A path to the top for the gifted
Example, as the
saying goes, is better than precept and no less a person than
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given the public an object
lesson in caring for the deserving and the less fortunate. Our
front page picture yesterday of the President presenting Yuresha
Buddhini, an Year 8 student of Balangoda Maithreye National
School, with a bursary to further her studies, we hope, will
inspire the state education authorities of this country and
other concerned quarters, into practising the principle of
equity in the provision of opportunities for our school-going
Interestingly, the President's gesture coincides with the
issuing of an Education Ministry circular to the effect that a
National School cannot enrol from schools of the same category,
those students whose educational performances in the higher
grades are considered exceptionally good. For instance, if the
student of a National School fares brilliantly at the GCE OL and
seeks admission to another more reputed National School on the
strength of these results, it would be illegal for the
authorities of the latter school to effect the admission.
The rationale underlying the directive is to provide more
opportunities for gifted but underprivileged students from the
provinces, in particular, to enter these National Schools which
are seen as reputed and to successfully pursue a career there.
If not, given the trend of the more gifted students of National
Schools successfully seeking admission to other National Schools
which are considered more reputed, the chances are that capable
but deprived students from underprivileged areas would not be in
a position to gain admission to National Schools, which are seen
as good, and pursue an AL education in them.
While measures, such as those outlined in the education
circular, could help to a degree in implementing the principle
of equity in school admissions, they do not constitute a
complete answer to the current issues in this area of concern.
We see as a comprehensive answer to the problem, the increasing
establishment of National Schools all over the country. This
would be a major step in the direction of not only equity in the
provision of educational opportunity but also a substantial and
positive move towards social justice. Accordingly, we urge the
state to give complete and serious attention to this policy
An important and positive outcome from the establishment of
National Schools throughout the country would be the elimination
of the current, widespread fixation with 'prestigious schools.'
It is this obsession which accounts for the scramble for 'good'
schools among most parents and elders. As is well known, this
scramble has today taken on the ugly complexion of a rat race
which badly bruises all concerned, besides giving rise to the
shaming blight of sleaze and corruption in Year One school
admissions. The most practicable solution to the crisis is the
setting-up in increasing numbers of fully equipped National
Schools which would meet the totality of the secondary students'
needs and aspirations. We were given to understand some time
back that the state was thinking very seriously of launching
more and more National Schools in this country and we urge them
to speed-up this scheme, since it is certainly a wise measure
which would benefit the majority of our students.
Meanwhile, it is also important to think in terms of giving
our secondary and undergraduate students as liberal an education
as possible. They need to be not only proficient in Science and
Commerce subjects, but in the Arts too. A good grounding in the
Arts would balance the current proclivity to stress the Sciences
and Commerce and lay the basis for the formation of well-rounded
personalities who would be emotionally mature, besides being
intelligent and perceptive about the material world.
Educational projects of great magnitude, to work out well,
need dedicated teachers who would place the students' interests
above theirs. Currently, this tribe of professionals is fast
dwindling in the state sector and the relative ease with which
teachers obtain transfers from 'difficult areas' in particular,
to more 'habitable climes', is not proving helpful at all. We
urge that this gamut of issues is addressed and resolved fast.