Why I DON’T want my children to study in a government school

I was thinking today and had an epiphany.

Now, I’d like to point out that I’m *not* 40 years old. I am not world-weary. I am not famous. Nor am I a particularly good example for anyone, unless you want lessons on how to be a decent writer.

I grew up in an “international” school in Battaramulla. To say that I was happy there would be understating it. Grade Two I spent learning French, acing Dictation, running crazily after my classmates in the P.T. period. Things only grew better as we moved on. I wouldn’t say it was all milk and honey, but overall I grew up as a child should.  My biggest worry in Grade 5 was not the scholarship exam: it was missing Tintin when I got home. I didn’t spend my childhood shuttling back and forth between classes: our teachers were strict but also managed to somehow managed to hammer in a fair bit of education into our heads.

We also had scope. When I was in that school we aspired to be writers, researchers, astronauts, football players, artists, mathematicians.We were constantly shown the world beyond. At almost every turn we were shown a whole wide world beyond that we could reach out and touch. That was our incentive. We were never pressured to get into university: at no point was it implied that, should we fail our exams, all life as we knew it would come to an end. We were given options rather than hurdles and solutions rather than problems.

That was totally us!

That was totally us!

Also, we grew up with girls. Another small thing I’m really glad for, because when the time came to go out, I wasn’t an awkward prick. I didn’t envy guys who already had girlfriends. I didn’t believe money was everything when it came to girls (although I’ll admit it does play a certain role). I could walk up to a girl and engage her in conversation without having to have a gangsiya back me up. But even better: I grew up knowing how to be friends with, and respect the opposite sex, something more important than the books will show.

And then I switched to a local school. Good god, it was horrible. I don’t mean the school was horrible. I mean the entire community I was immersed in, from this school to every other school in Colombo, was horrible. It was petty, narrow-minded, drudgery. From the moment you stepped in you would be thrown a set of retarded values, measured up, found wanting, and cut like meat on a butcher’s block until you fitted that narrow box.  The lowest common denominator of 6000 bored souls was what you were expected to be. Out went any regard for you as a person: all that mattered was that you were a cog in the machine, greased and oiled and waiting to be ordered about. And ordering about was something certain people lived to do.

I grew up knowing right is right and wrong is wrong. Not so. In national schools, the eldest is right. The older they are, the more right they are. Nevermind that stupid people get older, too. Age is always wisdom. New things, new ideas, are frowned upon. At the first sign of change that ancient weapon, tradition, is called into use – and who can argue against tradition? We have always done things this way: therefore, we will always do things this way.

Surprisingly, we were not taught much wisdom. We were taught to be parrots. Memorize this, memorize that: study, study, study, get into university, be a doctor, lawyer, engineer. Any questions like “Sir, why is this equation used? Why not the other?” were put down swiftly. “The syllabus is too long to explain everything,” we were told. “Just memorize and pass your exams.”

Even in literature, where traditionally one is supposed to come up with one’s own conclusions, we were taught that the teacher’s faulty analysis of Thomas Hardy was golden. And that the examiners were the only thing that mattered. Exams were a game, we learned, not a test: the trick is to second-guess the man marking your paper and make him happy.

Don't believe the happy faces. They won't last much longer.

Don’t believe the happy faces. They won’t last much longer.

Needless to say, we never learned much.  We learned instead to spend six hours in noisy, packed classes, wolf down lunch and immediately head off to tuition classes. In these we sat in ridiculous blocs – three hundred girls on one side, three hundred boys on the other, all pretending to pay attention to the whiteboard, from which we would emerge at 7 o’ clock, tired and bored stiff.We were taught that this was essential, that to get into campus you needed this, and getting into campus was the be-all and end-all.  It was a ridiculous waste of money.

But more, it was a waste of time. Our best years were spend not in societies or sports or such outgoing activities, but in cramped classrooms of hundreds of students apiece. Out of these maybe ten, twenty would make it into university, and the rest would turn away, convinced by the system that their lives were now worthless. Those lucky twenty percent who made it through would spend the next year being ragged like degenerates and later would rag freshmen in their turn.

We didn’t learn our subjects. We instead learned to sneer at those who did good and hit big. We learned to make excuses for everything. “Ah, those Royalists….they’re filthy rich, rolling in money, what can we do.”  We learned that school fights were mandatory, not optional. We learned that “gahanawa” could mean anything from one guy slapping another to two hundred people beating somebody to a bloody pulp. We learned that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.We learned to look at a beautiful girl and jeer at her and call her a slut behind her back. Frustration was the essence of who we were. We railed against the system, yet we were the system.

If you schooled in Sri Lanka say you didn’t pick up any of these things, then you didn’t go to the right schools. Hell, some schools made it an annual sport to jump into the girl’s schools, simply because they didn’t have the guts to talk up a girl and take her out of a date.

This is why I don’t ever want my child to go to a national school. No matter how large or prestigious, because they’re all the same. Not that I’ll have children any time soon, but still: the glamour of money and political connections only covers things up so far.  I don’t want my kid to grow up fearing exams more than Darth Vader. I don’t want my son to eye girls and hoot with the fellows and then tie himself in knots when it comes to asking one of them out. I don’t want my daughter to confuse affection for love and waste her life on the first fellow who lobs her a rolled-up letter in class. I want them to to know that there’s a life beyond exams and degrees, and that knowing how to talk to a person or write a letter well will get them further than knowing that Cotx + Tanx = 1.

Silhouette of a girl blowing dandelionI want them to live, laugh and be happy, and spend their childhood at parties and at home watching movies and out with friends instead of stuck in a boring class with a light bulb. I want them to reach out and take the world without hiding behind a dozen insecurities of age, education and a thousand other mythos drummed into their heads by smaller and more insecure minds.

And as much as possible, I want them to learn how to respect everybody and accept them for who they are.

And possibly get laid without having to sign a contract to do it.

