Protecting a noble profession
THE teaching profession is one
of the noblest professions in the world. Teachers have the
onerous responsibility of moulding a future generation that
respects moral values and social ethics. It would not be wrong
to say that the country’s future lies in their hands.
However, recent incidents prove that all is not well with
this profession and those engaged in it. The action taken by
several trade unions to boycott the marking of A/L answer
scripts is one such example. To add insult to injury, many
teachers did not report for duty when schools started after the
The reason given for these actions by teacher trade unions is
that they are experiencing salary anomalies. The Government has
however noted that such a salary increase could cost billions of
rupees to the Treasury. This will be a huge burden on the
Government at this stage.
After all, the Government cannot only think of teachers and
grant them a salary hike without considering other sectors in
the public service.
In any case, the best way to approach this issue is through
negotiations, not strikes.
That will enable both sides to work out a compromise formula
without bringing innocent students into the picture and
jeopardising their future.
Indeed, the teachers’ strike action has affected students
around the island. A delay in the processing of A/L exam answer
scripts leads to a delay in the release of results, which in
turn affects university admissions.
The society still holds teachers in high esteem, though
commercialism has also crept into education. It is no secret
that many teachers earn a substantial extra income through
tuition classes after school hours and during weekends/holidays.
Moreover, some of them are known to give priority to the tuition
Another factor affecting students is the ‘brain drain’ of
some of the best teachers to international schools mushrooming
around the island. This will lead to a situation where
fee-paying students could gain an advantage over their
counterparts in Government schools.
The time has also come to re-assess the aura surrounding the
so-called popular or premier schools. Parents are known to move
heaven and earth to get their children admitted to these schools
in the main cities.
New guidelines have been issued in respect of Grade One
admissions, but the scramble for the ‘best’ schools will not end
unless and until we have good schools all over the island.
As an initial measure, a few selected schools in each
district must be developed with all facilities so that students
living in the periphery do not have to scramble for places in
leading city schools.
Providing physical infrastructure to schools is not enough,
as long as qualified teachers are not posted.
Many remote schools suffer from a lack of teachers for
important subjects such as English and science, which seriously
affects the students’ studies.
Some premier schools are known to have a surfeit of teachers
and the authorities must take steps to rectify this anomaly.
Sri Lankan Governments have always made substantial budgetary
allocation for free education, which now includes free textbooks
Unfortunately, our education system cannot still produce
students who match the criteria required by the job market, due
to fundamental flaws in the curricula which are not geared to
This issue should be urgently addressed as part of the
ongoing education reforms and teachers should be more widely
involved in evolving a better education system, instead of
participating in strikes.