Letters to the Editor | Sunday Observer

Letters to the Editor

National examinations – motives and targets

Most teachers and tutors are of the opinion that examinations are repeating what students learn at schools and other institutes.

When it comes to national and professional examinations, the scenario is totally different; GCE (O/L) and (A/L) students physically and psychologically undergo much suffering; not only students but their parents and siblings too.

At the GCE/OL 2017, scheduled to be held from December 12 to 21, approximately 688,573 candidates are qualified to sit the examination. Accordingly 429,493 school candidates and 259,080 private candidates would sit the examination this year, under both, the old and new syllabuses at 5116 centres country-wide.

Tuition masters

Another section of society, who are concerned about students passing examinations are the Tuition Masters, whose colourful photos with attractive cut-outs appear throughout the country enticing parents and students.

The agenda and the motive of these tuition masters are to earn more money within a short period of time, rather than the welfare of the students.

They even resort to underhand practices to obtain question papers by bribing the staff of the Department. Many have got caught in the past.

These tuition boutiques have mushroomed throughout the country and are now big businesses. The Ministry, civil societies and intellectuals, should supervise and control them. These are unhealthy practices harmful to education.

Parents should ensure that their children do not resort to unethical practices to pass examinations.

South Korean experience

Community Based Organizations, neighbouring business establishments and government institutions viz., Ceylon Electricity Board, National Water Supply and Drainage Board, Public and Private Transport Services, Police and other members of the Forces, should co-operate and help students study when exam dates are near; without the support of these stakeholders passing of examinations is difficult.

I am emotionally moved by the support, cooperation and concern of the South Korean authorities when it comes to national examinations.

In South Korea’s ultra competitive society, College entrance exam plays a big role in defining adult lives holding the key to universities, social status, jobs and even marriage prospects.

State buses are kept standby to take students to Examination Centres; extra-ordinary measures are taken to ensure that nothing disturbs students.

Take-offs from and landing at South Korean Airports are suspended for 35 minutes to coincide with an English Listening Test, and all planes in the air must maintain an altitude higher than 3, 000 metres (10,000 ft) 98 flights including 36 international flights had to be rescheduled because of the Exam.

Public offices, major businesses and the stock market opened an hour late to help ease traffic and ensure that students arrive on time for exams.

Any student stuck in traffic could get Police cars and motor bikes to rush them to exam Centres.

Outside examination centres in Seoul, junior students wave banners and chant encouragement as candidates enter Examination Centres.

So, one can measure the success of the country and its economy; the political leadership values the importance of the future generation which is totally dependent upon today’s student population. Hence, the support to education is unimaginable.

Compared to South Korea and other Asian countries, we have not contributed much to the education sectors.

Parents and teachers have to fight, risk lives and step onto the street in protest of educational policies of Governments, to improve education in schools and universities.

It is a shame.

Half the time of the Government is wasted by fighting bribery and corruption, reconciliation and attending to inter-religious issues.

I urge, the present Minister of Education and Higher Education and all others involved to prioritize National Examinations and extend support to the student population. Each member of society should help students to pass exams and be a useful citizen of the country.


Speed up low cost ‘Humps’

Another tragedy has occurred, this time at the Hindeniya rail-crossing at Veyangoda. It is reported that despite the presence of a bell and light warning system, the driver has negligently driven his vehicle to disaster.

This tragedy again points to the fact that negligence overrides high-cost technical solutions, such as, barrier gates and bell and light warning systems.

Constructing overhead bridges for motor vehicles at rail crossings is a very costly solution.

Readers would recall that a simple, low cost but an effective proposal, which I sent, in the form of installing speed-breakers (Humps) on both sides of rail crossings appeared in both, the Sinhala and English press as far back as July 2013. Though belated, the Railway Dept. started responding to it and by May 2017 they were reported to have installed 111 ‘humps’.

It is unfortunate that Hindeniya rail crossing was not protected by ‘Humps’ which surely would have averted this tragic accident.

In this regard it is pertinent to quote a villager from Wanwasala (where another tragedy occurred some time ago) who said, “No one can rely on that bell.”

Sometimes, when it rains heavily it rings continuously till someone fixes it. Vehicles with their shutters closed and the radio on, wouldn’t hear it on most occasions.

This again proves the inherent drawbacks of technical solutions as well as their inability to adequately warn motorists, particularly, those who are negligent, as in this case, and in Batuwatte, some time back.

Imposing heavy fines can no doubt mitigate this problem. However, the best option is to speed up the installation of specially designed ‘humps’ carrying painted warning signals at all rail-crossings.

Motorists in Sri Lanka are well used to slowing- down or stopping their vehicles on seeing a road-breaker and we have hardly witnessed accidents caused by road-breakers.

It is admitted that road-breakers are not visible at all railway crossings, particularly, where sharp bends are encountered.

I hope the authorities would take prompt steps to speed up the installation of low-cost, quick to construct, effective road-breakers also known as ‘Sleeping Policemen’ in order to prevent these unfortunate accidents in the future.

Bernard Fernando,

‘Rolling stones gather no moss’

A person not settling down for long in the same institution, employment or place is referred to as a ‘Rolling Stone’. The saying “Rolling Stones Gather No Moss” means, a person moving from place to place in whatever he does, will not be successful.

However, in the context of our country, especially, in the political arena, it looks as if it is those criss-crossing from one political party to another and back – the “Rolling Stones” - who are mostly successful.

Can anyone please correct me if I am wrong?

Upali S. Jayasekera