47 thoughts on “Why I DON’T want my children to study in a government school

  1. What has got to be understood is that without the government schools the people who cannot afford private education will not get any education at all. Yes government schools are not perfect but it does give the chance to people rise up to their full potential. Not all parents have deep pockets to send their kids to private educational institutes for the people who are fortunate well and good :) Not to forget that there are mixed gender government schools as well. Also the increasing number of international school is ruining a 2500 year old Sri Lankan culture which has been developed. I am not against westernization but there should be limits to it and in the process of westernization we should not loose our identity as a Sri Lankan. It is mentioned that some guys schools jump into girls schools on a yearly basis, well these are also the so called elite schools in Sri Lanka which are thought to be westernized and above the rest and let it be said that only one or two school from government schools partake in these activities. Not all government schools are “rasthiyadu” to be taking part in theses kinds of activities. I my self having studied at a government school believes that its mostly the upbringing which comes from home that matters and not the school that you attend whether it is private or government. Also having friends from both government schools and international school, I personally think that government school students are exposed to a wider range in the society which enables them to communicate and associate almost anyone without creating a conflict. I am proud to say that i am from a government school and I have the ability fit into any social group and be able form bonds of friendship with them, all along keeping my own identity. This ability should credited to the school I attended and also to the upbringing I received from home as a child. About the whole point on tuition classes, well since you are paying through the roof to send your kids international schools you expect the best at an educational level so you would not be sending you kids to tuition classes. Also its not just the government school students who are stuck at tuition classes, we see even international school students going for classes after classes when it comes to facing the London ordinary level examination and advance level examination. The fact of the matter is the society has become so competitive that it wont matter whether your kid goes to an international school or an government school. If you want your kids to have more fun learning to fear Darth Vader over general exams it should come from the upbringing at home not the school. It is also the so called International school that most of the drug problems in Sri Lanka starts. I wont mention any school names but you get students addicted to smoking cigarettes and weed at very young age within the premises of so called international schools. Talking about the fact that guys from government school not being able to go up to a girl and talk, well I went to a government school and I have no problem in going up to a girl and striking up a conversation or going on a date and neither I have a problem with being friends with the opposite sex. Again it comes back to the main point I am trying to make, It does not matter whether you go to an international school or a government school what matters is the upbringing you receive at home. I may not be as skilled as the writer of this article but I hope that I got my message across :)

    • Sashika,
      You make a fair point. And I agree with you on the HUGE part that upbringing has to play. Nevertheless, in chasing “our identities as Sri Lankans”, society as a whole has come to worship the very things that we abhor – the rat race of the Pahe Shishyanthwe, the elitist schools. I believe that government school students are exposed to a ridiculously small society: a place where fighting over girls is legit, skipping school is the norm, slacking off a is a given. No wonder so many students have issues finding and maintaining jobs when they leave school. They’re exposed to a large but ridiculously narrow-minded society that bears little relation to the life of an adult.

      I disagree with you on the deep pockets. My parents switched me to a national school because it would be cheaper. Instead it cost more for the *mandatory* tuition that you *have* to undergo if you are to stand even a chance.

      Also, I knew you at school, and you are far from the base line. There are plenty of people of worse character and/or of baser nature than you.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with this comment! Yes, the school that one goes to does play a major part in who you eventually turn out to be, but definitely not as much as your home environment does. The local education system has its flaws but so does the system followed in international schools. I’ve come across so many kids from these so called international schools that are unable to speak Sinhala even though they have lived in Sri Lanka their whole lives (not meant for foreign students), OR are a shamed to speak the language. It’s our mother tongue, yet they flaunt their lack of knowledge in it like it’s actually something to be proud of. They barely know the history of the country that they live in. Hell, I doubt they even know our day of independence! Obviously I do not direct this towards all individuals who have received their education through international schools but from what I have witnessed, this is a majority. It’s almost as if they are taught to be ashamed of who they are; a Sri Lankan.

      Also may I add, it’s not just guys from government schools that don’t know how to look at or treat a girl with respect. When men want to be pigs, they are just that regardless of the school they went to. Like this fine gentleman here has pointed out, most of the qualities instilled within us, be it regarding respect or whatever, are those that we are taught at home, what we learn through the example of our parents.

  2. Yudha has made a lot of valid points here. Just to bring out some points which Sashika has made.

    International schools are actually better when it comes to drugs these days. Every single friend of mine who has kids in the local schools complain that from Grade 5 or 6 now kids are getting caught to addiction and smoking. Not to say International Schools are clean but if you try to paint a picture with drugs only in International Schools thats highly wrong.

    Then there is the case of tution what Yudha made. National schools tution is mandatory. International schools though it’s not. And there is no London OL or AL class that I know of that teaches with 300 students.

    About the 2500 year old cultural heritage we have. If you check properly this so called heritage should first be PROMOTED within schools. But nowadays if you see through politics, mafia and drugs whats happening? Not to say International Schools don’t destroy it. But when we live in a society where national school kids can go stab their own principal in cold blood I think the point about ethics is lost right there. Heritage should be protected by the Govt and the Local schools but obv thats not the case here.

    You have an obviously huge talent which is not the same and not true for everyone. The way you have written this and the valid points you have made prove that Shashika. But what you need to understand is that our of Govt Schools we are getting more and more people leaving school thinking they have no future, they have nothing to do and that ends up in them pursuing the same drugs and shit that they got exposed to and in the end they become the very henchman to the people who spread and destroy our society. Think of the bigger picture and you would understand. The narcotic division itself admits that the biggest network for drug dealers exist in trishaw and school van drivers. What happens to those people who leave National Schools and end up with no job and think their life is lost? I think my point is clear.

    Regarding the point you made about upbringing, I can point you out to plenty of people both posh and extremely poor who engage in all these illicit activities we talked of. I think status and background doesn’t affect this anymore. Gone are the days we saw only the slums use drugs and alcohol and go kill people. Again I hope my point is clear.

    To sum it up, I say hats off to you Shashika because it is so nice and amazing to see people like you as products of our beloved nation’s local schools but not everyone is the same. Thanks Yudha for this splendid article!

  3. Great article and equally great comments. The points discussed made me think loads about this issue!!
    To add my little POV – another thing is that I studied both; the local and london syllabus – and should mention, that at some points, the national syllabus can get pretty outdated.
    Whatever said, I think that a major part of being exam oriented or thinking that passing exams is noT the world comes from the children themselves – how they view things. But, of course, they have to be taught to be open-minded thinkers too.

