IN SRI LANKA
faculty of education
university of colombo
sri lankan educational policy makers concentrated their attempts since 1940 to enhance the educational levels for the disadvantaged sections of sri lankan society. Their reforms mainly reached these sections and left out the Indian minorities who became stateless people as a result of the discriminatory citizenship law of 1948.since 1977 things began to change after gradual integration of the plantation sector schools predominantly Indian with the national mainstream improvement were spectacular in respect of primary education literacy rates,female participation and drop –out rates .this progress was not matched by similar improvement at the secondary level and in higher education. There is a definite need to formulate new policies to accommodate Indian minorities in the field of higher education where the admission policy is very prohibitive.
The Indian Tamil community in Sri Lanka constitutes about 6 per cent of the total population which is equal to about one million. They are identified as up country Tamils, Tamils of Recent or Indian Origin and or plantation Tamils. Out of an estimated number of 1.3 million Indian Origin Tamils IOT at least 85 per cent of them still live and work in the tea plantation districts of Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Kandy, Ratnapura, Matale,Kegalle, Kalutara and Monaragala some 100,000 people are settled down in the war-torn northern and eastern districts there is also a small concentration of IOT in the Colombo district comprising about 2.0 per cent of the population.
The Indian migrants were confined to the plantation which constituted a world cut off from the Sinhalese majority heartland. They preserved their distinct religious and linguistic culture. Plantation hierarchy,with its authoritarian structure,discouraged any assimilative process that would bring the Indian labour into any interaction which the Sinhalese majority. Except for a small proportion of 15 per cent involved in some commercial activities and occupations such as clerk, salesman and teacher, the remaining 85 per cent of the IOT are mostly plantation workers, living in non-urban areas of the country.
The Indian labour of the plantation industry had benefited by labour legislation enacted by the colonial Government which provided a variety of welfare measures these measures were introduced because of a need to satisfy the Government of India which was expressing concern over the plight of her immigrant workers in Sri Lanka. It was also a prudent gesture which could ensure a regular and smooth supply of labour to the estates and accounted for the solicitude shown by the government towards Indian labour on the plantations. As a part of these welfare measures, the plantation management was required to establish schools for the benefit of the plantation children. Primary education was made compulsory for these children.
The welfare measures which included free education and medical facilities were rudimentary in nature. A minimum wage ordinance of 1927 was another noteworthy welfare measure. The welfare measures and benefits that the Indian labour received were, at the time which srilankan workers elsewhere were not, entitled to receive. The indigenous workers not catered for and the politicians of srilanka were critical of the privileged position accorded to the Indian labour and the elementary welfare measures introduced by the colonial government.
In 1948 independent srilanka framed its own laws in regard to citizenship and the franchise. Under the citizenship acts of 1948 and 1949 only 134,000 out of a total of 825,000 indians were admitted to citizenship, approximately 16.2 per cent of the total. Te rest were declared stateless without voting rights. The disenfranchisement of this community contributed greatly to a sense of isolation, inferiority and ambiguous identity. Citizenship in srilanka ensure is pre – requisite for free tertiary education, the contact of business and trade, for securing employment and travel documents and for many other activities. Lake of srilankan citizenship for a period of four decades since 1948 had a very adverse impact on the Indian tamil community which had to lag behind other communities in social, economics, political, cultural and educational development.
