|Tuesday, 15 June 2004|
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In government schools there are 16,371 students learning in the English medium. Of these, 6,787 are boys and 6,984 are girls. In Colombo district alone, there are 3,754 students (30 per cent), the next being Kurunegala district (14per cent). Kandy stands third (11per cent).
In Sri Lanka, there are 9,998 Government schools and 63 private schools, with a pupil population of about 4.3 million against a teacher population of about 174,000.
According to 1992 statistics, there were 8,053 English trained teachers, 2,272 certified teachers (Sinhala, English, Tamil) and 6,904 English teachers with GCE O/L and GCE A/L qualified. The ratio between pupil population and English teacher population was 1,524.
Under this set-up, how is it possible to promote English education on an equal basis, throughout the schools in the island? For example, the O/L English test paper makes no difference in its presentation for students in urban areas and remote areas? Without professionally qualified teachers to teach English, any attempt to promote English education, just by word, is a farce. Today, teachers are keen to cover up the syllabus and nothing beyond to widen English knowledge.
Educated parents are keen to give their children a good English education by spending lavishly as the need arises. Some admit their children to International Schools where the medium of instructions is in English. The Government should maintain an equal standard with justice to every child. In some village areas, the school buildings are little better than cattle sheds, with no facilities, if not a little.
If the Government wishes to make English compulsory, as a second language, every child must be given the opportunity to learn it under capable tutorship. There should be no discrimination between a child attending an urban school and a village school. From what I have heard is that teachers in prestigious schools are not transferred out to village areas, but they remain in the same school until they retire. If it ever happens, it must be a political transfer.
ARYADASA RATNASINGHE, Mattegoda
It is deeply regretted that the English version of the Stamp Bulletin No: 565 dated February 28, 2004 issued in connection with the issuance of a Rs. 3.50 stamp refers to the Venerable Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera as Honourable Mapalagama Ven. Vipulasara and thereafter calls the Venerable Thera as he. The Sinhala version is worse. The Venerable Thera is referred to as OHU throughout.
In the most recent issue of the Stamp Bulletin No. 569 dated May 22, 2004 commemorating Veera Gongalegoda Banda and for which a Rs. 4.50 Postage Stamp was issued, the English version refers to the national struggle for the establishment of an Independent Sovereign State in 1848 as ulterior motive whereas the Sinhala version refers to the ultimate aim.
This is only a sample of the many errors that appear in these Bulletins regularly.
If this is the trend of the new generation at the Philatelic Bureau then there is something wrong which needs correction immediately before the good name of Sri Lanka is sullied as these Bulletins are read by stamp collectors, stamp Magazine Editors and Stamp Catalogue Editors throughout the world.
OLIVER T. GOONAWARDENA, Moratuwa
There is a dearth of qualified and experienced academic staff at many universities especially those which have been recently established such as Rajarata University (RU). The UGC was not bothered about this situation all this time.
The Secretary of the Education Ministry needs to be complemented for initiating action to fill the vacancies for academic staff in Universities. Recruiting academic staff to a university has to be done with a commitment to develop the academic standards of the university because the success of a university depends to a great extent on its academic staff.
However, if one looks at the way how academic staff was recruited at Rajarata University (RU), one wonders whether the authorities at RU has any commitment to develop the human resources of this very important educational institution.
According to rules laid down by the UGC, the minimum academic qualifications required for appointment to the post of Professor are a first degree with a class, a postgraduate degree and ten years of experience in teaching/research after obtaining the postgraduate degree. However, the Registrar of RU recently called applications for the post of Professor in Plant Science, in the Faculty of Agriculture of Rajarata University.
According to this advertisement, postgraduates candidates (?) are to be given preference for the post of Professor. A class in the first degree, a postgraduate degree and ten years experience appear to be not necessary for recruitment of a Professor to Rajarata University.
The VC of RU and the UGC were informed of this advertisement but they remained deaf and dumb. In September 2003, in the same faculty, a number of probationary lecturer posts for specific subjects were advertised.
It took around seven months to hold interviews and strangely interviews were held even for subjects which were not advertised.
The vacancies still remain unfilled, and as a result, the academic work of the students is considerably affected.
