No school will be closed - Education Minister
Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena said the number of small
schools is growing at an alarming rate due to the competition by parents
for a handful of popular schools in the country. He told the Sunday
Observer that despite this disturbing trend the Education Ministry will
not resort to closure of the schools, but instead a national program is
to get off the ground in January next year to develop 5000 primary and
1,000 secondary schools islandwide as a pragmatic means to ease off the
fierce competition for popular schools.
The total estimated cost of the project is Rs.11 billion. The primary
school project ‘child friendly schools’ will be partly funded by the
“There are nearly 10,000 schools in the country with a teacher
population of 217,000 and a magnanimous administrative structure
overseeing their management.
Despite this apparent positive sign, the number of small schools in
the country are multiplying. In 2003 the number of schools with less
than 50 students stood at 1,437. This has increased to 1,552 by today, a
disturbing 16% of the total number, the Minister said.
The other trend is the multiplying of bigger schools with over 2,500
student population. In 2003 these schools numbered 141 and now there are
a total of 187 (1.9%).
“Parliamentarians are more concerned and make a big sound in the
House about this 1.9% when 92 schools in the country have just one
teacher,” the minister quipped, observing that non of his parliamentary
colleagues have time to discuss real issues in the education sector.
There are 168 schools of which the entire academic staff consists of
just two teachers. The number of schools with three and four teachers
are 254 and 375 respectively. Further, there are nearly 2,000 schools
with less than ten teachers. He said this was pathetic although Sri
Lanka boasts of a high literacy rate.
Continuing the disturbing revelation the Minister said, there were
124 primary schools in the country where not a single Grade One
application has been received to admit students to year 2012.
There are 1,089 schools with less than ten children, but still get
applications to admit students to grade one. Twenty-five percent of the
total number of schools receive less than 10 applications for grade one
admissions. This is the plight of the education sector, he said.
Under the schools project implemented from next year the curriculum
from grades 1-13, teacher guides and text books will be completely
revised. The examination process too is going to undergo a complete
The secondary schools will be developed providing a computer lab with
50 machines, English language laboratory, science and maths labs,
distance learning centres, three science labs, commerce lab and
equipment for sports and aesthetic learning and libraries.
According to the Minister, 62% of the schools do not have science
laboratories to perform practicals in the GCE Ordinary Level syllabus.
He said at present, of the 10,000 schools there were only 712 schools
that can accommodate GCE Advanced Level science students. The number of
students following science A/L are 98,181 which is 22 percent of the
total A/L students.
Only 109,589 of students (25%) pursue commerce stream, the area which
is responsible for the biggest job spinner in the world. In the contrary
over 225,000 students, a staggering 53% pursue Arts subjects and join
the long queue of unemployed.
He said out of 334 PS divisions, there were 72 without a single 1AB
school - schools that has facilities to learn all four streams;
Commerce, Physical Science, Bio-Science and Arts. Schools in 172 PS
divisions have no proper facilities to teach A/L Science and Commerce
Rich and poor
Although it has been claimed education a born right of the rich and
poor alike, this is yet to become a dream come true for significant many
in Sri Lanka where about 10% children still making nearly 10 km to reach
Commenting on the positive side he said 56% of the children pass the
Grade five scholarship exam today, as against the 39% in 2005, GCE
Ordinary Level pass rate too has increased to 65% last year from 54% in
2005 as well as the GCE A/L from 59% in 2005 to 61% last year.
He said Sri Lanka with a literacy rate of 96%, computer proficiency
35-40% and 95 % pass rate up to Fifth Grade and lower drop out rate, is
far ahead compared to others in the region such as Pakistan, India,
But, he acknowledged that Sri Lanka still has a long way to go. “We
admit 350,000 students in Grade one each year and send 300,000
candidates to sit for the GCE Advanced Level at which point only 22,000
gain entry to universities.
The rest, except for a small percentage who enroll in tertiary
education institutes and for other professional exams, join the long
queue of job seekers.”
Minister Gunawardena said the Mahinda Chinthana policy has seen these
problems in a broader perspective and education is one of the top
priorities of this Government.
Minister Gunawardena said the Government is hopeful, this biggest
education project ever, will pave way to modernise the whole sector to
give more meaning to school education and produce a school leaver who is
socially responsible, educated to its true meaning as well as skilled.