The problem of stateless IOT continued for a period of four decades until it was tackled why two agreements (1964 and 1974) between the government of India and srilanka and the citizenship act of 1988. India agreed to the repatriation of 600,000 persons and as a result of subsequent repatriation, Indian tamils’ share of srilanka’s total population dropped from 10 percent to 6 percent between 1971 – 1981. srilanka had agreed to absorb only 375,000. another citizenship at was passed in 1988 under which all stateless Indians could submit and affidavit to obtain srilankan citizenship. This act shorted out the problems of citizenship by accepting all the stateless percent who did not apply for Indian citizenship under the pervious India – lanka agreements of 1964 and 1974. these acts and policy changes in regard to statelessness and citizenship enable the Indian migrant community to become formidable force in the political arena of Sri Lanka, specially in the later part of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. the Indian tamils and there trade union and political organization (Ceylon workers congress) sided with the united national party (UNP). Massive constituency of the Indian tamil community effectively delivered the UNP to power as it could do subequently in the presidential election of 1988 and the parliamentary election 1989. in exchange for this support of the UNP, Thondaman, leader of the CWC, obtained a series of concessions on citizenship and on education. Between 1977 and 1994 thondaman negotiated with a number of ministers of education on matters educational pertaining to the Indian tamil community. These attempts led to the integration of the educational provision of the plantation community with that of the main stream. Against this background, it may be important to:
a. Narrate briefly the backwardness and disadvantageous position of the educational level of the Indian tamil community;
b. Identify the favorable and unfavorable conditions and factors which influenced the educational provision of the Indian tamil community and some of the recent trends in the education provision of this community; and
c. Identify major areas of short comings in respects of schools educational and higher education
Early backwardness and recent progress in Education
Sri Lanka’s studies on disadvantaged groups very often cite the Indian plantation Tamils as an example of ethnic minority groups regarded as being disadvantaged in economic levels, educational achievement, housing and health facilities. Education, within the plantation sector. Remained out side the national system of education and was left largely in the hands of the plantation owners. According to them, the state school was no more than a child care centre when the adults are at work. The British companies that manage the plantation system did not encourage schooling, and the grates in those schools extended only up to primary level. Agitation in Britain and India for the provision of educational facilities for the plantation workers led to the enactment of ordinances of 1905,1920 and 1947. until gradual state take over of schools since 1977, the plantation sector schools for the responsibility of the plantation management. Most schools for single – teacher schools and the pupil – teacher ratio was often 1:100. most of the teachers were only secondary qualified but without any pedagogic training. Some of them worked as part time clerks in the estate office.
Instead of the primary level national curriculum, only the three “R” s were taught. The buildings were generally in a dilapidated condition without protection from unfavorable climatic conditions.
For further education, children had to travel to distant Tamil schools. The better schools, outside the estate sector, were inaccessible to these children due to distance and barriers of language. Most of the better schools in the plantation areas were sinhala schools where the language of the Indian Tamils was not the medium of instruction. According to one estimate, only 4% of the primary school lowers proceeded to the secondary level of education provided by the town schools in 1960.
In Sri Lanka, the political commitment to democratize education since 1945 was seen in the liberal financing allocation made for education as part of a welfare oriented measure that was expected to help the disadvantaged communities and reduce socio – economic inequalities. The share of education in the GNP increased to almost 5% in 1970 and educational expenditure as a proportion of the national budget fluctuated between 14%and 16% in the 1960’s. Free education, national languages as media of instruction, free issue of school text books and uniforms, scholarships for children from low income groups expansion of schools to rural areas where some of the measures introduced by Sri Lanka to promote the principal of quality of opportunities in education. These developments and measures did not reach the plantation community in view of the absences for a concerted policy to enhance its educational levels. As a results of these measures, Sri Lanka reach educational standards almost similar to that of any another country of the developed world.
Achievement in respect of school education in Sri Lanka could be summarized. In 1991, of 5.7 million children in the age group 5 -19 years, 4.2 million were in schools. Nearly 75 per cent of the total population below 19 is in school. School participation rates and literacy rates reach the upper eighties in 1995 (national education commission 1995).
- The number of Schools increase from 5487 in 1950 to 10,231 in 1988 and 10,120 in 1997.
- Literacy rates increased from 57.8 per cent in 1945 to 78.2 per cent in 1980 in the urban sector the rates reached 92.3 per cent in 1991.
- At the turn of the century, the national literacy rate for female was only 9 per cent. By 1991, it reached 83 per cent.
- One of the main achievements of the system is that there is no gender this discrimination in the school system at any level. A ratio of 50.25% males to 49.8% females has been maintained in the schools for nearly to decades, in some of the classes and could notice the predominance of girls. According to 1991 schools census, for every 100 males there were more girls in standerds 8,9,10,11, and 12
- The net enrolment of children of five years of age increased to 97.9 per cent in 1991. in 1981 the ratio was 89.7 % by 2000. virtually every child in this age group will be in school if the current plans in education for all are implemented. Regulations have already been framed under the education ordinance. No.31 of 1939 compelling parents to send their children to school.
These achievements in respect of education development are noteworthy but this does not reveal the intra – national this disparities prevailing in the system. Educational provision and achievement of the Indian Tamil community have been some what at a lower level in view of the fact that the members of the community as a whole were plantation workers who could not enjoy benefits of the democratization process of education which began in late 1940’s educational indicators pertaining to this community reveal a different picture when compared with other section of the Sri Lanka society.
