The challenges for the future we are on the threshold of the new millennium and the world is changing so rapidly that it is impossible to predict today even what further and drastic changes will come to pass by tomorrow. Cybernetics, inter-net, web-site, Cyberspace, Robotics and Mega tonics are terms that have now passed into common parlance, coined in the wake of incredible advances in scientific discovery and technological innovations. Now there is talk of a Global Village, which will necessitate a global language, and English together with the computer for communication appear to be the logical choice.
Education is a dynamic process that has to develop the ability of students, and all people for that matter, to adapt themselves to these rapid changes. In Sri Lanka education has been made a right that must be available to all without any discrimination. Thanks to free education which also provides free text books and even free school uniforms, we have achieved an enviable rate of literacy because our Government considers education an investment for the benefit of present and future generations. In pursuance of this policy a very large sum is allocated to improve education in our schools both qualitatively and quantitatively so that it would indeed be a pity if any human or physical educational resources be allowed to go waste.
However, dissatisfaction with the present system of education continues, the key factor being unemployment or underemployment of the educated resulting from a conspicuous disparity between aspirations and job opportunities available. It is a matter for national gratitude that our present Government has taken steps to overcome this crisis. Education has been made compulsory, as promulgated by Parliament and effective since 1998, for all children in the age group 5 to 14. National goals and basic competencies have been identified and clearly defined by the National Education Commission the recommendations of which advocate that the child be helped to build up for himself the four well – recognised pillars of education:
- Learning to learn
- Learning to be
- Learning to do
- Learning to live with others
At St. Mary’s we have already implemented the new primary curriculum designated as being Competency – based, Child – centred Integrated and Activity – based. In addition to four subject areas, conversational English and co-curricular work are provided in a manner designed to cater to learner interests and needs. Continuous classroom – based assessment with an increased emphasis on the use of informal methods are encouraged thus deviating from traditional techniques, while the process of Learning – Teaching will be affected through an appropriate mix of Play, Activity and Desk Work. Grade 6 to 9 will comprise the Junior Secondary stage and its curriculum is subject – based. Learning through small projects and practical work will be stressed at this stage during which the teaching of a second national language is also introduced. Grade 10 to 13 will comprise the Senior Secondary stage with 2 segments. I.e. Grades 10 and 11 for the G.C.E. Ordinary Level Course and Grades 12 and 13 for the Advanced Level Course. The Ordinary Level syllabus includes 9 core subjects, which will be compulsory and optional subjects from which a student may select a maximum of 3. There will be two levels of question papers in Mathematics and Science open for selection by students according to their ability.
G.C.E. Advanced Level students are required to offer 3 subjects and those who seek admission to universities will have to sit a common General Paper. Project work and practical work becomes compulsory for Science subjects and Assignments for the other subjects. Several measures have also been introduced to implement and improve the teaching of English at this and all other levels. Under the scheme for new reforms school-based supervision and evaluation are recognised as accepted concepts of education while school-based management is encouraged.
St. Mary’s, the large numbers on roll have never caused any problem because our system of management, supervision, evaluation and other aspects of administration based on a decentralisation of responsibility. It has proved completely effective and has stood the test of time at least since 1978 when St. Mary’s Junior School was amalgamated with St. Mary’s College bringing the total student population to well over 7000 under the stewardship of the late Mr. L.D.H. Peiris who was Principal at the time.