Sunday, January 8, 2012

First Universities

were Wesleyan Jaffna Central,

and in Batticotta, Jaffna  

S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, Lakbimanews.

National Integration – ‘Celebrating Tamil Contributions’ These are the days of talk – and I do mean talk – of national integration. As I write a paper to be read at the annual meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education on the siting of the new engineering faculty in Jaffna and do the requisite reading for it, my attention is increasingly forced on two Tamil achievements that do not get the plaudits they deserve from our nation.
If Tamils are truly a part of Sri Lanka, then our achievements must be recognized. And what better start to integration than that?
  •  First universities – Batticotta and Jaffna Central
Our official histories of university education in this country begin with University College, Colombo (1921). But real university education began at Batticotta (1823, now Jaffna College) and the 12-1Wesleyan Seminary (1834, now Jaffna Central College (Note 1). There could have been other seminaries between the two in Colombo. By the 1890s Jaffna’s schools (St. John’s, Central, and Jaffna Colleges) were successfully presenting candidates for the First in Arts of Madras and Calcutta.
It has been argued at the UGC in my time that if we included these institutions in our history of university education, then we must also include the Buddhist pirivenas which go back to earlier times. That argument is false and insulting; false because these seminaries were modern universities and not pirivenas. Indeed that argument did not apply at all to the FA candidatures.
Here is what Sir James Emerson Tennent (Colonial Secretary) had to say in a letter dated Jaffna, March 23, 1848 after observing the examinations being conducted at Batticotta and the Wesleyan Seminary: “The Collegiate Institution of Batticotta is entitled to rank with many an European University. I was present a few days after at a similar examination of the kindred seminary of the Wesleyan Methodists at Jaffna, conducted by Mr. Percival, one of the most profound Tamil scholars now in India (as Professor and Registrar at Madras); the course of study was nearly the same, the students taken from the same rank of the natives, and the display of classical learning and scientific attainment which I witnessed was in no degree inferior to that with which I had been so much charmed at the American seminary.”
We have testimony to the curriculum which was far above a pirivena training: “In the academical department, Algebra, Euclid, Conic Sections, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Logic, Rhetoric, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Paley’s Natural Theology, Butler’s Analogy, Classical Tamil and Sanskrit; in the normal department Arithmetic, Algebra, Grammar, Geography, History, Natural Theology, Tamil, Classical Reader, English Bible etc.” Religion was but a tiny part of the curriculum.
So why were these so called seminaries not colleges? It is because the British administration had plans to found the first modern university/college as a Church of England institution and refused permission to other missions to use the appropriate title. In the event, the Anglicans never got down to it!
A century later, we must ask: How many of our UGC universities can today rank “with many an European university?” Just as the colonial government refused them the due recognition, will the government of independent Sri Lanka also so refuse?
  • Christian David – the first black missionary priest and educator
Nearly all written histories of the early missionaries, who contributed so much to our education, list only Europeans. A well accepted CMS history lists the first Protestant missionaries to visit Ceylon from England, as,  Rev. J.D. Palm who settled down as pastor of the Dutch Church at Wolfendahl in Colombo and therefore gives “the pioneer of modern missions in Ceylon” as the Rev. James Chater who landed in Colombo on April 16, 1812.
The real pioneer, however, is Christian David – born in 1771, “a native of Malabar,” “formerly a servant in the family of the Rev. (Christian Frederick) Schwartz,”  “the son of the pious Satianaden ...who had himself waited when a boy on the apostolic missionary (Schwartz),” “a Tamulian (sic.), and pupil of the late Rev. C.F. Schwartz ... (one of the) the black preachers whom (the Dutch) left behind,”  and  “a convert of the missionary Schwartsz (sic.) in South India”
(Note 2). An energetic and creative man, David, who had been abandoned by the Dutch, noticed that Lieut. Colonel B.G. Barbut (Note 3), Commandant and Collector of Jaffna, was  at the “Cutcheri” using the Church of St. John the Baptist Chundikuli (affiliated later to St. John’s College (1851) named after St. John the Disciple) as a cattle shed. So David went daily to pray at the church occupied by Barbut’s cattle (probably to feed his soldiers). On noticing this Barbut melted and had the cattle removed, from the church building, appointed David as a Licensed Preacher of the Gospel. Governor Frederick North attended David’s service in March 1802. David was crucial to the Church, as catechist and, says Martyn,  superintendent “of over forty schools in the Northern Districts of the Island,” which were in fact Dutch schools fallen into neglect.
When Rev. Claudius Buchanan of CMS crossed from Rameswaram by Adam’s Bridge to Ceylon in 1808, he found that “the interests of the Church of England in the province of Jaffna were supported by the one Hindoo catechist, Christian David” (and that there were only two European priests elsewhere).  The other missions would not arrive till 1814-18.
David’s reputation was so high that in 1814 in Arippoo (near Mannar), Governor Brownrigg’s  wife, upon finding David there, hurriedly organized a service to be officiated using her husband as David’s lay-assistant and her own prayer book for the liturgy since David had not come to Arippoo ready to hold a service.
By the 1820s, The Revs. Joseph Knight and W. Adley were running schools in Jaffna. On Sundays, they alternated performing divine service “in Tamul at Mr. David’s church.” This was because he was still a catechist and not yet ordained.  However, David was formally in charge of the parish (according to a board at the church), and remained so until 1841.
Despite these credentials, David had difficulties in being recognized by the Anglican Church hierarchy. Bishop Reginald Heber (Anglican Bishop of Calcutta 1823-26, in charge of India and Ceylon then) seemed to have doubts about ordaining David into the Anglican priesthood. However, since David had been authorized to hold services at St. John’s with a licence to preach as “a catechist in the employ of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in Ceylon” –  in fact, Ceylon’s Governor Barnes himself had in March 1802 given David the title of Colonial Chaplain –  Bishop Heber felt compelled to acknowledge David through ordination.
Heber calls David’s ordination as Deacon about June 1826 “interesting and awful,” although he describes David as having “passed an exceeding good examination, and (giving) much satisfaction to everybody by his modesty, good sense and good manners.”  An almost immediate ordination as priest followed (1826), which Heber puts as giving himself both satisfaction and a terrible responsibility. We presume this was because David would have become Ceylon’s first real black priest (Note 4). Although others suggested that David’s first sermon upon ordination be published, Heber says he discouraged it.
Would we today deny to christian David the ready recognition that his times denied him as Ceylon’s first black Protestant priest, missionary and educator?
Note 1: Nearly all schools in a competition for heritage give earlier years for their founding. Their dates usually are not supported by the records.
Note 2: See works by Revs. George Smith, James Selkirk, Hugh Pearson, and J.W. Balding.
John H. Martyn says David was born of a highly connected and distinguished family, and his father held the post of the judge of the High Court of Justice under the regime of the Royal Dutch Government and was one of the Elders of the Lutheran Church. However, I find Martyn unreliable because of inconsistencies in his account which space does not warrant expanding on.
I agree with the way “black” is used because there is no one who is really black and no one really white. Black and White are political concepts.
Note 3: Note 3: Thanks to Mark E. Balmforth of Columbia University for the reference on Col. Barbut. He has been investigating the earliest non-European missionaries to Ceylon for his thesis. Dr. Darshan Ambalavanar has rightly pointed out that there were such clergy under the Dutch under whom some were trained at Leiden University after initial training in Nallur. C.R.A. Hoole has written of Tamil Bible translation by Adrian de Mey of Nallur.
Note 4: Mr. de Sarum (sic.) with an English wife was the second black priest and colonial chaplain in Ceylon. Heber thinks he was “entered” at Cambridge but does not say if he graduated. The Roman Catholics probably had black priests in Ceylon.
Z-score botched says its author PDF  | Print |  E-mail