  4. I went to both national and international schools. My conclusions were “I’m gonna send my child to a national school” ^_^

  5. I personally disagree with this article completely.

    I am someone who did my primary education in a totally government school in dehiwala which was mixed, and i met a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds there, where even my best friend in that school was a son of a garbage collector, in fact i still have good contacts with that guy…… i had friends from both genders and was quite close to them, and even at that age we were all taught to explore our talents and we were given the freedom to decide what we like to do, yes, the teachers would be strict on us if we did something wrong but they never discouraged us if we were interested in something else other than studies. I am fortunate that even my parents never discouraged me from exploring my talents. And what you said about fearing exams, and all that stuff, we were never taught that, i don’t know where you got that, in fact even at a small age we were taught that exams have nothing to do with your success.

    Then by the grace of god, i was given an opportunity to move to a semi government school in colombo for my secondary education (grades 6 to 11), which was a all boys school, and where like you mentioned jumping into girls schools annually was a norm, I was not an exceptional student, but i was okay with it, and i managed to score a decent amount at my scholarship exam. During my secondary school life, I was given the opportunity to show case my talents in inter-school, divisional, district and even national levels, and i was even encouraged to take part in other competitions and grow more in more confidence. We were taught how to be true to our selves and how not to get discouraged by negative feedback, but to use that as an inspiration to work harder. Even in that school, i met a variety of people, with varying backgrounds, from sons of politicians to sons of thugs, but we never had any issues amongst us. In fact one of the main things i learnt in that school outside the books, was how to deal with all kinds of people, and even how to deal with any situation that came up. We were also encouraged to join co-curricular activities such as interact, mun, and stuff like where we met people from other schools, girls and boys irrespective, and build up friendships with them as well. So by the time i started tuition for my O/Levels, i had built up a sizable friends base in most schools, and was able to gel in with everyone in all the classes and was friends with everyone. And I nor my friends or anyone i knew, ever had issues with talking to a girl, let alone asking one out. Yes, we used to make fun of some girls who were a bit too much of a “slut” in your words, but lemme tell you, as a student of psychology, that is in the nature of a boy, if he doesn’t do that, there is something terribly wrong with him. And as far as jumping into girl’s schools goes, that was more of a fun thing than anything else, and if your son doesn’t do something like that, he is not normal. But that being said, we never looked at girls as sex objects (at least not in that school). And i don’t know where you got the notion that fighting for girls was a norm in government schools, because i’ve never seen that happen in a government school until now. The government school guys strongly believe in the phrase “Bros before Whores” (no disrespect meant to anyone), so you saying that fighting for girls was a norm, is something unheard of.

    Then for a my A/Levels, my parents decided it was best for me to go to an international school. And since i learnt how to make friends with anyone in my previous schools, for me personally, making the transition was not that difficult, and this school was again a mixed school. Not 2 days into my international school life, I learnt that it is international schools where guys fight for girls, because I was getting help from a girl to cover up whatever notes i had missed while waiting for my results, and that girl happened to be in a relationship with some guy i didn’t even know, and he made a huge fuss about it. Anyways thats besides the point. And all these talk about looking at girls as objects, well all that happens in international schools, and even some girls are used to that, upto the point where some girls actually doll up everyday because they feel if not, no one is going to pay attention to them. And yeah, and about the drug and alcohol abuse, well sorry to burst your bubble, but all that stuff happens at a very young age in international schools. guys and even some girls, who may be just merely 15 16 years of age, were caught drinking and smoking up (in case you don’t know, that is slang for smoking weed), inside the school premises of that school itself one day. Do you still think you want your children to go to a international school? And about the fear of exams, my parents never made me fear exams, in fact my dad used to say, whatever you do, give it your 100%, and let the rest unravel on its own, if you succeed its awesome, if you don’t, use that as a lesson to work harder, but it was my teachers in that international school who made me nervous about exams, they are the ones who made me fear that if i don’t pass my exam, i will not be able to go into university (not that i wanted to at that time), and the result, i failed terribly at my AS Level exams. then i came out of that school, studied on my own, went for private tuition, and resat my exams in 4 months, got 3A’s and did the same for my A2 level exams as well. And now I am studying in a prestigious UK university doing my 2nd year in my degree.

    So in summary, the schools never bring you down, it is how you are brought up that gives you the confidence to do whatever you wanna do in life, and it is your choice.

    I personally would put my kids in a government school, because I would rather want my kids to know how to win the hearts of people who are less fortunate than we are, than know how to show off to their friends with their expensive new tech gadgets.

    • Dear Shazu,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and craft a very thoughtful reply.
      In response to you, I would firstly applaud your parents for raising you in such an exemplary manner. Yet too many parents altogether subscribe to the system’s dictates that exams > universities are everything.

      “And what you said about fearing exams, and all that stuff, we were never taught that, i don’t know where you got that, in fact even at a small age we were taught that exams have nothing to do with your success.”

      On the contrary. Speaking as someone who’s been schooled in a very large boys-only school, you seem to have had a very exceptional childhood.

    • Also, I would like to point out to you the periodic school wars between all major schools, where more than a few dozen students get hospitals each year, most of them starting over a tiff with a girl. Mixed schools are commonly not involved in these fights.

      The government school experience ramps up in brutality when in comes to A/Ls. You should try doing your A/Ls in a large national school. It’s not a pleasant experience. Your non-existent fear of exams you owe to your parents, who sadly seem to be much wiser than most of the parents of the 800+ students we used to go to classes with.

      Objectifying women and drug abuse happen across all walks of life. I agree with Sashika on how this depends to a very large extent on how you one is brought up.

      Nevertheless, I tell you this: a person is also shaped by the environment in which they spend six hours a day for so many years – namely the school. I don’t know how this works in mixed national schools, but like I mentioned above, spend a good portion of your like in a boys-only national school and whatever you think you know will pale in comparison.

  6. Yudhanjaya

    I posted my reply on a comment on fb as well and ill repeat it here as well because someone of the points I have made should be seen by others as well :)

    “Anyway don’t those things happen in international schools as well??? fighting over girls and skipping school?? i see more international school students skipping school and smoking up down a lane somewhere or in a gaming cafe more than government school kids.