A few months ago, a person with a BA second class, who is a close associate of the Vice Chancellor has been appointed to the Dept. of Sinhala as a lecturer, when there was no vacancy for such a post.
In this appointment, 8 others with much higher qualifications were overlooked. A large number of academic staff protested over this appointment but the VC and the UGC were deaf and dumb.
The probationary lecturers in a university are given eight years to obtain postgraduate qualifications for confirmation. Very recently RU terminated the appointments of three probationary lecturers because they have not been able to obtain postgraduate qualifications.
The three posts were advertised and the RU reappointed the three probationary lecturers whose appointments RU itself terminated. According to the University Act No. 16 of 1978, one of the objectives of the UGC is the regulation of the administration of Higher Educational Institutions. But, according to what happens at RU, the UGC appears to have miserably failed to fulfil this objective.
It is inactive like an inert gas. As a person who has an interest in the development of RU, it is fervently hoped that at least the new Secretary to the Ministry of Education, who appears to be actively interested in the development of education in the country, will take action to see that best academics are appointed to universities and the UGC, will not continue to remain deaf and dump on matters of national interest.
Dr. C. S. weeraratna, Former Professor of Soil and Water Resources Management, Rajarata University
Alarm bells are already ringing about another suspicious monetary scam which has begun recently. Under investigation by the Exchange Control this is promising to blow into huge proportions involving money most of which are the poor man's hard earned savings.
Recently three officers of private banks approached us with a fantastic tale of how we could earn millions of rupees virtually overnight by doing absolutely nothing but only convincing two other friends to buy a piece of gold or some other trinket from a gold selling Company after having bought one myself (each would cost a mere(!) Rs 55000 or so, I was told).
Though I was not interested I was curious to know how these people operated. They told me that regular meetings were being held at hotels to net in people and that such and such a person has become a 'member' instantly and that there was absolutely nothing to be suspicious about as even a person no less than the Pope had approved it.
Mind you, all this was coming from professional bankers who even said they had thoroughly investigated the gold company and as professional bankers could sanction it, giving the impression that the bank too was supporting it.
Subsequently after serious questions were raised about the company, days later and after the Bankers' Association cautioned the public about the veracity of its functions, a press release has been issued by them to allay fears of the public saying they have wonderful plans to do various projects to the betterment of the country with BoI approval already granted.
With the recent revelations of dishonourable activities that took place at the BoI and how some top officials have been involved during the past few months eyebrows will naturally be raised on the authenticity of such approvals.
The company even claims to have been appointed to produce and enact 'the Buddha coin program,' according to the press release.
As a reader my fears are that the company could be contravening the Exchange Control laws and robbing the people of this country by pouring technical jargon spiced with some millionaire sales talk on unsuspecting people.
Many frauds have been detected (some unfortunately too late) involving people who are holding responsible positions in society in the past.
A few local cases are Pramuka Bank fiasco and finance companies that went bankrupt, and BCCI, Enron scandal all of which at the inception had blanket official approval stamped on them to operate.
I hope a final verdict on this issue will be given by a Government responsible authority without any delay and swift action taken against any swindlers or culprits.
In addition responsible banks should take its officers to task for directly or indirectly wooing the public to take part in such activities because it is behind the veil of such reputed establishments that questionable operations are taking place.
D. KULATUNGA, Kandy
It is true that in order to minimize the spread of the deadly dengue epidemic now raging the country, each and every resident must endeavour to maintain his or her premises as clean as possible. But some of us, in spite of our maintaining our premises clean, are faced with a different problem.
There are instances where the land adjacent to one's living premises remains neglected due to there being no one on the land and the owners living away.
Since the owners are not living on the land and that they do not derive any benefit from it, other than owning it, they pay no attention to clean it up at least once in a way. If one looks at this problem in a different way, it clearly shows up a picture of a lot of unused land not being exploited in any profitable manner. Much of these lands are owned by fairly rich people who posses other land where they live.
I suggest that the new Lands Minister take up this question with a view to utilizing all available land. If owners of land wilfully neglect them, they must either be taxed exorbitantly or the land taken over by Government for more productive purposes.
V. K. WIJERATNA, Panadura
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