Technical stream for university entrance :
New GCE A/L, O/L curriculum from 2013
Until an arrangement is finalised, we are
ready to assist schools with term test papers. As an alternative
arrangement we could help schools fine tune their term test papers.
Schools could send us the edited set of papers and we could get our
experts to look into them. The papers should be sent to the Research and
Development Unit of the Examinations Department.
The Examinations Commissioner General Anura Edirisinghe says the GCE
Ordinary Level and Advanced Level curriculum and evaluation methods will
undergo major changes shortly to produce an employable workforce that
could contribute effectively to the country's development in the future.
In an interview with the Sunday Observer he said, ”When 300,000
students sitting the GCE A/L examination each year, and 150,000 fail to
reach required competency levels, the question is then, do we have to
sustain a testing system that fails 50 percent of the candidates?“
Revisions to the curriculum and syllabus have been recommended by a
panel comprising university professors, educationalists and other stake
olders in accordance with the multiple intelligence theory of renowned
educationalist Prof. Howard Gardner.
Q: What are the changes proposed in the new Advanced Level
curriculum that is to be implemented shortly?
A: At the moment a common syllabus is offered at the GCE
Ordinary Level. Six subjects; Mathematics, Science, English, the mother
tongue, religion and history are compulsory for students. In addition
there are three baskets, with aesthetic, technical and other subjects.
School candidates have to select from these three baskets. Every student
has to sit for the same syllabus. To pursue higher studies students must
obtain six ordinary passes including Mathematics and the mother tongue
and three credit passes at the Ordinary Level examination
Many have protested against this existing system as being
discriminatory. According to world-renowned American educationalist,
Prof. Howard Gardener's theory which speaks of multiple intelligence,
children have different aptitude Levels in different subjects like
Mathematics, Science and Music. The brain performs in patterns unique to
each individual. There can be exceptional cases with multiple talent and
aptitudes but according to our syllabus and evaluation system we expect
students to reach identical aptitudes in Mathematics or Aesthetic
subjects. More, often than not, they will be sent home as dropouts.
Q: What were the pressing issues that pushed the authorities
into revising the curriculum and the syllabus?
A: When we get 300,000 students sitting the GCE A/L
examination each year and 150,000 of them fail to reach required
competency Levels. The question remains then, do we have to sustain a
testing system that fails 50 percent of the candidates? We have decided,
in consultation with university professors, educationalists and other
stakeholders, to formulate a new evaluation system that will fit in with
Prof. Gardner's multiple intelligence theory.
The National Education Commission (NEC) at the moment is inactive.
The NEC is responsible for changes to the examination structure at
national Level. Due to this inaction, the Education Minister appointed a
special committee one and a half years ago to look into the shortcomings
in the education sector. The proposals are the results of these
The experts who were associated with this committee included,
engineers, doctors, teacher unions, educationalists and the public. We
will go for a five subject stream, Mathematics, Science, Commerce, Arts
and Technical as early as the GCE Ordinary Level. The Arts stream will
cover aesthetic subjects as well. A candidate who will be sitting the
Ordinary Level examination, will have to choose between these streams in
Grade Ten itself. A special test may be held at the end of grade nine to
select students. During our time this was the norm. Students had the
opportunity to master their Advanced Level subjects from grade ten and
get a better grasp on what they will be learning for the Advanced Level.
Q: Will the Ordinary Level syllabus undergo a major change as
A Yes it will be completely revised. Children who want to
study Science subjects in the Advanced Level will have to choose a
simplified version of Bio-science, Chemistry and Physics at Ordinary
Level among five other compulsory subjects including the mother tongue,
History, English, Health and Physical Education. Children hoping to
pursue Arts and Commerce subjects at A/L will have to sit for a
simplified Science and mathematics paper at the Ordinary Level
examination. At present there are 60 odd subjects in the Ordinary Level
curriculum. This will be reduced to about 40 subjects, once the new
curriculum is introduced.
There is no technical stream at the Advanced Level at present. A new
set of technical subjects that can be pursued at university level has to
be evolved, before the new curriculum is implemented. This is the
biggest hurdle we have to overcome. Even the universities will have to
make necessary adjustments to accommodate courses in technical studies.
