Government indifferent to war zone students' hardship

[TamilNet, Friday, 16 January 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The cut off marks for admission to Sri Lankan universities, released to the press last evening by the Ministry of Education, shows the indifference of the authorities for the trials and hardship of the people living in the northeast, said Ministry of Education sources today.

They said that the difference between the cut off marks for students entering the local universities from Jaffna and Batticaloa and those admitted from Colombo, Kandy and Galle is almost negligible. This is especially so in the more sought after courses such as medicine, engineering and management.

joseph_pararasasingam.gif"There should be greater consideration shown to the students from the North and East where there is war and the atmosphere is not conducive for studies," said Joseph Pararajasingham (MP- Batticaloa District) of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).

The cut off point in medicine for students from Colombo District is 280, Kandy District 278, and Galle District 277, while Jaffna District is 275.

The Batticaloa District, is classified as a comparatively backward area in education. Nevertheless the cut off mark for students aspiring to do medicine is 261.

The cut off mark in engineering for Jaffna is 274. This is higher than that for Kandy (267) and is almost on par with Colombo (278) and Galle (277).

In the case of Batticaloa it is 234 whereas in the Sinhala majority district of Moneragala which is also considered a backward area it is 198. And in Polannaruwa, another Sinhala district it is 220.

The cut off point in the Jaffna District for management is 292 which is same as Galle, higher than Kandy (289) and merely two marks less than Colombo.

Admission to the Arts faculties presents a more interesting picture.

The cutoff mark for Jaffna is 266 which is on par with Galle, higher than both Kandy (264) and Colombo (260). What is remarkable is that cutoff mark in the Batticaloa District is also 266.

Cutoff marks, which mean the minmum marks a student should obtain to be admitted to a local university for a particular course of study have been the bone of contention ever since the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Government introduced standardisation of education in 1972, depriving Tamil students of entry into universities.

This is led to the rise of Tamil militancy in the northeast from early seventies. The consequences of standardisation among the Tamils has been amply documented.

This has assumed another dimension now.

Today, despite the war and the volatile situation in the north and east which are not conducive for study, Tamil students have to perform as well as students in the other parts of the island which are free of fighting.

With admission to the university being highly competitive in Sri Lanka, cutoff marks are calculated on the number of students who can be admitted to any given course of study in the local universities and on the basis of the total population in the district.

Education authorities, defending the high cutoff marks in Jaffna, said that with the population diminishing in Jaffna due to the war, seats in the universities allocated to the district have also been proportionately reduced. However, with sterling performances continuing to seen among the students of Jaffna, the cutoff mark has to be high argue the education authorities in Colombo.

But critics feel that though good performances are recorded by students in the Jaffna peninsula, the fact is that they come only from a handful of schools.

Most of the population is caught up in the ravages of war which hamper education.

In view of this they stress that the cutoff marks should be reduced so that the larger section of the student population in general could benefit.

Joseph Pararajasingham goes further. "Considering the fact that the war situation has prevailed in the North and East for more than 10 years, a special allocation should be given to them. Something like 10 - 15% of the seats in the universities should be allocated to the students from the North and East," said Mr. Pararajasingham.


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