|Wednesday, 10 March 2004|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 11 2429429 / 94 11 2421181
Fax : 94 11 2429210
Whither educational reforms?
What has become of the educational reform process which was courageously spearheaded by President Kumaratunga in the PA years? This is one of the most troubling posers for the UNF regime. Was it allowed to run aground and gradually disintegrate? The accompanying, lead article on this page answers this question in the affirmative, giving detailed information on the nature, scope and scale of the main projects which were undertaken by the PA regime.
The position today is that many of the desired fruits from these initiatives are yet to be reaped on account of the Government abandoning them midstream or as a result of their remaining still-born. The onus is on the Government to account for the noticeable inaction in the educational sphere, which was, rightly, given top priority by the President and ably administered by the then Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr. Tara de Mel.
The crying need is continuity in national policy, and this applies very significantly to education - a sector which is almost solely responsible for the development of relevant human resources.
As the accompanying article explains, the educational reforms aimed at bridging the gap between the formal educational process and national needs and the project aimed at reviving the Central School concept have been allowed to suffer neglect. The reported closure of some provincial schools is proof that no rigorous effort is being made to take education to the provinces.
Questions also need to be raised about the Amity Schools project - which aimed at creating ethnic harmony - and the initiative aimed at introducing English as an alternative medium of instruction right throughout the school system.
How far have we also progressed in meeting the educational needs of the North-East and in nurturing better quality teachers? Have teacher transfers been systematized and the needs of provincial schools, in this regard, been fulfilled?
These and many more questions need to be raised by the discerning public. It is a pity that educational projects are dumped by governments, not on their intrinsic demerits, but in consideration of extraneous factors, such as which political party or personality initiates them? Is it surprising that Lanka is remaining mired in poverty and maldevelopment?
A new era for tea
Coffee houses such as Starbucks and Barista have conquered the world. Several instant coffee brands are household names everywhere. However, its main rival, tea, does not enjoy the same popularity, mainly because tea producing countries have done little to promote the brew in novel ways.
There are signs that this attitude is changing, at last. Several upscale 'tea bars' have been opened in India recently, under names such as Veritea and Infinitea. These offer nearly 70 varieties of tea to discerning drinkers, ranging from "bubble tea", a frothy concoction of black tea, milk and a combination of flavours spiked with translucent tapioca bubbles to "Pearls of the Mountain", made by individually rolling each tea leaf into a pearl-shaped ball.
A Sri Lankan hotel too opened a 'T-Bar' last year, while less expensive teas can be enjoyed at several outlets at City shopping malls. It is a new way of selling a drink that has stood the test of time.
Both India and Sri Lanka being great tea producing nations, this development augurs well for the tea industry, which has gone through turbulent times due to lower prices. With the Indian T-bars planning to venture overseas, the cup that cheers is sure to win more hearts globally.
Tea badly needs diversification, as the only variety that an overwhelming majority of drinkers know is the ubiquitous black leaf. T-bars will prove that this should not be the case.
That brings us to the dubious quality of teas that locals are compelled to consume in tea-producing countries. Exports should be given priority, but locals too should be given access to quality tea at affordable prices. T-bars and similar outlets as well as attractively-priced ready-to-drink tea packets can help in this endeavour.
Sri Lanka, the leading exporter, and other tea growing countries may fight for the biggest share of the world market, but they should act as one to promote the brew as a healthy alternative to coffee and soft drinks. The proposed International Tea Foundation must begin work soon to make tea the preferred beverage of the new millennium. T-bars and other innovative initiatives can be employed to achieve this goal.
Produced by Lake House