The need for the government to admit the mistakes made in the Z-score fiasco and solve the problem without delay and avoid a drastic human and social problem involving the students and parents was stressed at the Sambhashana discussion –‘Z-score & Crisis in Education’ – organised by TISL and held at the OPA auditorium in the presence of a large gathering on Monday 23 July, including affected students.
The students now displaced and downgraded are under severe stress and also their parents and it is even possible that some may commit suicide, it was pointed out.
The eminent panel stated that students with positions guaranteed of places in the original list and now not in the list, should be admitted to the universities. If, for some reason, these students cannot be accommodated, then they must be compensated financially to engage in the selected studies privately, the speakers emphasised.
Former Examinations Commissioner A M R B Amarakoon, Colombo University’s Professor Sarath Wijesuriya, and Teachers Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin were the panellists. Professor Asanga Tilakaratne was the moderator.
Ex- Examinations Commissioner Amarakoon insisted that the formula through which the new Z-scores were calculated should be immediately disclosed to the public and thereby ensure the transparency of the process. In the light of the complications that have arisen once again among 2011 A level students, such disclosure would help to determine the accuracy of the process. Incidentally, it was under his tenure that the Z-score process was started in 2001.
“The selection procedure for universities should be devised by them so that the standards are maintained,” he said. He suggested the setting up of an Advisory Committee in order to prevent the recurrence of grave errors in the examination process in the future.
Professor Sarath Wijesuriya said that the candidates who are in a quandary at present should be provided access to higher education – if not they should be compensated by the government.
The need to punish the four persons primarily responsible for this crisis was highlighted at the discussion. The four persons concerned are the Ministers of Education and Higher Education, Examinations Chief and University Grants Commission Chairman. The Presidential Committee who failed in their duty by the students, parents and their accountability also must be penalized and all must first publicly apologise, it was pointed out.
The Ministers of Education and Higher Education have proven their incapacity to be accountable and must not hereafter be Ministers in any other capacity, it was stressed.
Pointing out that the Z- Score crisis reflects a small consequential result of a bigger crisis in Education, the process was identified as a result of several factors. The 18th amendment led Governance crisis where the President has become all-powerful, undemocratic, uncaring for the citizens expectations and welfare. The same role and stance followed by the President, has been assumed by Ministers and the Senior Executives and Officials – acting above the law, not caring for the powers vested in the Legislature, Judiciary, Regulatory and Enforcement Authorities and Institutions. All unwritten best practices, codes of conduct and public expectations, values and norms coming from the past are forgotten.
The discussion further highlighted that every aspect of the education sector is being heavily politicized and operated without responsibility, transparency and accountability. There is a significant flaw in the paper setting process, supervised marking process and standardization and above all the fairness and standards of the subject papers of the old and new syllabus, as unqualified cronies were used in the task by passing the competent persons usually engaged.