Former Secretary on politicization in education

Former Secretary on politicization in education

“Incompetent people are holding positions that they should not be holding in the education sector from the level of Directors down to master teachers”, says former Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Eric J de Silva. “The fact that this may be so in other sectors too is no justification as to why it should happen in the field of education”, he adds in a feature article published in the Island – 31 August 2009.

He continues: If one were to look for a simple explanation for this sad situation, it is the politicization of the education system that has taken place under successive governments. While we have seen a lot of the usual blame game being played across the political divide with one set of politicians blaming those on the other side, independent observers know that all political parties or groups that have held power are equally culpable of the crime!

In a report that I wrote for the National Education Commission on ‘Management of Education’ in 2003, I pointed out that a total breakdown of the education system was imminent unless something was done about politicization, which I identified as the main contributory factor. Just 3-4 years later, the Education Minister Susil Premajayantha was frank enough to admit publicly that there is a breakdown of education management at all levels from Isurupaya downwards, and that this has taken its toll on the education system. Although he did not specifically attribute this breakdown to politicization, the message was clear!

It is this that all of us have to put our heads together and address as a matter of urgency. While we look forward to schools doing a better job than master teachers and Directors of Education we must not forget that even schools and the teaching profession have been infected with the politicization virus!

In this connection, let us not forget that the Presidential Commission on Youth appointed in 1989 held that “the oral and written representations made to the Commission indicated virtual unanimity” that politicization was one of the two main causes of youth unrest. It is the duty of the older generation whose responsibility it is to run the affairs of the country, at whatever level, to do so in a manner that would prevent the growth of distrust and disaffection among the younger generation which could eventually lead to unrest and upheaval, as has been our experience on more than one occasion.

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