Literacy rates are significantly lower in the plantation sector (68.1%) in comparison to the urban (92.8%) and the rural (89.2%) sector (1987) improvement in female literacy rates at national level is impressive (55.6% in 1953 and 83.4% in 1990). But in the plantation sector 52% of the women are illiterate (1982) Recent data for the year 1996/97 reveal the continuity of this disparity between estate and other sectors.
Improvement in the educational provision during the period 1986 – 1996 contributed towards an increase of literacy Rates in the plantation sector. But still the disparity among different sectors continues.
Date pertaining to the percentages distribution of the Sri Lanka population by educational level and sectors indicate the relative backwardness of the sector in terms of educational level. Accordingly in 1953, 1963, 1973 and 1978 -79, more than 50 per cent of the plantation population was classified as with ‘No schooling’ where as the all – island percentages were for below that of the plantation sector
All – island figures indicate the relative backwardness of the plantation sector population which as a large segment of population (90% - 96%) which is either illiterate or primary educated. Not with standing this backwardness gradual improvement of the educational level of the community over period of three decades, is also indicated in the table nevertheless, education beyond primary level appears to have deteriorated further during the period 1950 – 1980. Educational attainment in the urban and rural sectors was relatively higher than that of the estate sector in respect of all the three levels of education attainment of Education by sectors 1996-97
The index of education attained by sectors given in the consumer finance survey of 1973 indicates that the estate sector. Which had the lowest level of education in 1963, had progressed only slightly, consequently increasing the backwardness of this sector in educational attainment relative to the rural sector. Recent data pertaining to educational attainment revealed a steady improvement in the educational attainment in all sectors including the plantations. This improvement ,again could be attributed to better infrastructural conditions for education in the plantation sector provided by the funds obtained from international assistance.
In addition the number of students or the rate of enrolment in formal education of the population aged 5 and above in 1996-97 showed only marginal differences among sectors, reflecting the recent development in the availability of educational opportunities. A definite improvement in enrolment in the plantation sector could be observed and this is a clear indication of the expansion of social infrastructure in recent years.
The plantation sector education level is very significant in view of the following:
- For the first time in the history of education of this community, its performance in respect of students in formal education has almost reached national average and that of other sectors in 1997 (National average 27.3% ; Estate sector 27.0%)
- Substantial progress could be observed during the period 1986-1996 in which enrolment rate of the plantation community increased from 22.8% to 27.0%).
- School avoidance is considered as a situation of non – schooling of children at school age including drop – outs from school. If the rate of school avoidance is very high, then the in-effective school can promote the rate of incidence of school avoidance. During early 1990’s, the drop out rates were relatively higher for plantation sector schools for each and every class (from std. 2 to std. 9). The rate was almost more than double when compared to schools in the urban and rural sectors. The following table for 1990 illustrates this problem very clearly. For stds. 5,6,8, and 9,the avoidance rates were very much higher – more than triple that of the other schools.
The above emphasizes the need to improve the transition rate from the primary cycle to secondary as it has been found in smaller schools with classes only up to year
One of the total number of 4,397 teacher in the plantation schools in the six districts 2,869 teacher (65.2%) were untrained by 1993 (P.P.Manikkam,1995).
The relative backwardness of the educational provision of the Indian plantation community was legacy from colonial times. During the British period the colonial policy was not in favour of educating the plantation workers community. The colonial Government was more concerned to provide an English education for a small number of males to serve the needs of the colonial administration. The colonial state’s policy of non-intervention in education of the masses was dominant in the nineteenth century. some of the colonial rulers felt that to promote colonial policies. In short, the political and social environment during the colonial period was not conducive for the development of education of the Indian plantation community.
Soon after Independence, The Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka were made stateless by the acts of parliament pertaining to citizenship and the governments of the day were more concerned about education of their masters who were the Sri Lanka public Hitherto ignored by the British rulers and missionaries in respect of secondary and higher education. The successive governments were concerned with expending education opportunities to rural areas and formulating educational policies to get rid of the colonial principles and practices from the system of education. In all these attempts, the educational needs of the Indian plantation community was largely neglected and their schools reminded segregated from the educational mainstream .
How and ineffective school management system and poor supervisory support system could lead to the emergency of and ineffective education in the plantation. Sector is shown diagrammatically along with effects of such a system.
Participation in secondary and university education
Basic data on plantation school in 1984 indicate a substantial increase in the student enrolment with reached 199,374 in 1994. there had been similar increase in the number of teachers from 1148 in 1984 to 4843 in 1994. the overall pupil-teacher ratio was 55.1 in 1984 and 44.1 in 1994. In terms of the number of students and teachers in these schools within the ten year period, there had been a significant improvement.