ends up in supreme court
By Sanjaya Nallaperuma, Lakbimanews.

The new formula that was adopted to calculate the Z-score for the Advanced Level examination results is flawed, says the professor who introduced the Z-score in Sri Lanka.
Senior Professor, Agriculture Faculty, Peradeniya University R.O. Thattil told LAKBIMAnEWS that it is wrong to calculate the score on a single formula for two syllabi.

It is Professor Thattil who introduced the Z-score formula in Sri Lanka. However, the education authorities did not consult him prior to using the new formula, he said.
As a result many qualified students have been denied the chance of gaining entrance to universities, education analysts contended.
Meanwhile, Lanka Teacher Services Union (LTSU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin said that his union will be taking legal action against the release of Advanced Level results, soon.
He said that they will be filing a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court (SC) charging that the education authorities have failed in releasing the Advanced Level examination results correctly --  and due to this reason per se, the Advanced Level results should be declared null and void.
He said that they have also sought a decree from the SC that the Advanced Level examination results be re-issued.
Joseph Stalin also told LAKBIMAnEWS that all organizations and unions in the education sector including the University Lecturers Union have been summoned for a special discussion in this connection on January 11. He said a final decision regarding instituting legal action against the education authorities will be taken at the discussion.
Stalin also commented that they have no faith in the persons appointed to look into the entire system of releazing the said results, and that legal action will be taken against them as well. He further added that the formula that had been followed regards the old and the new syllabi to award a single Z-score was wrong, and that they will be making representations to the SC in this regard.