    Government education is given free so u have to expect the competitiveness which comes along with it. Free education cannot be made easy. if it was there will be no space in the local universities. That’s why the local university degree is so highly recognized. Yes there are plenty of people of worse character but that is also seen in international schools as well.. In my life time i have associated wide verity of people ranging from the elite school and international school rich people to even the worse drug addicts and all these include people from both government and international school. Yet going to school like the one that i went i can associate any of these people without a problem. But can a person who goes to an international school say the same?? a boy or girl who is pampered from the start and is not exposed to the wider society say the same thing?? I have seen enough and more fights occur because some of these international school boys or girls not knowing how to associate different kinds of people. I am not saying the government education in this country is perfect. the fact of the matter remains its the best the people who could not afford international schools get considering the fact that the sri lankan government administration is corrupted to the core.

    So mainly i think its the responsibility of the parents to ensure that there kids are brought up the way they want and not leave it to the schools to handle”

    Anyway I think we agreed to disagree on the matter :) and like I said nice writing mate :) keep up the good work and I am proud call you one of my school mates :)

    @magneto

    I am sorry I did not mean to generalize the fact that drugs and smoking occurs only in international school. It does happen in government schools as well and I personally think that it just happens at increasing rate in lower grades of international schools than in government schools and this speculation is based on what I have seen and experienced but cannot be proved either way without hard evidence I guess.

    On the point of tuition classes, yes international schools do not have classes of over 300 students sitting in cramped up spaces but they do still have tuition classes and I see most of my younger friends from international schools going for these classes just after school and finishing up at around the same time that any of the local syllabus tuition classes. You can argue the point saying that it is not as big as the local tuition classes but then where is the fun mentioned for kids of that age?? It comes back to the point which I have mentioned in my reply to Yudhanjaya about free education and why it is so competitive. I am not saying that government education is perfect but what i am saying is that it is must in Sri Lanka so that people without the means to put their kids into international schools have chance of rising up in the social ladder. The fact of the matter is whether you attend a government or international school the society is such that it has become so competitive that the parents of both international schools and government schools push their children as much as possible.

    Agreed on the point about heritage. The government must take more initiative in ensuring the Sri Lankan culture is upheld in the school. But considering that the Sri Lankan government like most of the worlds governments are corrupt we have to ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that Sri Lankan culture is upheld. I am not saying International schools are worse than government schools, the point i am trying to make is that both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Also if you take the cooperate sector of the country majority of the top notch positions are held by the people who attended government schools and went through the local universities. Yes some people do think that there life is over if they do not get through the local examinations which is not the case but is not the responsibility of the parents to encourage the child to pursue he or her dream?? All in all I don’t think government schools should be put down. Its not perfect but it has done a major service to this country and I am proud to be a government school product rather than an international school product.

    On the point of upbringing I did not mean being posh or poor. It does not matter whether you are rich or poor what matters is the values that are instilled by the parents at a very young age. 99% of a kids actions are the responsibility of the parents. It does not matter if you are rich, poor, posh or “gode” what matters is that you pursue your dreams while not being a nuisance to the rest of the society. Yes the school should play a part in this but is it not majorly the parents responsibility to ensure that this takes place?? Can only a school be blamed for drug addicts?? Majority of the blame lies with the parents on that note.

    I am sorry if i have missed out on any points due to the fact that I am at work right now and wrote this reply in the few min break I managed to get. So if i have indeed missed out on any please do point it out :)

    Anyway I really think that this is a great article which allows people to bring out their opinions from different side to an issue which has not been addressed in any other article I have seen. Well done (Y)

    • Hats off to you for a very well stated reply. i believe you’ve accurately summed up the other side of the coin.

      As for the question of pampering: I’ve seen quite a few comments here so far describing international school students as pampered and privileged. Pray tell, if you have the means, why should one child be dragged down to the level of the rest, if said child can afford to be better? That ultimately is the system all humans live by. Those who can inevitably do, in one way or the other. Those who can’t complain/

      Agreed: the government education system in Sri Lanka is free – and flawed. Nevertheless, our society had revolved to the point where countless parents place higher priority on success in school than success in life. Incessant competitiveness has brought the system to a point where it is not an education, but a boot camp for churning out drones who go on to instill the same values in their children and repeat the same cycle. In every batch, a few – like your own, very educated self – break free, but most others simply carry on the cycle.

  7. well I think the author could initiate a nice discussion among the readers.. hats off for that… I learned the local syllabus, i went to an average school, got through my A/Ls somehow and graduated from a recognized local university in SL. I am just another common young girl.. but my friend I was not affected by any of the aforementioned symptoms. For your information I highly admire myself, not having any personality problems as you fear. On the other hand, i come from a upper middle class family, I don’t think my mom and dad could spend lakhs for my secondary education, so I think The father of free education, because of whom I was lucky to get educated. On the other hand I am currently planning to start my post- grad studies and I am expecting to get a scholarship so my mom n dad won’t have any financial constraints because of me. My blessings for the founders of scholarship programes. That’s the economical aspect of it.

    On the other hand I pity those kids who live in isolated worlds of their own, not privileged to witness the beauty of being a Sri Lankan, having great Sinhalese names, but with the “Disability” to speak little Sinhala, I pity those kids who live in the worlds of iPhones, apple, computer games, Hip Hop culture.. and all the bullshit(excuse me)

    I would like to invite the author to come out of his wonder world and glance at the reality. I am a common Sri Lankan and I am glad I know the essence of being Sri Lankan.

    But what I appreciate about international schools is that students who learn their does not get too old to reach their ultimate goals. But that is also due to the problems of the education system in Sri lanka. They have to be corrected and the whole system has to change, into a more effective and efficient new system. With those changes we will have a better tomorrow for the generations yet to come.

    • Let me start off by thanking you for the reply.
      While I agree with certain points you make, I put that down to your parents doing the right thing rather than a school getting it right. But since your primary intent appears to be to invite me out of my so-called “wonder world”, let me me frankly tell you that I am in much the same situation that you are. In fact, I daresay I was in “worse”. My “wonder world”, as you call it, once consisted of me working in the evenings simply so I could pay for my own A/L tuition.

      The “essence of being Sri Lankan” is a thorny topic. I too have no admiration for those who scorn their own language, but neither to I like those who hide behind stagnant customs and mindless play out the same roles in the name of “tradition”. Sri Lanka culture could use a good kick up the ass.