At the evaluation process, we have to check competencies. We don't
evaluate the activities of the child in relation to the subjects they
follow. A child's skills and activities and potentials are not given
consideration at present. According to the proposed evaluation system,
these factors will be given a certain amount of marks or points. We have
not yet set norms but school performance may be given 50 marks and 50
marks for the written examination.
Q: Will these changes be effected from Grade Six ? Any changes
to the Grade Six syllabus?
A: The tentative plan of the education minister is to
introduce this to Grade Ten from 2013 on which the Cabinet of ministers
and President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been duly briefed. The selection to
different streams will have to be completed at the end of 2012.
The objective is to produce a workforce that is required to usher the
country to its intended development target in the future, to minimize
the mismatch between the job market and school leavers and graduates.
Today at least 45 percent of candidates fail the Ordinary Level
mathematics paper. According to the Howard Gardner theory, everyone is
not competent in mathematics. We have to identify the different skills
and aptitudes of children and show them the path to master inborn
skills. What the present system does is just the opposite.
Q: But isn't it possible that the proportion of failures could
be due to the structure of the paper or some mismatch between the
syllabus and the evaluation method?
A: We carried out a survey last year. Following this we
extended the duration of the Mathematics paper from two hours to two and
a half hours in 2010. This was made after a thorough examination of the
test paper. But even after that 45% failures were recorded.
Q: Will there be major changes to A/L syllabus once the new
curriculum is brought in?
A: No not until 2015. There will be a modified syllabus for
the batch of O/L students who sit the exam in 2015 under the revised
structure. The introduction of Technical subjects to the Advanced Level
will also be made in 2015. This is to ensure that children get the
maximum opportunity to carve out their future in school itself. Parents
should stop compelling children to follow defined professional courses.
Parents must strive to recognise children's inborn talents and guide
them towards excellence in that particular path. We have to make this
endeavour possible. This is one of the biggest expectations of Education
Minister Bandula Gunawardena.
Q: The Department held the first Advanced Level examination
under the new syllabus in August this year ?
A: The GCE A/L examination was held in August this year under
the old syllabus and the new syllabus. Yes, this year we held the first
GCE A/L exam under the new syllabus. The examination under the old
syllabus will be held for the last time next year, for the benefit of
We are evaluating children's competencies and national performance at
this examination. It is not a university entrance examination. This is
the final hurdle of a students' general education. The syllabus was
composed to fulfil these objectives. There were 147,000 candidates under
the new syllabus, this included 5,000 students from private schools.
This group will also be regarded as school candidates. Over 140,000
candidates sat for the examination under the old syllabus.
Q:Is there a way for the final term test papers of schools to
be compiled by the Examinations Department? At the moment individual
schools have to prepare their own question papers. It affects the
uniformity of the evaluation process and creates a staggered aptitude
levels of children. Moreover, test papers are full of mistakes,
especially in question papers for English medium students.
A: A committee has decided that schools in the same
neighbourhood must get into a cluster and develop their own term test
papers. This is the usual pattern the things work out now.
Close on the heels of the national examinations, the Examinations
Department conducts seminars and has model question papers for the GCE
O/L and A/L candidates to prepare them for the national examination.
International schools and private schools are not under the purview
of the Education Ministry. Candidates sitting from these schools for the
local O/L and A/L examinations sit as private candidates. But it is
compulsory for them to register with the Examinations Department and we
maintain a data bank of these schools.
Q: Is there a possibility for at least final term test papers
to be printed for State schools by the Department to maintain standards?
A: This issues arise because schools fail to take effort to
maintain standards. Our examination panels proof-read the final draft at
least 16 times before it goes to the press. It will be a massive task to
take over printing of term test papers of over 9000 schools. If we do
this, not just the printing, but also the storing and distribution part
has to be taken care of.
The Education Minister has proposed to prepare a question bank for
schools to use in term tests. These questions are to be prepared by
examination panels within the Department so that a uniform term test
paper can be offered in all State and semi government schools.