Education and examinations

The Nation

Nearly 90 percent of the students who take GCE (AL) do not enter universities and hence the Z Score is irrelevant to them Nearly 90 percent of the students who take GCE (AL) do not enter universities and hence the Z Score is irrelevant to them
Parents send their children to school for education. In this country, education is highly valued and often considered by many as the only way to progress. Therefore, those who design and deliver education in school and beyond bear a great national responsibility.
Quality of education in our national and other institutions has been a recurrent topic of public concern in recent times. Since more recently, the processes of education, especially the conduct of examinations and release of results, have become focal points of discussion, critique and now a reason for despair. This is very serious and it may shatter the foundations of our national institutions and social organisations. Therefore, once again, look at the very purpose of examinations in our education system.

The essential purpose of an examination held at the end of a course of study based on a curriculum is to assess the student’s learning. While the curriculum specifies the desired learning objectives and levels of achievement, examinations are designed as instruments of measurement. The first and the foremost purpose of the examination is to measure the students learning achievement and communicate it back to the student. Is this very purpose served by the processes adopted at the GCE (AL) examinations today? The obvious answer is NO! After the examination, students must receive a feedback comprising (a) results based on the measurement – examination marks in this case, (b) comments on the student’s performance including achievements and failures, and further (c) how the student could overcome his/her failures. Examinations are part of education and they, in this process of feedback, help students to improve their learning. No examination whatsoever, whether school, zonal, provincial or national, can be exempted from this role of giving feedback to student. To deny this learning is to commit a crime.

Examiner comments
Unfortunately, our students taking GCE (AL) examination do not have access to examiner comments on their answers. They cannot see their own examination answer script. They even do not know how many marks have been given by examiners. What they get is only a letter grade which is assigned to a wide range of marks. For example, the range of marks for the grade A is 75 to 100. A student receiving an A grade is unaware if the mark is close to 100 or 75 which is a vital information for the learning and motivation of the student. Why examination raw marks are not published by the Department of Examination is a rather mystery.

Examination marks are part of education and therefore, whether or not the Department of Examinations is part of education in this country, GCE (AL) examination raw marks must be published for the benefit of the student who has the right for information. This is the first thing that the Department must do in order to restore the credibility of the examination itself.

Going beyond the international standards of national examinations, our country has introduced a mechanical device to convert examination raw marks into a statistic called Z Score. The reasons for this conversion came out of observations made by many that students who took certain subjects for the examination enjoyed an easy way of reaching the higher ranking in certain streams and hence the raw marks were not good enough to decide who enters the university.

With this, rightly or otherwise, our educationists further lost of their sight of the purpose of education and examinations. Z Score was useful for those who make decisions about university admissions. Nearly 90 percent of the students who take GCE (AL) do not enter universities and hence the Z Score is irrelevant to them. The majority of students (including the minority entering the university) need to know the raw marks, the grades and the examiner comments on their work. This fundamental purpose of education and the students’ right is conveniently ignored.

A universal application of the Z Score across all the disciplines and subjects is a matter subject to controversy. I will not discuss it at this time. What is this Z Score? What is the formula used? Are the students, parents, teachers and principals of schools are informed and educated about the formula and why it is applied? The answer is NO. Not even some of our leaders in education and educational institutions are fully aware of the answer to this question. How can a nation accept the verdict of persons who make the decision in darkness?

In statistics, Z Score is calculated to find out how well or how poorly has a given performer (a student in this case) performed in comparison to the average performance of a group of performers at a given task (examination in this case). If your result is above the average, then you have done well, and if below the average, the result is poor. In order to measure the degree of ‘how well’ or ‘how poor’ the method takes the difference between the average (mean) mark of the group and the mark received by the individual student and that difference is divided by the standard deviation of the group marks (denoted by simple s in statistics). The result, stated in terms of s is the Z Score. The standard deviation tells us the ‘average’ difference between individual scores and the group mean.

To clarify this further, let us take a simple example. Assume that the average (mean) score of the marks obtained by all students in a given subject is 55 marks, while student A has obtained 70 marks. The difference is 15 marks which is divided by the standard deviation (assume that s is 6.0) to obtain the Z score of  2.5. Thus, the Z score is a measure of the distance between the average performer and the given performer. If the given performer has less than 55 marks, the Z Score will be negative and seen as a poor performer to that extent. This is the straight forward method which I believe would have been adopted by the educationists to meet certain situationally-specific factors like the number of sittings by a student, etc.

The criticism today is that the full formula and its application methods are not fully disclosed. People seem to also argue that the Z Score is unclear in respect of those who took old syllabi vs. the new syllabi at the last examination. Surely, this point is valid, and begs explanation in a manner that the general public would understand.

