Bureaucratic imbecility was the chief characteristic of the GCE Advance Level exam results which were released late on Christmas day. From the various debacles in results, ranks, Z-scores, to the inauspicious time of release – when a part of the candidature was celebrating the birth of Christ – it was nothing but sheer inefficiency and insensitivity to the core. I do not mince my words, for the shortcomings and lapses in the results which have – by now – become widely highlighted by the media and social network sites underscores the inaptness of the administrators in charge. Their moral insensitivity to the plight that can be caused to a candidate by erratic releases (which, at a whim can be withheld, revised and re-released) and the dilemma which such issues can cause only proves their lack of responsibility and tact.
It was widely reported – and was made to understand by numerous sources – that the release of results were hastened by a presidential directive. Yet, a guideline as such does not warrant the chaotic mess which was released to the net on the night of the 25th. The subsequent revision to the District Rank and Island Position of candidates, yet, leaves many unanswered questions and doubts a looming. As Mr. Sanjeewa Bandara, the convener of the Inter-University Students’ Federation appealed to the people in an open press briefing, the results have lost its credibility; and should not be entertained as official, for the very release begs us not to identify a gravity or seriousness in them.
Less than two hours since the near midnight release, Facebook and Twitter were already active with abnormalities and various anomalies in the results being posted and commented on. Facebook posts included brow-raising disparities among the results of candidates in sequential “rank slots”, students of a particular stream being given results representing another different stream etc. Of course, the official statements and apologies were not long in following – but, the “off handed” nature in which the officialdom snubbed off the fact that they have erred was appalling to see. A mere revision to the National Ranks and the results were doled out for a second time within 24 hours. Whether this is a responsible response to the crisis is an inevitable question to raise. When a crisis has been detected, the best course of action would have been to be circumspect and re-analyze the data for all possible “errors”.
As Mr. Sanjeewa Bandara, the IUSF convener, pointed out in a follow up press briefing a mere “reworking of the Rank” does not address all the anomalies detected in the initial release. Numerous candidates had made independent websites the forums to voice their opinions and fears regarding the results. From what I can see, this irresponsible issue would be the inauspicious whiplash of at least several court cases and much confusion and uncertainty. For one, the condensation of two separate syllabuses under one Z-Score (computed, as the Minister of Higher Education voiced it, under a newly concocted “Geometrical formula”) has already been contested by the stakeholders – students and teachers. With a fundamental error in the Z Score calculation who can any longer be confident in the marking, the additions and the documentation of marks? How can one be confident that there are no lapses and irresponsibilities in those stages of the evaluation process?
This is a point raised by the Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Mr. Joseph Stalin. As reported in www.adaderana.lk Mr. Stalin calls for a cancellation of the results and steps of re-scrutiny to be taken. At the time of writing this, the CTU has become one of the earliest (of a possible corpus) petitioners against the results at hand, by seeking legal action against the issue. Stalin refers to the game of chckers played by the educational bureaucrats – in pushing and pulling the results one way and the other – as a “playing with the lives of students” which, at the least, is an understatement. This is the worst debacle the future of Sri Lankan society can be thrown into; and the worst form of uncertainty and doubt with which you can hold up a student at this crucial juncture.
The mess up of results crucially delays the entire mechanism of university selection and – more so – the processes of “re-scrutiny” and “re-application”. As things are, “re-scrutiny” of papers – by this the Department of Education refers to a recheck of marks and additions for candidates who feel their result is suspect – gets so delayed that candidates are thoroughly inconvenienced in their preparation for a “second shy”. Last year, for instance, the revised marks and confirmation of university admittance came so late that the Advance Level exam for the year was already on the cards. The armchair administrator has to be more human in both the decisions and directives; as well as in seeing the jeopardy in which he places the vulnerable student.
Is a student to have faith in re-scrutiny, given that she has a faith in her being belittled by the original mark? Or is she to prepare for a “second shy”? Would the exam results be sufficient for a university intake? In an examination as intense and as decisive as the A/Ls, the “playmate” the Departmental bureaucracy seeks in the young studentship is pornographic to the eye. Being a third party observer I am essentially frustrated of things, specially in the context of how these same students are then after sent to universities which are increasingly infiltrated by the state’s ulterior interests. As a fellow who received a platform by the same educational system not more than a decade ago, the idiocy with which it is made to surrender to the incompetence under question is both frustrating and poignant.
All said and done, the bureaucrats just may walk out of the situation all clean – for the system largely functions to that effect; and it will be the already punished students that will have to compromise from their ends. But, it will be intriguing to note how the law will receive the petitioners who will seek its council. But, the credibility and the trust of the Department of Education has already been jittered and it will need more aptitude than a face saving media briefing from the top shots to address the issues of irresponsibility and imbecility. After all, whether the bureau is defended or not makes no difference on the long run, where the collective student welfare of the country is at stake. What matters is that these youth are facilitated by the services for which they pay. Lousy excuses and pathetic cover ups are just not good enough.
[Carried in the Lakbima News]