A Sri Lankan Attempt To Provide Basic And Essential Education
For All children in primary classes
E.L. Suranimala and K.A.D.P. Sarathchandra
The government of Sri Lanka implemented new Educational Reforms for Primary Education Circle in 1998 with the main objective of improving the quality of Primary Education. A competency based curriculum had been introduced and activity based child-centered teaching methodologies were adopted. A number of special programs were introduced to overcome the problems associated with the system. All primary school teachers were given necessary training to enable them to implement the educational reforms successfully in their own classroom situations. In addition, the facilities available at schools were improved to meet the demands of the new curriculum.
The identification of Essential Learning Competencies for all Key Stages (1-3) at Primary Level could be considered as a revolutionary step towards improving the quality of teaching-learning process. The main objective of this programme is to provide basic and essential education for all irrespective of their learning difficulties. The implementation of changes was carried out in two phases. In the first phase the changes were introduced only in Gampaha District. Having introduced certain modifications to the programme the second phase was conducted island wide.
The programme is in operation for almost five years and a number of studies had been conducted by the National Institute of Education and the National Education Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme. These studies revealed that the education system of Sri Lanka has absorbed this programme very well and the level of student performance has been substantially improved. A substantial change in the teachers attitudes towards teaching and learning is also noted.. Further, the National Education Commission suggested in one of their reports that the 5th Year Scholarship Examination should be based on these Essential Learning Competencies. However, it is revealed that the programme has less impact on children studying in rural schools. Even in those schools where the programme is in operation teachers are not competent in planning and implementing activities to assess Essential Learning Competencies of primary children. Therefore, a monitoring scheme to evaluate the implementation of the programmes at different levels and an awareness raising programme for teachers are suggested as solutions to the existing weaknesses.