At the heart of a most valid reasoning of this controversy is a conservative attitude that is shared and protected by many educationists and administrators. The attitude is that ‘examinations are confidential.’ Those who hold this attitude apply tyrannical methods to examinations: they create tense environments at examinations; they protect examination scripts are their own property without disclosing their contents or examiner comments to students; and they claim they have proprietary rights over those of students. We may have inherited these from our colonial practices which the colonial masters have now changed drastically.
We continue because they offer powerful shields behind which our educationists can hide their mistakes. This attitude goes well with our cultural values of authority without responsibility.
Discarding this attitude means hard work, fair-play and loss of power in front of students and their parents! This is an aspect of educational bureaucracy that I had tried to change over and over without success. As a member of the Governing Council of the National Institute of Education in the 1990s, and as a Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission 2006/2007, I personally tried out some of my ideas against this attitude only to find that I did not occupy the correct seat of authority.

However, I introduced all what I talk of academic transparency to the Postgraduate Institute of Management which I directed from the right seat of authority from 1986 to 2007 and the new attitudes that I cultivated have paid off. I must say that many other higher learning institutions have also followed suit successfully.

Loss of faith
The media coverage that has been given to the issues revolving around Z Scores and their district rankings and the emerging anxiety among parents and students and others concerned pose an important matter of policy and practice to government. Given the circumstances, one has to consider the implications of a wide-spread disbelief in the examinations results including the following: (a) internationally, universities and educational authorities may begin to ask questions about the validity of examination results of Sri Lankan students, and they may gradually turn to other measures of performance; (b) the amount of anxiety and mental suffering that thousands of students go through the feeling that their examination results are incorrect is beyond measurement; and (c) a belief among the public that government is responsible for this and hence a loss of faith in our ability to govern undermines the long-term stability of the government.

In view of the above, the government (not the educational bureaucracy) can gain by doing the following: (i) Release raw marks of all students including their rankings; (ii) re-examine Z Scores and clarify discrepancies, if any; (iii) explain and justify the methods of treatment imposed on the marks of old syllabus students; (iv) permit students to examine their marked scripts by visiting the centres where they took the exams.
(Prof. Gunapala Nanayakkara is a Senior Professor of Management Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura.)

Ragging rages on

 The Sunday Times

Although it is a punishable offence under Act No. 20 of 1998, incidents varying from verbal abuse to sexual are on the increase at the so called higher seats of learning, with some students even opting out due to its serious nature.
Nadia Fazlulhaq reports
Janith*, obtained good results at the Advanced Level examination and was among the fortunate to enter the Arts Faculty of Peradeniya University last October. But sadly, this fresher who resided at the Marcus Fernando Hall was admitted to Peradeniya Hospital with assault injuries and medical reports revealing that he had been sexually abused several times.
According to Peradeniya Police OIC Jaliya Heenkenda, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has taken over the investigation into the sexual assault. For Kumudini Wathsala De Silva, a first year student at the Ruhuna University who was already suffering from a spinal injury, the ragging sessions at the campus aggravated the injuries. She is now receiving treatment at the National Hospital, for severe pain and difficulty in walking.
Disrupted education: Kumudini, victim of ragging receiving treatment at the National Hospital. Pic by Mangala Weerasekera
“I was among the 400 students who were crammed into the canteen on December 21.I told a senior that I was suffering from a spinal injury caused during the leadership training. But she pushed me forward. As she did so I knocked my leg against a cement stool and the pain was so unbearable that I fainted,” she recalled.
She said she was now suffering from a numbness in her lower limb and pain in the spine. Student ragging is not new to Sri Lanka. In 1975 Peradeniya University was the first to report a major ragging related incident when a fresher of the Faculty of Agriculture became paralyzed as a result of having jumped from the second floor of the hostel to escape the physical ragging by seniors. She later committed suicide.
But a series of major ragging incidents last year has triggered concern among university aspirants, academics and parents. Last year eleven undergraduate Buddhist monks were expelled from the Buddhist University after inquiries revealed that they were involved in ragging fresher monks.
Eight students from Sri Pali University in Horana were also suspended over ragging incidents.
Several students of the University in Colombo have been suspended for their alleged involvement in a ragging incident.
This year, seven second year students of Rajarata University’s Medical Faculty were suspended from attending lectures over their involvement in a ragging incident. Among those suspended was a female student.
Sri Lanka introduced the “Prohibition of Ragging and other forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act No. 20 of 1998”, with the aim of eliminating brutal ragging in universities. According to the Act, ragging is defined as an act that causes or is likely to cause physical or psychological injury or mental pain or fear to a student or a staff member”.
Under this Act, ragging is a punishable offence under which any individual found guilty would be subjected to two years rigorous imprisonment or ten years if the ragging involved sexual harassment or grievous hurt. Depending on their gravity students found guilty could face expulsion from the University as well.
In spite of it being a punishable offence ragging has taken a brutal turn with students sometimes being stripped naked and forced to perform painful and unnatural sexual acts. According to Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil Navaratne there is nothing that can be termed innocent ragging in Sri Lanka, only violent harassment.
Yukti Ekadeera
He said nearly 210 students were suspended from universities island wide last year with a majority of them being over incidents of ragging. “The Peradeniya incident is still being investigated and about 10 students have been suspended.
All these years we resorted to lenient means like suspending and advising as legal action would affect their image as educated persons but if the violent nature continues we will take stern legal action under the Act,” he warned.
He said Vice Chancellors of universities have been told to take stern disciplinary action against those involved in violent forms of ragging. He also said that plans were underway to introduce career-oriented programmes for second year students.
He said among the universities, Peradeniya had reported the most number of ragging incidents.
Anti-Ragging Students’ Collective convener Yukti Ekadeera told the Sunday Times that about 160 students of the Peradeniya Arts Faculty had given up studies because of severe ragging during the past three years, adding that 52 students gave up studies in 2008, 39 in 2009 and 59 in 2010.
He said according to the statistics from the university’s health centre, 115 students had been treated during the ragging season in 2008, 100 in 2009 and 185 in 2010. He also made the shocking allegation that some senior female students approached female freshers from low income families and forced them to work at massage parlours.
“We don’t see the government and student unions working together against ragging. I was a victim of ragging during my first year at Peradeniya. I was in a group of newcomers who were beaten with bamboo. My head was also shoved in to a toilet pit. As a result I became an anti-ragger,”he said.According to him, an anti-ragger is not allowed to enter the university canteens or watch a drama on the premises. They would also be attacked with rotten eggs when walking in the university premises and denied hostel facilities.
“Some students are forced to bathe four to five times at night continuously for three months. We are not against ragging which was introduced as some innocent teasing when welcoming the newcomers, but the present condition is far from innocent,” he said. However, Peradeniya University Vice Chancellor Prof. Sarath Abeykoon said university authorities were taking steps to reduce the cases of severe ragging.
“About 30 to 40 students were suspended last year. Prior to 2009, most of the suspensions were reversed but now the decisions to suspend are rarely reversed. Lack of social skills during the primary education period have led to this irresponsible kind of behaviour,”he said.
Ruhuna University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Gamini Senanayake commenting on the state of ragging said, “Ironically, the faculty of humanities and social sciences records the highest number of cases. The commonest is verbal ragging and bullying but our policy is zero tolerance to any sort of ragging and if found guilty we will expel them,” he said.
He said he believes feelings of insecurity and inferiority complex are some of the reasons that lead to violent ragging. Shenali* who was selected to the Arts Faculty of a university last October became a victim of verbal abuse because she was from Colombo. She said although students claimed that the aim of the rag was to bridge the gap between students from the village and those from the city, it never happened in her case. “I was rather cornered so I became friends with others who were also from the city but we were insulted and shouted at all the time,” she said.
*-Names have been changed
Peradeniya ragging: 25 to appear in court
By L. B. Senaratne

