Ridding Year 1 school admissions of corruption and influence
Getting a child into Year 1 of school, government or private, has become a traumatic and unpleasant event. Principals are being arrested for taking bribes, court cases are being launched, parents stand in line through the night, and children are being coached to lie about where they live. The problem which was originally concentrated in government schools, has now reached crisis proportions even in private schools, with bribes being taken on top of the already very high admission fees and mandatory contributions. What should be a joyful life event has begun to corrode our morals and institutions.
This paper is intended to provoke discussion on this most important subject. It is not supported by extensive data analysis and is by no means the last word on the subject. The discussion questions at the end reinforce the point that the objective is to start a discussion rather than propose a solution. It applies hitherto neglected economic analysis to the problem, more than other valuable approaches.
It was written on a dare, to show that the analytical tools that are being applied to reform of hard infrastructures (telecom, electricity, etc.) could also be applied fruitfully to soft infrastructures such as education and health. Sometimes an outsider’s intervention can break logjams in policy analysis. It is hoped that education professionals will absorb this shock magnanimously and advance the debate on their terms, allowing the author to get back to his normal preoccupations, hopefully in one piece.
Reference is made to international schools in the discussion because that is one area where evidence of the working of market supply and demand can be seen, not because they are seen as the solution. Please note that these schools should not be thought of in terms of Colombo International School or the like; there are dozens of international schools of varying quality scattered across the country, in shop fronts and various kinds of accommodations.
In the development of a workable solution, a more multi-disciplinary approach should be adopted, though the author strongly believes that economic analysis must serve as the foundation. While there are many other problems affecting the educational system (such as the over-reliance on examinations and rote learning), this paper focuses on the Year 1 admission problem and in particular on minimizing the pervasive corruption, influence, mistrust and unhappiness that currently characterize this important event in the lives of parents and children.