  8. Dear ALCH3MIST,

    Yes, there are fights between national schools true, but are you telling me there aren’t fights among international schools too? forgive me if i’m wrong, but wasn’t a kid killed recently in an international school because of one of these fights? in the international school i went to, there was a fight atleast once a week, if there wasn’t a fight that week, it would be weird. In a national school scenario, the fights between schools were not always about girls, it had more to do about about competitions between schools, and the love for our alma mater. lets take for instance the fights that break out during big match seasons, those were all mostly because someone from another school said something about the school that didn’t register well with the people from that school. Loyalty towards your school, which is your second family, is something that is very commendable, and I as a person who generally stand up for what is right, totally agree with that. don’t get me wrong, I am in no way promoting that kind of violence, all i’m saying is that, if you say something knowing that it would agitate someone else, then you should definitely know that there will be consequences.

    Either way these fights, and all these “bad” stuff that everyone is talking about, comes down to only a handful of people in those schools, there are always black sheeps in every community (not just schools in general), and you cannot judge the entire community based on just a few people’s actions.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, whether you go to a national school, semi-national school, international school or whatever school, it all depends on how you are brought up. If you were brought up in a way that allows you to do all these kinds of stuff, then you definitely would think its okay to do it, if you are brought up in a way that is against all these stuff, you will definitely stay away from it. If you are taught the right morals from a smaller age, you will definitely not give in to peer pressure and think its okay for you to do these things.

    My parents taught me whats right and whats wrong, my friends taught me how to choose between the good company and bad company of people, my school taught me to have my priorities straight. And today I wont be where I am today if I had gone wrong in even one of those 3.

    • And can you honestly claim to stand for those who are not in fact brought up in such a way, because they spend most of their lives shuttling between a dysfunctional school and tuition system? Just so.

  9. And just FYI, I did 1 year of local A/Level before i switched schools, I didn’t think it was relevant to the point I was making so I didn’t include that, so don’t think i don’t know about what goes on in the A/Level section of national schools as well

  10. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to read and comment on this post. For the record, my stance is as unchanged as ever, but every coin has two sides. I wrote about one: now we see the other.

  11. nicely written article machan.. but i dnt agree on the reason u’ve given for guys jumping into girls schools.. the event of guys jumping into girls schools started with big matches long before you or i was born.. even before ur father or my father was born too.. the initial reason was to jump into girls school dressed in funny costumes and do a hat collection so that they have enuf cash to spend during the weekend.. the reason they jump now may not be the same.. but trust me.. i knw for a fact that the girls in these schools do eagerly wait for this jumping season to begin..

    apart frm that i agree on everything else u have said.. especially the thing regarding studies.. but i would also state that, its not the fault of the schools alone.. its the fault of the parents and the society also.. its their pressure that builds on them.. not everyone can afford an international or private school bro.. those of us who were fortunate enough to attend one wouldnt know how it is to be in a public school with parents and relatives who think that being a doctor or an engineer is equal to being the president of US..

  12. You’ve opened up a rat’s nest, here.

    One problem is the generalisations. I only had 3 years at a leading private school and was able to make an impact well beyond the implications of your article. So although the potential for lock step and uniformity exists, it’s up to the school’s administration to manage it with a light touch in order to promote the best in the kids. At the best of times, education is a tight rope walk – I speak from almost 3 decades in staffrooms. Not all schools are write offs and even those that are really aren’t write offs all the time.

    I had a wandering childhood, so I was educated in various countries as well as here. You know what? Indifference to the kid, an impersonal and distant manner and the obligation to conform to the norms of a given society are fundamentals in every society, be it Eastern, Western, Northern or Southern. Every society’s educational system is a breeding ground for nameless, faceless conformists. This is a cultural necessity: our societies can only accommodate so many leaders, so the majority of people have to be followers, so the school systems turn out followers. The few who turn out as leaders have had a combination of family structure and nurturing, internal drive and opportunity to become such.

    The international schools in SL are registered as private companies, for the most part, so they are free to do things that schools are not. They can, theoretically, generate mostly leaders. If they did, there would have been a spike in emigration by now. I guess they just produce people who conform just as much as the rest.

    As for the big name international schools, one of which was my employer for over 25 years, here’s what they produce amongst their Sri Lankan students: lawyers (who still haven’t risen to the top), doctors (who emigrate), teachers (who work in international schools), engineers (who emigrate), owners of SMEs, employees and secretaries in firms – can anyone see a difference between the output of the splashiest international schools and the run of the mill Lanka schools? At least the Lankan schools don’t produce young people who flee the land.

    When I was at school as a kid, there was a lot of this business of helping people to stay in their place. I found that in the govt office and big name companies I worked in before I was hired by the school where I was a teacher. So it’s not the schools that do it but the culture. The schools, like the law, have to reflect the culture. You want different schools? Change the culture!

  13. Your post made me sad. How can you discriminate Sri Lankan educational system like this. I agree international educational system is quite standard, when comparing to the national educational system. Fights are so common in Sri Lanka, between Schools, between guys. Dont make any childish points. I did CIMA and I have seen so many so called international students, who couldn`t get through CIMA foundation at least. They all needed a bottle of arrack and a hooker. That`s all I understood. So this is what so called international discipline huh? and I am an undergraduate, and in my undergraduate life there were some guys with me who finished their school studies from Gateway international, Shame to say they couldn`t complete an assignment properly, without copying from internet. National school students were ahead. Final out come was 3 first class degrees in our batch, 4 Second upper and all from national students. For your thinking, who did that Royal park murder,? and Malaka Silva, is he a product from National school (No way), and politician Anarkali Akarsha (LOL )……Etc etc
    Before you write anything, think about in every aspects. cheers!

  14. Ok I finally managed to read this whole article.. I found it so interesting I actually decided to take a pen and paper and write some points..

    First of all let me start out by saying I went to a medium grade “local school” for 13-14years and I am so GLAD I did…

    This article is about school a few years back.. I have no kids and not exactly sure how school is right now.. Bite here is what I think about school in my time 12 years or so back…

    The writer of this article seems to my lil single digit IQ Brian like a person who came from a somewhat well to do family with probably their own business and is probably a bit socially held back and able to make friends with a particular class/walk of people… Maybe cos he started off in a better school according to him…

    First of all let me say while we spend around 6 hours of the day of school our values morals come from home, our parents, brother and sisters… Now a days I see parents who are all to glad point fingers at schools and teachers for the things their kids to instead of seeing that they have been too busy running the rat race and not put their kids straight… Home is where we have to gather grace.. That’s not me but a poet once said that… Oh but how did i known what a poet who was not in our school syllabus say.. Must have hit my head somewhere while playing in school..

