This commentary is with reference to the PTF Draft Report on General Education
This report seem to be a piece of research and discourse that has considered a multi-sectoral team of 180 academics, senior government officials and professionals along with examples and inspiration drawn from some countries based on their Economic progress and perceptions of Education Quality.
It is not clear how the Presential Task Force liase or relate with the National Education Committee (NEC), which was established in 1992, which state on its website , as its Vision and Mission and Main Functions as follows;
Vision: A Comprehensive National Policy Framework for a sound Education for All, ensuring fairness and adaptability, to face all challenges and for maintaining Sri Lankan identity.
Mission: Deliberate on National Education Policy and make recommendations ensuring continuity in all segments of the education system in the context of changing needs of Sri Lanka.
- Make recommendations to the President, on educational policy in all its aspects, with a view to, ensuring continuity in educational policy and enabling the education system to respond to changing needs in society, including an immediate review of educational policy and plan or plans and the making of recommendations to the President, on a comprehensive National Education Policy.
- Review and analyze periodically, the National Education Policy and Plan or plans in operation and where necessary, to recommend to the President, changes in such Policy, Plan or Plans.
- Advise the President on any other matter relating to education which may be referred to it by the President, for its advice.
The NEC vice chairperson is only a member of the 180 strong PTF within the General Education Core Group. The multi-sectoral report does not seem to identify, recognise or acknowledge the National Education Committee and the numerous research, reports and recommendations that has been produced in the past.
While the overall sentiment of the report is progressive, it seem to lack cohesion between different components of the broad Education context. It is possible that given the time constraint of preparing the draft within three months with a wide array of professionals and academics that components were done in small teams working in isolation, which ended up as one single report of the different working groups.
The report covers a wide range as follows , however lack of consistency and rooting on National Education goals flowing from Pre-school Education to Higher Education.
2.1 National policy statement for general education
2.2 Pre-school Education
2.3 Primary Education
2.4 Lower/Junior Secondary
2.5 Upper/Senior secondary
2.6 Curriculum Development and Revision
2.7 Establishment of Curriculum Development and Assessment Centre
2.8 Testing and Assessment Systems
2.9 Text books
2.10 Reading habits and use of school library
2.11 Career Guidance
2.12 Different pathways in General Education
2.13 Present 13 years guaranteed education programme
2.14 Teacher Development
2.15 Principal as the Leader
2.16 Classification of schools
2.16 Sharing resources between Schools
2.17 Quality Assurance and Accreditation
2.18 Improving Planning and Management of Education system
2.19 Regularisation of Private and International schools
2.20 Non formal Education
The following two approaches are discussed in this report separately.
*Mindfulness in Schools
It is possible that while at a higher level the Education goals are defined, at each sectional focus, the committee narrowed down on solving current problems and fixing them without anchoring on and referring to the National Education Goals.
The National Education goals itself is not clearly stated and articulated (evidence of lack of cohesiveness and dialogue that would have made it possible). There is also no reference to the National Education committee 1992 National Goals of Education and five basic competencies in this report and whether they should change and if so what those changes proposed are. Section 2.1 is where the overarching goals, objectives should be discussed, however this is merely a suggestion to change to a Pledge, that all stakeholders are expected to by heart. Does the pledge reflect the non-existent National Education goals or is the pledge in itself the goal?
Proposed policy motto for Sri Lanka is as follows:
“CREATIVE SCHOOLS, ENLIGHTENED NATION”
Pledge to the Nation
The non-availability of a pledge to the nation to recite at the schools is a significant drawback concerning the development of social integration and sense of devotion to the country.
Although children recite the national anthem, it does not seem to help inculcate the nation’s feeling of pride in the minds of children.
Appoint a committee of experts to prepare a pledge to the nation. The committee should comprise of representatives of three main ethnic groups (Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim).
