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EDUCATION REFORMS

The Education Reforms were introduced this year. The inputs for the reforms were by the public from all over the country - doctors, child growth experts, psychologists, nutritionists, academics, teachers, politicians from different parties and professional bodies. Reforms cover three key areas - general education, university education and technical and vocational education.

The first 10 days of the Grade 1, the child will be used for 'identification'. During this period the teacher would talk to the child, see her at play with others, observe and gain first hand knowledge about her background, whether she has any physical problems such as sight or hearing impairments, the home environment - with whom the child lives, whether the mother has gone to the Middle East, who the guardian is etc. This would help the teacher to find out the talents, strengths and weaknesses, which did not happen, in the old system. This will be an accumulation of information which would not be displayed in public but would only be used to further improve the strengths and remedy the weaknesses.

As it had been found that earlier some of the subjects taught didn't seem to have any relevance to children's lives. Under the reforms, there is a major change in how these subjects or themes are being introduced. It is called 'mode of instruction' rather than teaching. The modes of instruction would be play, exercises and seat (desk) work.

First Key Stage - learning through play, with a bit of activity thrown in

Second Key Stage - learning through play, but more learning through activity.

Third Key Stage - play reduced considerably but more activity and desk work.

In activity based learning, the children would not just be sitting (sedentary) in class, but would walk around. They would look at a beetle, touch a flower and count the petals. This would help develop both the right side and the left of the brain, as they would not only be writing but also using their eyes and hands. It would also be emotionally satisfying for the child.

In the first stage, children would be introduced to four subject areas : Language - only mother tongue. There will also be the informal use of oral English during play-activity, Mathematics, Religion, Environment-related activity. The formal teaching of English and the second national language (Tamil for Children in the Sinhala medium and Sinhala for children in the Tamil medium) would be introduced in Stage Two.

The curriculum would help children to develop five competencies-

Communication - competency to express views, ideas through words, mathematical means or graphs

Environment - competency in managing the social, biological and physical environment.

Ethics and moral value based religion

Play, enjoyment and recreation

Learning to learn.

Under the reforms, children in Grade 1 would not be exposed to time-bound 'pencil and paper tests' at the beginning as they were overawed by them. But during all their play activity, there would be school-based assessment. The teacher who has thus done the assessment of the child in Grade 1 would move with her to Grade 2.

The most radical reform in Grade 6 will be the setting up of 'activity rooms'. While the number of subjects will also increase to eight. They are : Mother tongue, Mathematics, Religion, English, Second Language (Tamil for Sinhala students and Sinhala for Tamil students), Environmental Studies, Aesthetic Studies, Health and Physical Education

In Grade 7 the number of subjects will be increased to 10 with the inclusion of Science and Technology, Social Studies and History and Life Competencies.

Projects will be worked into the curriculum in Grades 8 and 9, so that the student becomes self-reliant. She will be set fact-finding tasks on the environment, such as a project on bees. There will be group work and excursions. More guidance and counselling will also be introduced in schools to keep track of the student's progress.

With grade 9, compulsory education ends, as it is only limited to 5-14 years. The students will then be issued a certificate on the school-based assessment and terminal examinations that will be overseen by the Department of Education. The Grade 9 Certificate will be valid, even if a student wants to find employment without continuing her studies. Both the assessment and examination results will help her to seek employment suitable to her capabilities.

Ordinary Level (Grade 10 and 11) The General Certificate of education Ordinary Level studies will be two years, unlike the old system when they were three. After Grade 9 students could decide to study Health & Physical Education and Second Language as an optional subject, while Life Competencies had been worked into other subjects. The students will have to do a minimum of eight subjects, but could go upto even 10. The core subjects are : Mother Tongue, Mathematics, Religion, English, Social Studies and History, Science and Technology, Aesthetic Studies, Technical Subject and a few optional subjects.

Advanced Level (Grade 12 & 13) At the Advanced Level, reforms for which will be introduced over a period of time, students will have to sit only three subjects and could select from five streams - Arts, Commerce, Sciences, Technology, Agriculture. The first three streams will be similar to the old system, with the change only being that students will have to sit for three subjects instead of four. However, those who are seeking to enter university will have to pass a fourth paper, "General Common Paper" which will be compulsory.

All these changes are brought about with the hope that it will help put out well-rounded students. With or without a university degree, they should then be able to meet the increasing job demand in the private sector.