    Now to some background on my self… At my time my school was known as a medioca school… I was never the brightest kid in my class… Well not even in the top half at most times… I hate memorising and was not like a major sports jock… Just an average guy… Oh but I did manage to get in to a uni India…

    Let’s start with the grade 5 scholarship… Its not the kids who are comparative my friend its the parents… Its the parents who push and push hard where the kids are under so much pressure.. My parents decided to take me on a trip rather than sit for this exam and try to send me to Royal or Ananda…

    I watched not only Tint in but all other cartoons and even stuff like knightrider, street hawk and V… Cos my parents let me have a child hood and didn’t push me to this rat race… Oh and they didnt have a family business or loads or cash to give me when I finished school… Quite obvious by me going to India to study and not UK or the US… They just decided that a child needs a child hood… Not a rat race.. And when the time came they would focus on education…

    Oh and when and if I failed my exams I was not mollycoddled by my teachers or parents… I was punished most times by the end of a cane made to study hard and show I can do better… This is life.. These are important to make us stronger in life as adults and show us that we can turn our failures into success if we work hard at it and not to just give up and move to something else… I guess international schools forgot to teach that failures are the pillars of success.. And that life is not always easy… And that working hard pays off…

    Yes international schools might show you a world beyond school and traditional jobs but remember someone also has to be a doctor or an engineer or even a teacher… And while they who a world beyond they fail to show you the land you live in.. One of the greatest things my school gave me was the ability associate and make lifelong friends with kids from well off families and kids from the tenements all on one levelled playing field… It was more about who we were as people and not about what we have… I see that most kids from international schools have quite a disconnect from a majority or fellow country men… And country men are not only those in colombo… I being a middle class kid was humbled by what some lesser fortunate kids had to go through… this guy says schools wants you to be doctors and engineers and all that.. mine never did cos maybe they never thought I could be one… but I been a merchandiser, banker and currently a baker and I am doing quite ok for myself and am self made…

    This writer says he has no pressure to get into Uni… Good for him.. Maybe its cos he had his own family business or his parents were to send to send him to a private Uni.. Here is a news flash my friend.. A majority or kids in that 6000+ children school u went to didn’t have that luxury and Uni was a way for them to see a better future… Tell me what organisation says oh there is a kid with no degree let me hire him as an executive.. Like it or not a degree opens doors for people…

    Now to the subject of girls and more about me.. I have always been a bit of a chubby kid.. Now more than then… I was not a jock as I said before but hey I had loads of friends who were girls that I got to know through school or tuition classes or organisations like interact… And most of these girls 15+ years down are still good friends of mine… And no I didn’t ask them all out most of them were just really good friends… And yes I did have the nerve to ask girls out without a gang of boys behind me and get rejected at times and not at others… But how is this possible??? According to this writer local school boys can’t do things like this… Maybe I was secretly attending international night school… Again my friends it’s about upbringing not what school I went to… Most local school have some kind of organisation like Interact Club that helps you meet people and work together..

    Being that I associate many people from many walks and have relatives and friends who ether went to international schools or are currently studying in them.. Let me tell you these schools also have their dark side… From drugs, to drinking to underage sex sometime as young as 14 to adultery to teaches having affairs with under aged girls to physiological bullying cos your not rich enough to come in the latest car or buy the latest iPhone and a wide variety of other things.

    Now my friend here also goes on to say about how liberal teachers at international schools are compared to local school teachers. Recently a 15 year old boy was expelled from one of the high end leading International schools cos a girl who he was out doing in class when and told the teacher that this boy said one swear word in class while the teacher was present.. mind you the teacher has not even heard this being said.. but cos it was a complaint it went all the way to the chairman of the school and the kid was expelled… I also learnt that the school keeps a written record or all the misbehaving each kid has done during school and the only prior this kid has had as throwing paper balls while in class… quite contrary to what the writer seems to be saying where kids can be kids and all that jazz.. luckily for this kid though his parents took legal action and he is back in school and I heard he is got a world award for his OLs… Again my friends there is good and bad in everything.. this is why upbringing is important…

    So it seems that the older the local teachers get the righter they become according to this article… I really don’t think it’s a local teacher thing or even a teacher thing… its an adult thing… lots of adults think them know better than some 15 year old that’s how society is… the good thing about having such teachers in school is that from a young age you get the opportunity to handle people like this, learn to maybe approach them in a different way, diplomatically get your idea across, find ways to open close minds or just realize its pointless arguing with a close mind.. cos when you come to the adult corporate world you also meet people like this.. that are ether more qualified or more senior than you thus knows better than you and baboom that experience you had with navigating the close minded teacher helps you out… you need to learn to respect your elders but just cos you respect them doesn’t mean you have to accept everything they say.. oh another lesson learnt from local school…

    For me as a kid being a kid I use to love free periods where we get no create chaos and make noise and play the fool… its called being a kid my friends… remember you all were there once…

    Tuition… one of the main fabs these days.. my parents decided for some reason I didn’t need it till around grade 9… and even at that point only for the subjects that I was weak in and not every subject in the syllabus… and mind you the classes I went for all had maybe a maximum of 30 students and at most would have cost Rs.400/- a month… this is cos they decided to send me to teachers who cared and not the fab/in teachers that were in it for the money… yeah such teachers do exist…

    This guy goes on to say that local schools engrave the idea that it is essential to go to campus… No shit Sherlock… not everyone is lucky enough to be some entrepreneur right out of school or have their own family wealth or business.. have you even stepped down to the grass root level of this country even once in your all mighty life? I believed I touched on this before.. a university degree helps open doors for you when it comes to entering the job market… and I also found greatly helpful to shape me as a person as I was lucky enough to study away from home and thus for the first time live independently away from parents and old friends which thought me allot about life… but that’s just me the local school boy talking… mind you one of my closest and best friends went to an international school till grade 6 then for some reason her parents decided to switch her to local school.. she ended up being a star all around student in both studies and extracurricular activities.. ended us going to LOCAL uni which had no ragging cos they decided they were better than that (again upbringing) while doing a external law degree as well, aced them both… worked for a governing body in SL managed to get into Harvard but declined cos the scholarship didn’t cover the total cost, went to another top 5 uni in the world to do her Masters and is currently doing her PhD at that same Uni… all at the age of 31, and she is proud to be a local school girl… another friend who went to local school all her life found herself attending Yale on a full scholarship after school.. haven’t come across many international school people like this… Don’t be so quick to drag down local Uni’s too… had a chance to see what my friends were studying and doing in Uni’s like Colombo and J’Pura while I was studying in India… and trust me they were doing much more relevant much more free thinking much more advance work than me… Yes there is allot that needs to improve in our local Uni’s but that’s mostly to do with administration and unions and all…

