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FeaturesNewsA/L mess-up, – Ministers and officials play blame game as 300,000 students agonise over the outcome

A/L mess-up, – Ministers and officials play blame game as 300,000 students agonise over the outcome

Another cause for serious concern deals literally with Sri Lanka’s new generation, some 300,000 of them who sat the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) examination in August 2011. In an unprecedented crisis, the Department of Examinations has not been able to provide students the correct results.
Consequently, students who planned studies abroad, those who wanted to go for educational pursuits locally and their parents are all exasperated. In what will surely find a place in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, students who sat for the examination in the Arts stream had “A” passes in Science subjects and vice versa.

The long-delayed results became the subject of a question when President Rajapaksa met editors and media personnel on December 20. Rajapaksa asked his staff to immediately get Examinations Commissioner Anura Edirisinghe on the telephone line. He was not available. Edirsinghe later called back. Rajapaksa told him the media had asked why the GCE (AL) results were being delayed. Rajapaksa listened to Edirisinghe’s remarks and was heard to say “…..then, why don’t you keep the media informed of that position. They are asking me these questions……” The same afternoon, Edirisinghe held a news conference to explain that the results would be “out soon.”

The Advanced Level results had been delayed as the Z-score was being calculated, he explained. The Z-score, the benchmark for the selection of students to universities was introduced in 2001 to avoid what is described as a discrepancy among students sitting relatively easy subjects for the GCE Advanced Level examination and gaining entry into universities. The previous system was based on the aggregate of the marks gained, but the current system is based on what is described as “a more scientific calculation.” At the meeting with the media, Rajapaksa said at least three more days would be needed to release the results. However, since they were not released even by Friday December 23, the President had summoned a meeting the next day (Saturday) and on the following day the results were released.
When the results were announced on December 25, there were errors in district and island ranks. Elsewhere in this newspaper, we publish a report on how the colossal mess-up occurred. President Rajapaksa has appointed a Committee headed by Dhara Wijetilleke, a former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and currently Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, to inquire into the blunder by the Department of Examinations.

The Committee’s findings may also give an answer to the finger pointing by Ministers and officials on who is to be blamed and who is right. Whatever the outcome would be, it is no secret that the government has earned the wrath of the students and parents alike. Even worse, the credibility of the Department of Examinations has now been brought into question. Diplomatic missions that examine visa applications from students who want to travel for studies abroad might have doubts about some of the results. There again, it is the government’s credibility that is dented. Even if the Committee’s findings are made known, the question remains whether those responsible for playing with the future of 300,000 youth would be taken to task.

In the past year, ministerial mishandling has prompted President Rajapaksa to personally intervene. One such case is the GCE (AL) results where he has been forced to appoint a Committee to find out what had gone wrong. By implication, this means neither Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena nor Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake has been able to come up with satisfactory answers. Neither have they been able to initiate measures to rectify the colossal blunders made.

Weeks earlier, Colombo and principal towns went without vegetables. It was after Internal Trade Minister Johnston Fernando decreed that all vegetables transported to Colombo (to wholesale points) from centres outside should be packed in plastic crates. This created a storm in the vegetable industry with protests by vendors in Colombo, Dambulla and elsewhere. It became clear that those affected by Minister Fernando’s decision were not consulted in advance. Rajapaksa had to keep his minister waiting for two hours for the cabinet meeting to talk to organisations representing the vegetable trade in Colombo. It was decided that only Thalana Batu (Solanum Melongera), Brinjals and tomatoes be transported in crates. The rest would be moved in much the same way it was transported before. Now, the same situation has arisen with the Khuram killing where he has asked the CID to conduct a full and impartial investigation.

 ST ( from the Political column)

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