This enrolment of 199,000 students could be analyzed further. A close at the data reveals that this increase mainly reflects a substantial improvement in the primary level and a relative backwardness of secondary level (years 6-13). Years 12-13 (G.C.E A/L) are very crucial for university admission. But enrolment at that level in the plantation schools is very negligible and this is the main reason for non-participation of the plantation Tamils in University education.
Low enrolment at these levels is an indication of seriousness of the problem of early drop-outs and inadequate support given by parents to pursue higher studies. It is also an indication of less number of students qualifying to reach university entrance classes. The majority of the Tamil schools in the plantation districts still remains, as primary schools amount to 80% while Sinhala primary schools from only 35% of the total number of Sinhala schools. Hence, it is very clear that the junior secondary and senior secondary level opportunities are very limited to plantation Tamil students in the districts where they live in substantial numbers.
At secondary level examination (Year 11 or G.C.E O/L) , plantation children perform very poorly in the main subjects such as Mathematics, Science, English and social studies.
As of this high rate of failure, very less percentage of children obtain qualifications to be admitted to the next level (G.C.E. A/L). According to available data, a maximum of only 17% of students who sit for the G.C.E O/L examination obtain qualifications to pursue higher studies.
Inefficiency of the G.C.E O/L stream in the plantation schools coupled with a low enrolment is responsible for:
- very low level enrolment at G.C.E. A/L; and
- very low participation at university level education
Out of a total number of 160 thousand candidates who sit, for the university entrance examination (year 13 – G.C.E. A/L), less than one thousand five hundred are from the plantation Tamil schools. In item of population basis or ethnic proportion (six per cent of Indian Tamils in the total population), their number should be around nine thousand. As a direct result of this low participation of Indian plantation workers’ children at senior secondary level (year 12 and 13), their participation in university education has become very nominal and negligible. Out of total number 35,000 under – graduate population enrolled in the whole university system, only and estimated number of 200 are Tamils of Indian origin. And this number is being distributed among 12 universities and various facilities of science, social sciences, medicine, Engineering and law. This poor participation could be noted since the establishment of a full – fledged university of Sri Lanka in 1942. as a result a very negligible number of high positions in the decision making bodies, in high echelons of the government service and the university academic community, are being occupied by Indian Origin Tamils. The number of positions held in this sector by the plantation Tamils is between Five to Ten on the whole. In short, while the Sri Lanka formal system of education has given ample opportunities for other sections of the society for upward social mobility, the plantation community continues to remain as a working class community. It should be noted that the Central School opened in the 1940’s functioned as effective agent of upward mobility, drawing able children from rural primary school through scholarship and facilitating their access to university and subsequently to the highest positions in the professions and the administration. This opportunity was not enjoyed by the members of the Indian plantation community.
Developments since 1997, in respect of policies regarding plantation education, helped to integrate the plantation schools with that of the main stream and there had been a remarkable progress in respect of primary education. the primary cycle has been taken care of by the foreign funded projects to improve educational provision of the Indian Tamil Community in terms of quality and quantity. Even at primary level, problems such as shortage of teacher and teaching materials, absence of proper orientation of teacher in relation to the implementation of new reforms at primary level could be noticed.
The secondary level of education is experiencing the problems of low enrolment of students, low achievements level in public examinations, shortage of qualified teacher and dearth of internal and external supervision.
As for university education ,the plantation Tamil community appeared to deserve implementation of a new policy of positive discrimination without which admission to the University system would be jeopardised in the long run. University admission is very competitive in Sri Lanka and there is also a definite need to strengthen the GCE A/L Science and mathematics streams in the plantation schools. The phenomenon of greater participation in the main streams in the politics in recent times, which has been witnessed during the 1990;s should get extended to the school system as well. There is also a definite need to enhance the awareness and aspirations of the community towards school education and higher education. Educational leadership among the members of the plantation Tamil community has emerged gradually at the school, district and national levels. This leadership has a tremendous task in taking the Indian Tamil community into the knowledge-bases 21 st century of the next Millennium.
Central Bank of Sri Lanka :Reports on the Consumer Finance and Socio Economic Survey of Sri Lank,1953,1963,1973,1986/87 &1996/97.
Chandra Bose ,A.S.(1995):Present Status of Tamil schools in the plantation, Colombo ).
Dore, R.(1975):Diploma Dissertation: Education, Qualification and Developments, University of California press, Berkley.