    This writer also talks about going to schools like Royal… again while these schools might have more facilities and experiences teachers I remember a friend from my school who happened to come to my school from the grade 5 scholarship did his OLs a year early, Aced all the subjects, then did it again with us so he can help a few guys sitting around him out, aced it again and while most of his friends decided to go to Royal, he decided to stay back in my medioca school study science and is a doctor now saving lives… again its more than the school you went to…

    The writer of this article also goes on to say how local exams are so structures and you don’t have the freedom of free thought… I completely agree with you… this needs to change.. but don’t forget its not easy when you’re talking about millions of kids doing the same exam and being from all walks… I’d like to see you go write these so called creative free thinking answers at your SATs or IELTS or London’s that are not marked by your own teachers…

    To conclude my friends I am not telling you where to send your kids to school or where not to… both options has their goods and bads… all I am saying is that there are two sides to everything… and anything can be used for good or bad… Just remember as parents most of the time its you who pushes your kids be extra comparative, its you who decide your kid rather have more tuition than a childhood… remember there is a time for everything and balance is very important… The examples you set your kids as adults/parents are whats important… its not the teachers that bring up your kids.. its you.. so free up a lil time for them… instill good qualities in them and discourage the bad.. kids will be kids sometimes… but that’s an important part of growing up… school lays the first few stepping stones to your life… the rest is totally us to you… so have an open mind…

  15. I went to a Government school and wasted 10 or 12 years of my life. I learned little of any value, was bullied throughout and thoroughly misarable. I had almost no friends, no social life and grew up misarable and awkward.

    They told me I dull and slow, I spent most of my life believing that to be so.

    I hated school. When I meet people who keep raving about school I just smile or make some non-committal remark. I have had no reason to change my opinon of school depsite the many years since I left, although time has mellowed my resentment somewhat.

    The little I know I learnef because I did not do anything in school- but escaped after school to my grandfathers house and kept reading all the books I could find.

  16. The writer should be applauded for this fine piece of writing. Firstly, the results of such wisdom meet with negative comments from people who have not deeply understood his POV. Secondly, whilst I would like this article to change a lot of things in the education system in our country,it wont… and thats unfortunate.

    Please have this post published in the newspapers so that a broader segment of society sees it and also for the benefit of our politicians who are averse to social media.

  17. Interesting points.

    As someone who wasn’t brought up in Sri Lanka (but with Sri Lankan parents), I can’t comment on many of the specific points mentioned. I was lucky enough to go to a good school in London. My little brother went to an international school in SL for his GCSEs and so I have some idea what kids go through, although clearly not enough.

    I think without getting into too much specifics about Sri Lankan education, people in general need to realise what an education system is for.

    Yes, parents largely determine how you are raised and set an example for kids to follow. School life has at least as much of an impact because kids spend so much time there, and this is where they learn how to really think. So it is a combination of both aspects rather than one or the other, they’re both very important.

    For me education is about allowing your mind to reach its potential, not about grades or getting a good job. However most education systems are conditioning kids to become consumers. The fundamental concepts of schooling in most countries revolve around creating factories producing kids who have a limited scope of abilities and a narrower range of thought, that has been conditioned to think along certain lines. This may sounds dramatic but when you do some research, take a step back and look at the bigger picture it is a fair description of what’s going on in the world today. To analyse an education system we should ask who designed it, and what the purpose of it is. We get dragged down into debating specific aspects within a system rather than debating the actual system.

    The whole paradigm of schools instilling into kids the concept of needing to be constantly assessed, teaches kids obedience and lessens critical thinking. All of which is mighty convenient if you want to dumb down populations(why? to control them).

    Here’s a quote that sums it up, from an American journalist:

    “the aim of public education is not…to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence… Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States… and that is its aim everywhere else.”

    The quality of education systems is different between countries, for sure. Third world countries have education systems that rely more on the factory model and teach less critical thinking and creativity, partly because many third world countries are economically allocated manufacturing and producer roles, so the education systems need to produce better workers, not revolutionary thinkers. I live in China, and this is perhaps the best example of an education system that produces mindless consumers. You guys in SL have it lucky compared to here! In China, remember, given the political structure and massive population the need to control the population through several means (the most important in my opinion being the education system) is all too apparent. It’s more like psychological torture in my humble opinion, designed to break people’s spirits and completely dumb them down.

    Here’s a good link to check out:

    http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/john_gatto2.html

  18. I have a 1 1/2 year old daughter, and my wife and I are actually contemplating whether to send her to an international school or a national school when the time comes. So this issue is close to my heart.

    One thing very positive is that this article has sparked some much needed debate on our education system – both local and international schools included.

    I was educated in Dubai till high school and did my O’s and A’s at Gateway, Colombo. It had just started but the standards and quality of teaching was very high. Did not need to attend even one tuition class outside school and got an A, B and D for my A/levels. Did I mention that my school life was one of the most happiest in my life?

    That was 15 years ago. With the advent of the internet, mobile phones and social media, things have changed. My nephew (15 years, international school) is addicted to cigarettes and takes his puff of weed whenever he meets his friends out of school. Girls vary from being friends to sex objects, depending on who they are talking about. Seeing some of his “girl” friends FB pictures, you cannot always blame the boys for this.

    But more surprising, from feedback I got from other quarters (apart from this article), these dangerous trends are not limited to international schools. The national schools are also tackling the drug menace and the degeneration of our values.

    What we must all agree is that the government or the education system is not going to solve this. My opinion is that we, as responsible parents, should do our part in teaching our children right from wrong, honesty from dishonesty, and how to be a gentleman and a lady.

    Thanks for the article, but I have to agree that the home environment might be the best way to tackle this menace which is creeping up into all our schools.