Callous Response By Education Officials

By Raisa Wickrematunge, The Sunday Leader
Students demonstrating
The education sector in Sri Lanka is in a state of turmoil. From the confusion and controversy of the Advanced Level results to petrol bombs in the Sri Jayawardenapura University and student unrest, incidents keep making the news.
Yet it must be noted that this sector has not been passed over in terms of Government supervision. There are five Ministers who are officially tasked with various areas. There is the Minister of Education, Bandula Gunawardena, the Deputy Minister of Education, Wijith Wijithamuni Zoysa, the Minister of Higher Education, S. B. Dissanayake, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Nandimithra Ekanayake, and the Education Ministry Monitoring MP, Mohanlal Grero.
Between them, these five people hold the reins of power in the sector. Yet even with the recent addition of Monitoring MP Grero, the bungling continues, and each Ministry is keen to pass the responsibility to someone else. So, how exactly do these institutes fit together, and what does each Minister do?
Missing In Action
Secretary to the Higher Education Ministry, Dr. Sunil Nawaratne, said that S. B. Dissanayake’s purview extended to “all higher education institutions, including advanced technological institutions”. Deputy Minister Ekanayake provided assistance in these areas, Nawaratne said. S. B. Dissanayake is currently overseas, Ministry sources said.
The Secretary to the Education Ministry, H. M. Gunasekara, seems to have a schedule busier than most Members of Parliament. He was unavailable for comment over the course of a week. Minister Bandula Gunawardena was similarly missing in action. The Monitoring MP Grero was also too busy to answer his phone.
The Advanced Level Fiasco
It is not hard to guess why most of the Ministers are conveniently absent – the recently “released” Advanced Level results. Advanced Level students received a most unwelcome Christmas present when they realised that the ranking system was full of errors. To further confound things, some students received results in an entirely different stream, with Science students receiving Arts results and so on. There was such an uproar that the Department of Examinations hastily decided to take another look at the results, though it was announced that there would be no change. The retirement of Commissioner General of Examinations Anura Edirisinghe was coincidentally announced shortly after, as he had served his full term in the post. The President then appointed a committee to look at the results and determine what went so badly wrong. Already, the re-examination of the results has been delayed, with the deadline extended to January 17, the Examinations Commissioner W. Pushpakumara said on Friday (6).
A mistake in the ‘Z score’ has been pinpointed by many as the reason for most of the errors – but what exactly is the Z score? Nawaratne explained that it was a system which standardised scores so that those who sat for easier exams did not get an unfair advantage compared to those who decided to sit for more difficult papers.
He also revealed that the professors who developed the Z score were appointed by the University Grants Commission, which in fact came under the purview of the Higher Education Ministry. Five professors were appointed for the task.
Nawaratne was quick to say that the idea of the committee, however, came from the Education Ministry. Examinations Commissioner Pushpakumara refused to comment on the cause behind the mix up until the committee released its report.
Yet this varied from Deputy Minister Ekanayake’s statement. Ekanayake said that the mistakes could be the result of a computer error, but also implied that the Examination Commissioner’s department was at fault. “The Examination Department is an independent body. This falls under their purview. There could have been a miscalculation there,” Ekanayake said.
However, it is important to note that while the Advanced Level results have been dominating the newspapers, they have not been the only incidents of unrest in the sector.
Seven students were suspended for violence at the Rajarata University, while at Peradeniya, the students were worried about a gang which had arrived on the University premises and burned some banners placed there.
Meanwhile, in the early hours of Thursday (5) a petrol bomb exploded at Sri Jayawardenapura University, reportedly damaging a memorial statue on the campus grounds. The statue was erected in memory of those who were killed during the incidents of unrest in 1971, 1988 and 1989. The Vice Chancellor, N. L. A. Karunaratne, claimed to the press that the blast was a deliberate attempt to create chaos.
On the same day, students at the university staged a protest walk to Temple Trees, demanding the removal of Karunaratne. The Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) had in the meantime claimed that Karunaratne had contracted security detail within the university, thus affecting the students. As a result, traffic in the area was heavily congested for hours.