The pledge to the nation also may focus on nation-building, ethnic harmony, and respect to all, and also adhering to principles of human rights and dignity and maintaining discipline in the society. It should be recited in all schools daily in the morning before the schools begin the sessions.
A Pledge to the nation, that is recited everyday morning does not make for meaningful change of a people just as much as reciting the National Anthem does not. A pledge is only as useful as how other structural and systemic barriers are addressed in a concrete manner within and outside the Education system. In order to walk the talk the culture within schools should be facilitated to include approaches such as Non-Violent Communication, Practice of Dialogue for conflict transformation, Restorative justice (as opposed to only retributive justice)Personal Accountability, Significant reduction of the power distance between the teacher and student.
A Pledge to the Nation that includes ethno-religious harmony (Religious harmony is not mentioned the report’s pledge) and respect for all, the segregation of schools should be removed. All schools should be non-segregated based on gender, ethnicity/religion. The existing such schools that are segregated in some manner or the other should be phased out over a period of time (10-20 years) along with other organisation changes proposed elsewhere in the school system.
It is disappointing and frustrating to note that we seem to be reinventing the wheels in terms of policy formulation, without reforming previous works done and stalled halfway. The PTF could have at least taken off from the numerous reports of the National Education Committee, recommendations that was provided and consider the gap between Policy Dialogue, Policy Formulation and Policy Implementation.
It is not clear what the National Education Goals are as different reports seem to be proposing different ones without reference to the other. Our limited research on this found the following two sets as National Goals of Education.
First set from the Final report of the National Committee for Formulating A New Education Act for General Education proposes the National Goals as follows
1.1.1. Developing a Sri Lankan citizen with love and dedication to Motherland through fostering national cohesion, national integrity and national unity
1.1.2. Respecting human dignity recognizing pluralistic nature and cultural diversity in Sri Lanka upholding tolerance and reconciliation
1.1.3. Recognizing and conserving the worthy elements of the nation‟s heritage while responding to the challenges of a changing world
1.1.4. Creating and supporting an environment imbued with the values of social justice and a democratic way of life
1.1.5. Promoting a life style based on respect for human values and sustainable development
1.1.6 Promoting the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals
1.1.7. Cultivating the attributes of a well – integrated and balanced personality
1.1.8. Developing human resources for productive work that enhances the quality of life of the individual and the nation to contribute to economic development
1.1.9. Empowering individuals to adapt to and manage change, and to develop capacity to cope with rapid change, complexities and unforeseen situations
1.1.10. Fostering a liberated world view in keeping with modern knowledge to secure a respectable place in global community
The second set was found in the National Policy on General Education 2016 which refers to the National goals of Education as follows
(i) The achievement of National Cohesion, National Integrity and National Unity.
(ii) The establishment of a pervasive pattern of Social Justice.
(iii) The evolution of a Sustainable Pattern of Living – A Sustainable Life Style which is vital for the year 2000 and beyond, when, for the first time in thehistory of Mankind even air and water cannot be taken for granted.
(iv) The generation of Work Opportunities that are, at the same time, dignified,satisfying and self-fulfilling.
(v) In the above framework, the institution of a variety of possibilities for All toParticipate in Human Resources Development, leading to cumulativestructures of growth for the nation.
(vi) The active partnership in Nation Building Activities should ensure the nurturing of a continuous sense of Deep and Abiding Concern for One Another.
(vii) In a rapidly changing world, such as we live in today, it is imperative to cultivate and evolve elements of adaptability to change— Learn to Adapt to changing Situations. This must be coupled with the competencies to guide change for the betterment of oneself and of others.
(viii) The cultivation of a Capacity to cope with the Complex and the Unforeseen,achieving a sense of security and stability.
(ix) The development of those competencies linked to Securing an Honourable Place in the international community.
It would be good to know how this multi-sectoral report will progress and the role of the National Education Commission going forward, and what truly are the National goals of Education in Sri Lanka, without which further planning and policy dialogue seem a rather unnecessary and unproductive piece of work.