Ministry Bans Free Education!
- International A/L Children Prevented From Entering Government Schools
By Nirmala Kannangara
The controversial instructions given by the Education Minister and the Ministry Secretary to Heads of schools, barring international school students from having admissions to government schools, has not only caused concern among students, parents and the country’s educationists, but also has prompted trade unionists to allege that this is a move to safeguard the interest of education mudalalis who are government stooges.
The government in general and Education Minister in particular have come under severe criticism for child right violation by introducing such regulations last month depriving the international schoolchildren who followed local syllabus of entering A/L classes in government schools.
However sources from the Association of Educational Professionals (AEP) on condition of anonymity queried how ethical it is for the Education Minister to give verbal instructions to school principals not to admit international school students for government A/L classes without issuing a circular.
“Who has given powers to the minister to give verbal instructions to school principals to abstain from enrolling international school students to follow A/L in government schools? Even the Minister cannot issue circulars in this regard as it is the right of children to get free education in this country if they wish.
How can the minister take such an arbitrary decision? On the other hand when there is no circular in that regard how can the principals take illogical decision not to admit international school students to their schools,” AEP sources said.
According to him, Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena and Ministry Secretary have made these instructions to school principals at a principals’ meeting held at Isurupaya a few weeks ago claiming that by admitting international school students to government schools, the rural students will be deprived of obtaining a better education in a better school.
“The minister’s claim is misleading. Wasn’t it this same minister that issued a controversial Circular No: 2012/14 to prevent students who have obtained less than 8As in O/L from entering national schools? These shortsighted policies will not benefit the country at all, but they will lead to the deterioration of the education sector,” he added.
The sources further stated that a verbal instruction cannot be legal but added that the minister cannot even through a circular prevent a child from getting free education in the country and seconded the trade union allegation that it is a move to ‘take care of’ the education mudalalis who are government stooges.
“This is only a verbal instruction, and it does not carry any legal force. But however some principals in Colombo and even outstation still enroll international school students to their schools. When we inquired them why they did not heed the ministerial order, they said that if not for international students there is no other way they can have English medium A/L classes as most of the government school students do not know the language to study in English medium,” he added. According to him, there are many schools in down south where certain schools had to close down English medium classes due to lack of students.
“This instruction discriminates the international schoolchildren. The Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena has ignored the wishes of the students and parents but merely looked after the education mudalalis. In drafting these regulations the Education Minister has violated the Constitution.
If those who have entered the legislation with the peoples vote now fool the parents and their children’s mentality in order to safeguard the education mudalalis; what else could the voters expect from them?” the sources further added. According to him, it was so disheartening to find out as to how this decision has adversely affected the student mentality as they have being rejected by government schools even after paying admission fees.
“Politicians should understand the needs and desires of the people but not the few handfuls of education mudalalis in the country. These students have got through the entrance exams conducted by the government schools but have later rejected their admission because of the instructions of the Education Ministry.
But still there are many schools that have disregarded the ministry instruction and has admitted some students,” the sources claimed.
Meanwhile a student from Lyceum International School Gampaha who unfolded her tale of woe in tears said how her heart broke into ‘thousand’ pieces when the principal of Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Borella told her that she cannot be admitted to the school simply because she was from an international school.
“When I first went for the admission test I was selected at once as I have got all the required results to enter this school to follow bio-science. I was admitted to an international school not because my parents were rich enough to afford but because they had no other options as they could not admit me to a good government school.
Had they offered bribes to government officials they would have admitted me to a government school. Since they did not want to be a part of corruption in their daughter’s education they admitted me to an international school,” she added. With shattered hopes she queries as to whether she is not entitle for free education introduced by father of free education, Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara.
“Now from where am I supposed to continue my dreams and desires of getting free education by entering a government school? Does this mean the government has deprived their own citizens of obtaining free education? Am I not a Sri Lankan?” she queried.
Meanwhile General Secretary Ceylon Teacher Services Union Mahinda Jayasinghe said that Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena is dancing to the tune of international school owners by banning government schools for children.
“Our children should get the opportunity to study in any school be it government, private or international of their wish. We cannot give instructions to private schools but how can the government deprive their own children of a free education although they always boast ‘the best is for the children’. What is the sudden reason for the Minister to give such instructions?
Why does the Minister want to deprive our own children of obtaining free education? How can the minister say that by allowing international school students to enter government schools for A/L classes, children from remote areas would not get a chance to study in leading schools? It is only the students that have studied in English medium up to O/L will enter A/L English medium class but not those who studied in Sinhala medium,” added Jayasinghe.
He further said as to how Minister Gunawardena’s 2008/17 circular has already deprived rural schoolchildren of entering popular schools for A/L studies.
“According to this circular, only the students who have got 8As or 9As can enter another school for their A/Ls. If the school in which the child has studied right throughout has the A/L classes although there are no teachers or any other facility, the child still have to continue the studies in the same school. This is ridiculous. The minister has already ruined our future generation completely,” said Jayasinghe.
According to Jayasinghe, this decision was taken solely to stop the erosion in international schools. Those who have followed local O/L syllabus in international schools want to join state schools immediately after their O/Ls as they want to obtain free education. We have statistics to show how bad the erosion in international schools after O/L examination. This decision was taken to help the international school owners,” he added. Although several calls were made to the Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena and Ministry Secretary Anura Dissanayake for comments and left messages, there were no responses from them.
When contacted Additional Secretary (Education Quality Development) Hemantha Premathilake for a comment, he refused to speak to the paper claiming that he has been asked not to make any comment to the media on this subject wanted us to contact the Minister or the Ministry Secretary.