These are the incidents reported in the past week; and whoever is at fault, it is clear that students remain dissatisfied with the state of the education sector. That trend looks set to continue. It seems that the Advanced Level students will have to wait some time before getting any answers.

Computer error: System crashes

By Rypvanwinkle,The SundayTimes
My Dear Bandula and SB,
I thought I must write a letter to you to congratulate you on the successful completion of the Advanced Level examination because I know very well that you will not be writing letters these days-especially at a time when everyone else is demanding your letters of resignation!
I really cannot understand why everyone is making such a fuss about this exam, Bandula and SB. Only some 300,000 students — out of a population of twenty million people — sat for this exam and that is just over one in every hundred people and it is as if the entire country was involved!
Why, just about a year ago, didn't we have a 'computer error' affecting the fortunes of some ten million people who voted — and that is one in every two people in the country — and as far as I can remember, no one made such a fuss about it or asked anyone to resign!
And what's more, you have been honest enough to come forward, face the people and tell the public that all this was due to a computer error and that it was not your fault, so what more do they want? You mustn't take notice of these trouble makers, Bandula and SB.
Of course, in other countries, ministers do resign when something goes wrong. But this is Sri Lanka and that is why we call it Paradise! In this country, only cricket captains resign and some of them don't even do that, so why should both of you, of all people, resign, Bandula and SB?
Of course, there is the occasional student who has been issued with results in Civics when he has sat the exam in Physics but as you would know, Bandula, sometimes when you want to buy a 'bittarey' from a shop they give you a 'pattarey'. So, all you have to do is to correct the mistake!
Then there are the stories about exam papers being found in a garbage bin somewhere. Again, didn't we have marked ballot papers in a drain somewhere, not so long ago? I think they must praise you instead of blaming you because you were able to find those papers before someone could mark them!
I heard that people are also blaming you for charging for re-correction of answer papers. It is funny, isn't it, when they blame you, no matter what you do? Here they are, complaining that their results are not accurate and when you offer them re-correction, they complain about that too!
Just imagine the benefits to everyone: the students get their answer papers looked at again, the postal department makes a tidy profit by handling all the applications for re-correction and the examinations department makes a windfall with all the charges they levy and everyone should be happy.
Of course, Bandula and SB, you have to charge a fee — even if the results were incorrect because of a computer error. Then you can collect a massive amount of money with which you can buy better computers next year, so that this will not happen again…
And just imagine what would happen if you don't charge a fee? Mahinda maama will have to list the examinations department as a loss-making institution and take it over — and you don't want that to happen, do you? Why, sometimes he even takes over institutions that are running at a profit!
Then they blame you, SB, for this mess over the 'Z score' and the district ranking. Surely, SB, we all know that becoming a politician is the only job you can get without any educational qualification, not even the 'Pahey Shishyatvaya'!
And, judging by the manner in which some of your colleagues behave in Parliament we are not sure whether they have stepped in to a school, even to take shelter from the rain! And here they are, blaming you for not understanding what the 'Z score' and the district rankings are!
Why don't you tell them, SB, that the only score you are interested in is the cricket score — and these days, you must be losing interest in that too — and that the only ranking you were interested in was Susanthika's when she ran the Olympics and you were the Minister of Sports.
I know, Bandula and SB, that Mahinda maama has appointed a committee to discuss this exams issue but you needn't worry about that. That, as someone once said, will be like a visit to the toilet: they will have a sitting, some deliberation, make a little noise and then finally drop the matter!
So congratulations, Bandula and SB, on doing a tough job very well. We know you will get through this difficult period because fewer people — those with a sense of shame and decency — would have failed but you are sure to succeed because both of you have been blessed with thick skins and thicker skulls!
Yours truly,
Punchi Putha.
PS: If you really wanted someone to reign over this you could have tried the IGP method: remember, there was a police shooting, someone died and the IGP was asked to resign a few days before retirement and then sent as an ambassador somewhere? You could have asked the Commissioner of Examinations to resign because he was due to retire anyway and then sent him as our High Commissioner to Bangladesh, where copying and cheating at exams is quite 'normal'. I am sure he would have really felt at home there!

