Saturday school to cover syllabi mooted | Sunday Observer

Saturday school to cover syllabi mooted

1 May, 2022

As Education Ministry raced to meet targets to cover school syllabi in drastically shorter time than an ordinary year, the officials cautioned the trade unions to be sensitive to the challenges faced by the children to get their education back on track, when seeking their demands in the future.

There will not be extra school hours, as announced by the Education Ministry before to compensate for the lost time due to Covid-19 lockdowns in 2021, although the school time has been shortened by one-third. Instead schools struggling to cover 2022 syllabi may have special classes on Saturday, if an ongoing survey suggests that this is necessary. 

 Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera said the teachers have assured that they will ensure the syllabi is covered on time despite the slashed school year. “We have been assured that they have met their targets during times of much bigger challenges and if this assurance falls short, we might have extra school days on Saturday,” he added.  He was speaking to the media at the Information Department last week.

New school year

The new school year for 2022 will be conducted for 139 days from April 18 to December 23. There are over 200 school days per year, but in general, schools are conducted for around 180 days. The 2022 school year will be over 40 days less due to a decision to dedicate the first term of the new year to cover up the lessons of the yesteryear.

“A special unit at the Education Ministry will monitor all 10,155 schools islandwide, to ascertain that this pledge is being met,” he said. The monitoring will be conducted in all nine provinces, covering every school in100 Education Zones and 312 Divisions. If there is a shortfall, the Ministry hopes to conduct extra lessons on Saturday.

The earlier plan was to cover at least 165 days by extending school time by one hour. The National Institute of Education (NIE) last year said the learning loss suffered by children in the Western Province was 55 percent in 2020 and 90 percent in 2021, due to the lengthy school closures. And elsewhere this was 45 percent in 2020 and 70 percent in 2021.

Hence, the first term of the 2022 was taken over to cover the core syllabi of all grades of the last year as the NIE put together a contingency plan spanning 20 weeks starting from November 2021. 

The new school year has been adjusted to accommodate the national exams and term tests. Thus, the first school term will be split to make way for the GCE Ordinary Level exam 2021, from April 18 to May 23 and again from June 6 to July 7.

The GCE Ordinary Level exam 2021 will be held from May 23 to June 1 over nine days and 517,496 school and private candidates will sit for the exam.

The Ministry has scheduled first term school holidays from July 7 to 17.

The second school term will be from July 17 to October 14.  The grade five scholarship exam and the GCE Advanced Level exam 2022 will be scheduled from October 14 to November 14. The Third school term will be from November 15 to December 23.

Examinations Commissioner General L.M.D. Dharmasena said the GCE Ordinary Level exam 2022 has been scheduled from January 1 to 10, 2023. 

Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, state schools were disrupted by an unrelenting, over three-month long strike called by teachers’ and principals’ trade unions over salary anomalies in the last half of 2021.

Parents said the move was unjustified since a sizable section of children in backward areas without access to Internet and sophisticated phone connections already suffered due to months-long remote learning.

Following the strike by trade unions, the teachers were compelled to withdraw from online classes.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said that due to two years of Covid-19 related disruptions to school education, over 616 million students were affected globally.  “We are looking at a nearly insurmountable scale of loss to children’s schooling,” UNICEF said in January this year.

TU actions

Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Perera said, “Out of the 139 days of 2022, we have lost two days already due to trade union actions.”(The teachers stayed at home on April 25, the opening day of the new school year and on April 28, in protest against the Government.)

He said that they hope the schools will not be disrupted by any more strikes this year as the officials struggle to make up for lost time for the sake of the future of the country.

“Education is the only ladder to come up in life for many children who have no other financial power and social status.

I am a good example of that,” Prof. Perera said, urging all stakeholders not to disrupt that opportunity for children and ruin their future.

New Higher Education State Minister Dr. Suren Raghavan who is fluent in English, Sinhala and Tamil languages recalled his past when he went to school hungry and having only two sets of uniforms.”

“The opportunities I received through free education paved way for my success and nothing else” he said.

The State Minister said he understood the importance of uninterrupted free education and the Government was hopeful of ending remote learning and reopening the universities fully as soon as possible.