The disappointment over GCE (O/L) results

By A. G. Abeywickrama
[Colombo 5]

The baffling revelations made by the Commissioner General of Examinations about the GCE (O/L) results may have shocked all those who have the future of the country at heart. The underlying causes may be multifactorial, but this is such a complex problem that it has to be delved into minutely as so much expense and energey that is siphoned into educating our youth seems to go waste. To think that 51% students fail is a reflection on our society.

Any committee that investigates this debacle is bound to come up with a multitude of causative factors all of them very plausible.

I am no educationist. Hence from a lay point of view I say without fear of contradiction that at least part of the blame lies on ‘The People’. In Sri Lanka, no one takes the rap for a misadventure without putting the blame on ‘The people’. Floods hit the city, and the hospital wards get flooded, the blame trickles down to the ‘People’. Landslides take their toll, and ‘people’ have to stomach the blame.

But here I am more specific and more rational.

For the last decade or more academic attainments by students have not received any publicity, accolades or recognition. Way back till 1942 there was a government supervised exam for grade eight students – The Junior School Certificate. The results were published in the news papers and weren’t the lads thrilled. So was the S.S.C. and also the London Matriculation. All results were published in the press with details of distinctions obtained after each candidate’s name. We relished it. So were the Law College results, the C.C.S. and University results. This was a real encouragement to the candidates, to perform.

When the Medical faculty final examination results were published, the same “Irresponsible, undependable, harum scarum” medical student was magically transformed almost overnight into a dignified doctor! In short the publicity given to academic achievements not only served as an incentive to propel the candidates to perform better, but also served as a catalyst to maintain standards. Alas, we never see a pass list in print nowadays. Why has this blacking out come?

The irony of it all is this. Anyone who receives an honorary degree is always in the glow of the lime light, weighed down by garlands and smiling ever so sweetly with an impressive pandal in the back ground. Let me be clear on this point. No one will ever grudge the lucky recipients of such honour the publicity they deserve. But when academic achievements are ignored, one cannot but pin point the incongruity.

Hence my contention that a society that does not keep the academic achievements on the pedestal it deserves is also guilty of lowering the scholarly standards. []

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