Tertiary Education Opportunities for Secondary School Leavers Sans "Z-Score"

, The Island.

By Emeritus Professor. Dayantha Wijeyesekera
Chairman, Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC)
Chancellor, University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTEC)
(former Vice Chancellor, University of Moratuwa and Open University of S.L.)

At a time when there is much speculation in the recent past on the Z score, an advantage is that it has created much awareness among the students, parents and society of the existence of a such a scoring /rating criteria. While Z is being focused at, there has to be more importance placed on the A, B, C grades of GCE ‘A-level’ obtained and also those who have successfully completed the GCE ‘O-level’

Have the parents and students together with the Society at large forgotten there are many other OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION other than through the Z score rating in the Conventional Universities for 22500 places ?

There are degree awarding institutes, Professional Associations Open University of SL and the fast developing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector.

Unless there are very good valid reasons, repeat attempts ONLY, to obtain better Z score rating are very unwise. While pursuing other available and creditworthy Job oriented Tertiary Education Courses, there will be no serious harm for repeat attempts being made.

Furthermore, spending hard earned finances or borrowed funds of the parents to proceed overseas for Higher Education, when opportunities are available locally as listed below should be carefully assessed. However, higher education leading to degree level qualifications of reputed recognized overseas universities, could be considered provided the mid level courses leading to Certificate , Diploma qualifications etc to such qualifications are conducted in legally established Tertiary Education institutes, registered by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) and their courses accredited by the TVEC.

Tertiary Education is post secondary school education including higher education of which a major component is University education along with Professional education, Tertiary education, Vocational training, Skills development etc.

While some Member Associations of the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) have recognized degree equivalent Professional Courses, there are many other opportunities available in the Tertiary Education system for those with or without GCE O/L or GCE A/L qualifications respectively.

These Tertiary Education opportunities should be pursued through TVEC registered courses of study and there are available in the fields of study as shown below in the table, with most of them in many provinces in Sri Lanka.


Agriculture Plantation and Livestock


Art Design and Media (Visual and Performing)

Leather and Footwear

Automobile Repair and Maintenance

Marine and Nautical Science

Aviation and Aeronautics

Mechatronics Technology

Building and Construction

Medical and Health Science

Electrical, Electronics and Telecommunication

Metal and Light Engineering

Finance Banking and Management

Office Management

Fisheries and Aquaculture

Personal and Community Development

Food Technology

Printing and Packaging

Gem and Jewellery

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Hotel and Tourism

Textile and Garments

Human Recourses Management

Trainer Training

Information Communication and Multimedia Technology

Wood Related

Most of these courses of study are now being aligned to the National Vocational Qualifications framework (NVQF) which ranges from NVQ levels 1 to 7, where level 7 is at degree level for some selected fields at the University of Vocational Technology at Ratmalana.

Since these appears to be a lack of sufficient awareness among senior secondary school students, parents and school authorities of these TVEC registered Institutes and courses, further information should be sought for the pursuance of these courses on Tertiary and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) from the TVEC at the 3rd Floor, " Nipunatha Piyasa" located at No 354/2 Elvitigala Mawatha or by contacting tel. no. 011-5849291. Furthermore, these details could be obtained from the website and linking to the TVET Guide 2011.

While some of these courses of study would be competency based, they could be pursued on a part time basis, while being in employment or training.

