Sri Lanka; where education broke

What is the purpose of education? And what does it prepare a person to do? Or rather, what should it prepare a person to do..

Currently in the world, education is aimed at providing the student with some sort of opportunity to make money. Its like training a hunter to live in the jungle. Although balance is provisioned for by giving room to spiritual education etc, as Sir Kenneth tells us here, the current system is mostly designed to train a person to cope with Industry.

But lets leave the merits and demerits of such an approach to a different, more idealistic post. Let us just look at the Sri Lankan education system as it stands today and ask if it is even capable of producing a sufficiently competent industry employee to begin with?

Having gone through my whole school life under the local system of education, i was privileged enough to be able to pursue my bachelors from an American university, albeit administered by a local institution that followed the American way of teaching. And i saw some real differences. For instance, most of my marks are based on,

  • Group presentations, which help me get used to working with and sometimes leading a team of people, also enabling us to explore subjects beyond the boundaries of curriculum’s or syllabuses.
  • Classroom discussions which encourage me to speak up with my views and question others’ opinions,
  • Written assignments which make me do my own research enabling me to acquire my own understanding of the subject matter
  • Written exams, well we’re all familiar with them.

I’ve found that as a result of this i remember things i learned much better. More importantly it helps me understand the practical implications of theory, having had to research and do presentations on real life scenarios. And importantly, it improved my communication and people skills, somethings that are greatly lacking in Sri Lankan employees taken as a whole.

Even professional qualifications like CIM, which is based in the UK, are moving towards a more hands on approach. Most of the current curriculum is project based rather than exam based, which makes me slightly regret being in the latter part of the old curriculum, but not by much. Project work is hard, time consuming and challenging, even though it is fulfilling.

But such an approach, im sad to say, is completely absent in Sri Lanka. Even subjects like the physical sciences have little or no practical teachings when you take the system as a whole. I know, since i was part of that stream for my local A/Ls. There could be various reasons for this such as a lack of funding and infrastructure, but mainly i feel it is a problem of approach and mindset.

Sri Lankan students are not allowed calculators in exams, whereas in the real world your company wouldn’t dream of having such a policy. Sri Lankan A/Levels are famous for carrying confusing and convoluted questions rather than more direct ones aimed solely at testing the student’s knowledge. Sri Lanka has outdated curricula and backward thinking processes that just try to hammer knowledge into students’ heads; it doesn’t help make them think.

The other day I was talking to a friend who had just graduated from an international school . She mentioned having learned a subject called the ‘Theory of Knowledge’. Themes like the origins of knowledge, the ambiguity of facts, the differences of individual thought processes  etc. were some of the stuff she had learned about. The system at her school was aimed at teaching its students intelligence, not just knowledge.

The Human race is living through exponential times. Most of the learning that happens today will not be used for the jobs they are intended for now in fifteen years or so, highlighting the need to innovate change at a greater pace. And if that is the dilemma facing the world as a whole, we in Sri Lanka have a got lot of catching up to do what do you say?

  1. What made you think education in Sri Lanka had anything to do with actual education? From Grade 1 – 13 its merely a systematic method of condensing the student population to the minimum amount that can get into the local universities, where a different type of insanity can then take root 😆

    • Whacko said:

      lol. good point.. its like a machine processing within capacity!

  2. Chavie said:

    lol, Dili’s explanation is the only one I’ve heard that makes any sense… 😀

  3. I guess that’s what you get for putting education in the hands of our politicians… 😯

    Although I was under the impression the local education was better than Edexcel… In the sense that the syllabus is vast in comparison. But then again I’ve had a look into the local Bio A/L syllabus and I think there’s a lot of dispensable information.

    Not to mention local A/L bio, chem and phy syllabuses don’t have practical lesson and examinations. These students only have theoretical knowledge of how experiments such as titration or esterification are done. And well… they’re missing out on the fun of mixing chemicals 😛

    Also for a fact, I know that questions designed by Edexcel require using your noodle.

    Where calculators are concerned is it really a problem? You can always learn to use the little electronic device once you’re done with school, it’s not rocket science. Besides, having used a calculator since 7th grade, I think I depend on it too much… I can’t seem to do simple math mentally… 😛

    I guess both the education systems are a bit faulty and could use some tweaking. Also, it’s partly up to the school to come up with innovative ways of teaching.

    Chavie would be the best judge considering he’s sat for both exams. 🙂

    • Chavie said:

      actually I didn’t… I sat for local O/Ls but never tried my luck with A/Ls… would’ve been virtual suicide with my procrastination and stuff… 😉

      but I did have lots of friends who sat for the local exams and end up disappointed because their syllabus is too large to study the whole thing and in addition they get questions which are totally out of the syllabus too… some A/L maths questions are rumored to be so hard that even university professors have difficulty solving them…

      compare this with edexcel: your exams are broken down into modules and you won’t get anything outside what the syllabus says you get for that module. you get to use cals. you get to resit exams every 6 months. you get to break up the exams into A/S and A2 (infact I did the exams in 4 sittings, without any re-sits) aaaaand the questions are pretty easy… 😉

      the simple answer to the big question is: we need more unis, private ones since the government can’t afford to keep up with the demand… end of story! 😀

    • Whacko said:

      The puppeteer – good observations about the local syllabi. Iv also noticed that it is less flexible and sometimes outdated as well. As for calculators, there are plus points like you said; but students could be allowed to do much more complicated and useful mathematics (for e.g.) if high tech cals were allowed in the premises. But this also raises the matter of cost.

      Chavie – yeah, the edexel series sure allows room for a bit more flexibilitty and ease doesn’t it

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