5 prompted by recent findings of low primary student

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5 Prompted by recent findings of low primary student scores on achievement tests, Sri Lankan policymakers are giving more attention to school quality (NEC, 2003). There are several explanations for low education quality in Sri Lanka. First, the learning competencies listed in the primary curriculum may not have been clearly communicated to schools, and teachers may have weak training (see NEREC, 2004). Second, teacher absenteeism is high; about 18% of teachers are absent on an average day. Third, some schools lack sufficient funds to purchase educational materials. Fourth, many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and such students often perform poorly. Fifth, low income children may suffer from inadequate nutrition, including coming to school without breakfast, which could reduce their class room performance. Sri Lanka has recently introduced several policies to improve primary school quality (NEC, 2003). First, child-friendly curricula have been introduced. Second, a national network of education colleges and teacher centers has been set up to provide all teachers with adequate pre-service and in-service training; this reduced the proportion of untrained teachers from 25% in 1995 to 2% by 2003. Third, language and mathematics skill programs have been introduced. Fourth, poor schools have received funds to purchase essential educational material. Finally, a school meals program has been started in poor rural areas, including the war-affected North-Eastern Province. B. Performance of Grade 4 Students. In 2002, Sri Lanka’s National Education Research and Evaluation Center (NEREC) collected data from a random sample of 20 grade 4 students in each of 939 randomly selected public schools (for details, see NEREC, 2004b). The sample was drawn was all public school students in grade 4 in 2002. To measure the learning of students who had completed four years of school, the
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6 sampled students were tested in mathematics, English and “first language” in March, 2003. 1 The first language test was Tamil for Tamil students and Sinhala for Sinhalese students. Each test had 40 questions, almost all of which were multiple choice. Table 1 shows mean test scores, by socioeconomic groups. The scores on each test are normalized to have a mean of zero and a standard deviation of one, as seen in the first row. The second and third rows show that, on average, girls outperformed boys on all three tests. The next nine rows give results for Sri Lanka’s nine provinces. Western Province, which contains the two most economically advanced districts, Colombo and Gampaha, performed best in all three subjects. Northwestern and Southern Provinces, which border Western Province, had the next highest scores. Northern and Eastern Provinces had the lowest scores. This probably reflects the impact of 20 years of armed secessionist conflict on their education systems. The next lowest performance is in Uva Province, a relatively underdeveloped province with a low per capita income.
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  • Winter '17
  • DR. G.K. MAKAU
  • Economics

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