In addition, to the state conventional university system, the Open University of Sri Lanka (though open and distance learning), other Higher Education Institutes, there are many other avenues and opportunities for Tertiary Education which should be sought by those who have left the secondary school seeking further education outside the conventional state university system and higher education.

It is very important and relevant that careful early decisions are taken rather than wasting time on repeating secondary education examinations, which can also be done if strongly desired, while being in tertiary education and vocational training.

GMOA to meet Secretary over DG incident

, The Island.

Expressing grave concern over the threats on the life of Dr. Ajith Mendis, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), at its Executive Committee meeting on Thursday, resolved to take up this critical issue with Health Ministry Secretary, Dr. Ravindra Ruberu to get a full picture of the incident.

"We are scheduled to meet with Dr. Ruberu on Monday morning to discuss the issue", GMOA’s Assistant Secretary, Dr. Upul Gunasekera said.

"The DG and the junior intern are both our members but neither of them had informed the GMOA about the incident", he noted. "Members usually seek our intervention in such issues".

Dr. Gunasekera said the GMOA needs a briefing on what transpired. "That is why we will be meeting the Ministry Secretary".

Medical administrators have also called for tangible action to arrest this disturbing trend, which had left senior health officials aghast.

47 all-paid scholarships on offer to Lankans to study in Indian Universities

,The Island


Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, January 7: A total of 47 scholarships are on offer to Sri Lankan college students to study in various Indian universities during the forthcoming 2012-2013 academic year.

According to an announcement by the Indian High Commission in Colombo, the offer includes 40 scholarships for under the "Nehru Memorial Scholarship Scheme" for undergraduate courses, five scholarships under the "Commonwealth Scholarship" scheme, two scholarships under Indian Ocean Region Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) Scholarship Scheme for postgraduate courses.

The High Commission of India selects deserving young Sri Lankan nationals for these scholarships, in consultation with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Higher Educationfor pursuing various undergraduate and postgraduate courses in different universities across India.

Young Sri Lankan undergraduates and postgraduates can choose to study in any of the 572 universities in India.

The Ministry of Higher Education has invited applications from eligible candidates and the last date for submission of duly filled up application forms is January 27.

All scholarships cover full tuition fees for the entire duration of the course and students are also paid a monthly living allowance. The scholarship also covers accommodation allowance and an annual grant for books, stationary.

Besides, all ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) scholars in India are provided full healthcare facilities, first class train fare and an annual grant for educational tours to various parts of the country, apart from several other auxiliary benefits.

Further details of the above scholarship and application form can be downloaded from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Higher Education

Website :

A/L results mess up portrays incompetence  of state authorities says FUTA

, The Island.

The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) expressed deep resent over the crass, undignified, unprofessional and incompetent way the educational authorities have followed in releasing 2011 Advanced Level results.

"It is reported that the results released are highly inconsistent and warped. This clearly portrays the incompetence and ignorance the state authorities have exhibited in releasing the results of the most competitive examination in the country which decides the future of students. The authorities not only made a complete mess by bungling the results, but also made utter ignoramuses of themselves by their uncouthness in the process of amelioration of the issue", FUTA said in a statement last week.

"The authorities are now engaged in a futile effort to cover the mess stating that this sort of minor mistakes have abundantly happened throughout the history. This amply reflects the attitude and concern that education authorities have for the children of this country", it noted.

FUTA highlighted this "unprecedented tragedy" as an example to warn the people of Sri Lanka, that it is the same group of incompetent individuals and chaotically run institutions that are now trying to reform the entire education system in our country keeping all stakeholders including dons in total darkness.

Though all the stakeholders of the higher education system in Sri Lanka have repeatedly been asking for a broad dialogue on the issue of the process of higher education reforms, the above mentioned individuals leading the said institutions have been unyielding to this basic democratic request. This is despite a general agreement between the government and the FUTA that all higher-education related reform processes will involve representation of FUTA", the statement signed by FUTA President, Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri said.

However, we reliably learn that that Quality Assurance Accreditation and Qualification Framework Bill commonly known as Non- State University Bill supposedly governing the establishment and functioning of non-state higher education institutions which has already received the approval of the cabinet will be presented to the Parliament in early January. This is in total contravention to the agreement between FUTA and the government (Ministry of Higher Education and the UGC).

At this juncture, FUTA reasserts that formulation of new reforms should only be performed through a proper dialogue that involves the major stakeholders of higher education. So far, the purported bill has not been seen by most of the stakeholders, including the Vice Chancellors, Deans, and the members of the academic staff of the state-universities. The academia is deeply disturbed and puzzled over the secrecy behind the bill, which putatively aims to enhance the higher education system in Sri Lanka.

"FUTA views the non-consultative process of introducing the aforesaid bill as a blatant violation of trust between academia and the government authorities, and hence will resort to take the maximum possible steps to preserve the dignity of all the stakeholders of higher education, while preserving the education system in the country".