that are far removed from the mainstream school system. Some of these practices border on the scandalous such as the introduction by one such International School a handbook on sex education for Grade six students. The school concerned had defended its stance on the grounds that this will help the students be better prepared for the future.

Today it is apparent that these International Schools catering to the offspring of the super rich are having a free run most often inculcating alien cultures and habits into their charges. Products of these schools also cultivate superiority complexes and display airs and look down on their counterparts in the ordinary school system.

This is a negative trend that creates a class distinction of sorts even in the formative years. A majority of our politicians too get their children admitted to these International Schools due to the prestige attached to them. It is also well-known that most affluent parents send their children to these schools more as a means of acquiring a polish than for academic reasons.

Of course these International Schools which have been set up as BOI projects may well feel justified in carrying out their activities on the lines of business ventures. In the process moral aspects may be ignored as in the case with most businesses.

They may also feel they have to give the students something out of the ordinary to justify the astronomical fees charged. In this endeavour they may introduce certain aspects and practises into their curricula that are not found in the mainstream school system. What is more, they may not be in keeping with accepted standards and indigenous values. These Western oriented schools have also cultivated a sense of exclusivity and thus may feel free to do as they please.

Hence the Education Ministry ought to step into to ensure that these so called International Schools don’t stray far afield from the established school system. There should be some form of supervision at least to ensure they adhere to the basic school curriculum and above hold uphold moral principals.

Ideally a some form of code of conduct would be appropriate to ensure these institutions do not venture off course. Tabs should also be kept on some of the funds received by these International Schools from abroad. No doubt a majority of these institutions are run by reputed educationists and persons of high repute and propriety. But there are also a handful of such International Schools who are not concerned about the quality of education imparted to the students being driven only by the profit motive.

There are also certain unscrupulous elements who have joined the fray and set up ‘Businesses’ using the tag ‘International Schools’. One could see the mushrooming of such schools all over the island. The quality of education imparted at such schools are left very much in doubt. There is also the question of the quality of the teachers and instructors recruited to such schools.

This aspect should also receive the serious attention of the proposed Monitoring Committee. Our children should not be left to the devices of Mudalalies who may come in the guise of educationists. The credentials of every person establishing schools under the tag ‘International’ should be probed by the Monitoring Committee.

We here do not call into question the competence of these International Schools. It is well-known that some of them provide the best facilities for their students both in terms of academic content as well as in the field of extra curricular activities.

In fact some of these institutions could match the best of academic institutions abroad and are suitable substitutes that obviate the need for Lankan student migration overseas. What is proposed is that these institutions act with some form balance especially taking into consideration the cultural sensitivities of the people and other such aspects as impinges on morals.

The Education Ministry while appreciating the good work done by these schools to elevate the educational standards in the country should cultivate a rapport with them and try to persuade these schools to attempt to make certain concessions vis a vis the general school system by opening a dialogue with the Management of these International Schools.

Sri Lanka’s image builders

Broadly speaking, one can identify five distinct constituencies that shape Sri Lanka’s image abroad: First Western Governments - which I define from a politico-cultural standpoint, as countries that are geographically located in North America, Western Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, second, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - these include both International NGOs, as well as local NGOs who are dependent on foreign funding and hence often adopt policies dictated from outside, third, Sri Lankans abroad, particularly those living in Western countries; fourth, foreigners visiting and doing business with Sri Lanka and fifth, the international media.

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A Janatha Mithuro movement

There was a time I was associated with an organization called the National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT). It was an agitational front that grew out of or was a new avatar of a group that called itself Janatha Mithuro, formed in the early nineties and led principally by Patali Champika Ranawaka and Ven Atureliye Rathana Thera. The members were mostly young graduates and undergraduates who took issues with the Premadasa Government as well as the fascist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.

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Network of irrigation projects in progress

The President has taken measures to ensure the well-being of the common man specially in the North Central Province where there are many areas with water scarcity, which in turn affects agriculture. The President who is well aware of the fact that our agricultural economy depends on water took the necessary decisions to start the Moragahakanda project allocating finance from the Treasury.

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