Discrepancy between favoured and neglected schools and how to overcome... : School is the mirror of society | Sunday Observer

Discrepancy between favoured and neglected schools and how to overcome... : School is the mirror of society

I am glad and honoured to have been invited by the Principal of Methodist High School Moratuwa, for the event commemorating the 175th anniversary of the school. The Methodist School was founded in 1842 by Rev. Peter Gerard de Silva. The contribution made by the Christian Missionaries for education is quite well known in all parts of the island. These schools instilled great human values and taught self discipline, among other things, to the scholars who came under their care. These schools raised the standard of English education and maintained a high level of competence over several generations.

After long years of service to children in the Sinhala stream, in 1922, English medium schools were begun. On March 5, 1970 the Methodist High School was established. This has grown to be one of the best Provincial Council schools. Now it has 1,300 students and 65 teachers.

Of about 1,300 schools in the Province except for 70 schools which are called National Schools, around 1,200 schools are run by the Education Ministry of the Western Provincial Council.


Let me take this opportunity, where distinguished Old Boys and well wishers are gathered, to highlight some of the problems I see in the Western Province related to education:

First, it is related to a lack of teachers. It is not that the government has not given us adequate teachers. It is unfortunate that the teachers who are given to us are not properly distributed. I have seen for myself excess teachers in what are called popular schools, and an inadequate number of teachers in remote schools. This imbalance must be remedied. It is within the power of the line Ministry and the Provincial Ministry to rectify the anomaly.

Second, there is an imbalance in the allocation of resources to schools –in respect of qualified teachers, equipment and buildings. In my view, there are no good schools or bad schools, but, there are poor schools and affluent schools. If you will allow me, I may say - favoured schools and neglected schools. I do not mean to say that this discrepancy could be sorted out overnight, but this matter should draw the attention of the educational authorities and resource allocators in the power centers.

Third, in what I described as poor schools, I find that children with learning disabilities are uncared for. Education and medical specialists will tell you learning disabilities can arise due to a number of causes. It could be malnutrition on account of poverty, antisocial behaviour of a child arising out of family dislocation , dyslexia, autism or hyper active syndrome. There are also children with special needs with audio or visual defects. The tragedy is that these deficiencies can be corrected, but are not properly attended to at present. These matters require urgent attention.

Among the affordable middle class families, children are supervised by parents to some extent. It is not so among the poor children in less favoured schools.

The lack of parental supervision is a prime reason for poor performance of children. This is further aggravated by the private tuition system . The private tuition system has acted against the interests of poor children.

Fourth, I need to emphasize the importance of physical education. Sports and athletic activities should be encouraged and our educational authorities should allocate more resources for these. For centuries we have known that a healthy mind in a healthy body is the answer for many evils. Fifth, I need not overemphasize the importance of inculcating human values to children of tender age, in order to prepare them to be responsible citizens. But there again, in a highly competitive world this seems incompatible.

Personal behaviour

What a child sees in society as achievements of successful men and women are not what he is taught as human values. He is baffled by the contradiction. He sees hypocrisy all around.

After all, a school is the microcosm of society in which we live. But again, I hope if teachers in the school set an example in their personal behaviour the children may be motivated to follow them. This is my hope.

Sixth, I should mention about the need to have a clean physical environment in schools. In the Western Province, I was appalled to hear from the Director of Health Services that the main breeders of dengue mosquitoes are schools and religious institutions. It is absolutely necessary that parents, children and teachers take steps in correcting this situation. I beseech the Principals of all schools to take an active interest to eradicate this menace.

Finally, may I ask the children and teachers to make use of the valuable land in schools for home gardening? The climate change which is taking place now is a very serious matter. Children must understand the calamity that is to befall us. It may not be possible to produce enough food and as you know we have no money to import. Home gardening in schools inculcates in the minds of children the need to expand our agricultural production.

All what I have said above cannot be done by schools or educational authorities alone. The community around schools, the educational authorities, agricultural authorities, the local religious institutions and law and enforcement authorities and local authorities should all make a collective effort.

I wish to conclude my comments with my best wishes to the Principal, staff and children who are present here and I congratulate you for the marvellous organization of today’s celebration.

Western Province