Freedom of expression and fundamental rights

High Cut–off Marks Deny Scholarship Students Placement in Popular Schools

Dilhani Thantirimudalige

In spite of schools being closed for a long period due to the Corona pandemic, the result of the grade 5 scholarship examination held in October 2020 was delayed compared to other years. Ten students obtained 200 out of 200 which is the full mark. Even with limited access to direct teacher-student meetings and classroom gatherings, another 20,000 students successfully passed the scholarship examination.

The main reason behind the to  score high marks at the scholarship exams is for students to have access to schools with better facilities. There are 149 popular schools islandwide which are in high demand.  

However this is the first time that the Grade 5 Scholarships cut off mark was also set so high, making it difficult for students to enter a school of their dreams. Students are expected to have scored 97 marks per subject, with a total of 190 marks to enter a school in Colombo. This was a totally unexpected situation compared to previous years.

The Ceylon Teachers Service Union staged a protest demanding that the cut-off mark of the 2020 exam be reduced. They handed over a letter to officials of the Ministry of Education, stating the need to publish the number of new student admissions based on the cut-off marks released by the education ministry. The letter also stated that equal opportunities should be provided to all students who got through the exam with the aim of going to a better school. Parents and teachers have shown concern over the undesirable raise in the cut-off mark for 2020. The underlying speculation is that admissions to popular schools are politically influenced and the education ministry lacks transparency. 

Parents associations from across the country say that children have been admitted to grade 6 through other means whilst scholarship holders are denied their privilege for admission to popular schools. Last year the cut-off mark for Royal College was 184 but this year it has increased to 193.  

When the topic was brought up in parliament by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, the Minister of Education, Professor G.L Peiris responded saying the grade 5 Scholarship exam cut-off marks were not unfairly increased. He further stated that the cut-off marks were determined in accordance with the student’s performance at the exam and this year, the children performed extremely well.

The Secretary of the Ministry of Education Kapila Perera stated that the number of students and classes available in schools have been posted on the Ministry Website and this will clear things out.  

However, the demand for admission to Royal College Colombo from the grade 5 scholarship exams is very high. It is not practical and the solution for this problem will be provided within a month, the Secretary added.

The aim of the scholarship exam is to give children a chance to earn their way to a school with better facilities. This is the most important exam that will pave a way for a child with a very specific goal of graduating into a profession of his/her desire. Sri Lanka has produced many professionals serving the country today through the scholarship scheme where the child is taken into a school with facilities and better opportunities to excel in studies.

This tense situation could have been avoided if the schools in rural villages have up-to-date labs, sports facilities, and more subject options for Ordinary Level and Advanced Level subjects at Royal College Colombo. Parents are keen to urge the Ministry of Education to work towards upgrading rural schools with the same facilities as the popular schools to minimize the stress and disappointment of children, parents, and teachers in Sri Lanka.

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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