  19. I like the arguments better. They help shape up the complete story, through which, it leaves ‘you’ to think for yourself as an individual having gone through your own school life. Is there a right or wrong, worse or better? Honestly, I don’t know, everything that surrounds us has its own unique mix of good and bad. its how how you’re prepared to take on both is possibly the answer. One think I am convinced of however is that its probably best to teach your children adaptability through real life lessons that can only be taught at home by liberal parents who make it a point to take time off their work load to spend real time with their kids… as they grow in their school and in life.\

  20. Before I start, just a fact about myself. I was in a leading private girls school in Sri Lanka.

    Attending an international school or a national school will not make you have exceptional dreams superior than the other. My friends I’ve met in tuition classes (Who were in government schools) dreamed about being researchers, scientists, astronauts and even more!

    I like what you have written. But you have made it sound as if greater dreams only belonged to kids in International Schools.

    The subject matter in this article is eligible for much argument. Just to add my two cents, the brighter side of the government schools are not very much elaborated. And i believe there is so much more to enjoy in government schools than in International schools. The solid foundation of a culture dying, an edifice to a language which is slowly struggling to live; these are the main benefits I see in a National School.

    I agree with you that the education system itself might not be the best. Heck, it will not even be counted towards the A list education in the world, but there is so much more in National schools which is not mentioned in the article.

    Anyway, it was a good article. Thumbs up to the OP.

  21. Having read the article and also the extensive comments, I thought my 2 cents may also be of some worth here. Having a 5 year old son, who will be entering school life within the next 12 months, this subject is one of extreme interest to me.

    Like so many parents before me, I too went through the whole dilemma of International vs Local school… not necessarily government school.

    My own personal experience of having attended a ‘semi-government’ school and studied in the Sinhala Medium, (even though we only spoke English at home), definitely made me think twice about putting my son through the same difficulties that i handled when it came to the language issue.

    But, having the option now of putting my son into the very same school in the English medium, has changed my mindset drastically. Basically he gets to study in a language that he is comfortable in and also get the benefit of being molded into an adult who has certain ‘old school’ values.

    To me personally, apart from the struggle with the language, my school days are ones I remember with much fondness and pride! We did have teachers who were all about the text book and exams, but we also had teachers who invested in us as human beings, who saw the potential in us, and went the extra mile to make sure we turned out to be the well rounded individuals we are today.

    So as far as my son is concerned, far be it from me to deny him the tiniest bit of the spills and thrills, the triumphs and the disappointments, the pride of making the ‘First team’ in sports, that stuffiness that fills the chest when singing the College song…

    …and the chance to be a part of the centuries old traditions that I believe can only experienced at one of the local schools.

    Thus ends my 2 cents, it may not be worth even that as far as I know. Cheers!

  22. The original article is quite an incomplete analysis, but the debate it has sparked is brilliant. It’s quite rare to get so many opinions on SL’s varied educational institutions in one place like this. Kudos to the commentors for turning a somewhat biased article into a true discussion.

    There is no silver bullet. Just because OP has decided to send his future kids to an international school, doesn’t guarantee anything. There is nothing stopping him from sending him to a good govt school such as Visakha, Royal, Ananda, etc and still ensuring the kids have a balanced life with a good mixture of academics, sport, and social skills. And save a (few?) million rupees over the 13 years too!

    If you can afford to send your kids to an international school, by all means do it. However, you need to acknowledge the serious inadequacies of these institutions as well. A child going to (for example) CIS for his entire primary and secondary education will have a very warped view of the society he lives in. Yes, he may be able to speak to girls without treating them like aliens, but the day he enters the work force, he may not be able to speak confidently to people from other backgrounds. Is this not as, if not more, important than the social skill of picking up chicks?

    I’m quite agnostic on where I would like to send my children. Yes – I appreciate the importance of surrounding them with the best environment for their future, but I also believe the majority of positive influence needs to come from home.

    I was a victim of the tuition culture, and I’ll be damned if my kids will be too.

  23. A well written piece of work! As a semi-government boys only school student myself, I made a promise to my self to send my kids one day to a mixed private school. Today I am so happy I took that decision on my kids, I have two happy children who value human-relationship more than mere exam tricks.

  24. I would not usually spend my time reading a long article and I would very rarely bother to leave a comment but there is absolutely nothing which could hold me from spending my time appreciating this piece of fact-full article.

    As a student from a national school from grade 1, the chance of me believing this would be highly low. Yet, my style of living at school was very different compared to others. I appreciated the way people away from national schools lived as they were actually behaving ‘normally’ as everyone should be.

    Though I’m still fixed to most of the drawbacks I gained from the school, I can’t say I achieved nothing as well. Being in English medium gives a slight different experience to fellow students where the teachers show different qualities deviated from the traditions. That also means that other teachers show disrespect towards it.

    My time in school made me want to quit my local education from O/Ls and directly go into a different system. My parents’ support is what made it possible for me. Here I stand without having no regrets about taking that decision.

    Thank you for writing this to provoke the minds of people who have the heart to appreciate others. May the best come to you and your family.

  25. As a half-national half-international past pupil, I think the way international schools are run (no gender segregation, better curriculum) definitely has its merits. However, my time in the national school made me tougher and more street-smart than the average international school buddies i hung out with

    I think core values need to be taught to children, regardless of the school they are in. It is up to parents and teachers to do this.

  26. LOL I wondered for a while how cotx + tanx would equal to 1.

    I could relate to a lot of this having been to six different schools which were both local and international. And you nailed the description of the average Saman govt. school student: Narrow Minded!

    Good read bro! :D

  27. I am sorry, this debate has no relevance, but I am engaging because I am among well-meaning individuals. Our public education stinks but the criticism or support for it in this type venues come from those who have choices. If we choose we can send our children to public schools for the illusion of a ‘national education’ but give the real education at home where we can provide them a with a learning culture. We have the choice of switching to international schools when we want. The talented village kids we get to hire are those who would do well under any circumstances. Meanwhile 50% or so of the 16-18 year cohort leave school each year without GCE (O/L). 15%+ leave before Grade 9. They will be ok if their attitudes have not been messed up by the system. This system serves the poor so so poorly. The debate has to take place in the parliament but there is little chance because our reps are also part of this middles class Web of making do. I have given up after many years of trying.There is some hope for reforms at the provincial level.

  28. For a moment I thought, the comments are heading towards taking the best of both systems and creating a better tomorrow.

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