This is an article by my mom, Sujata Gamage – former Director General of Tertiary Education. It’s on the current kerfuffle over the introduction of private universities in Sri Lanka. The free lunch counter is at www.mahangu.org and http://morquendi.blogspot.com. Amma’s basic point is that people are paying for education right now, through the tuition classes they take to get into Uni in the first place. If education is free we should factor that filthy lucre out as well.
University students are protesting to stop the better endowed from getting near another local university. Let there be equity in misery, they say. They are disrupting their own classes, classes for others and classes for those are in the pipeline. Property is destroyed, policemen are put on double duty and children getting home from school have to wait in the traffic for hours while the protestors have their say.
The protestors are right. It is not an equitable situation.
Student A pays Rs: 300,000 in tuition classes, gets a Z-score of 4.25 and gets into the medical college.
‘Student B chooses to pays Rs: 50,000 for lower end of the tuition options, gets Z-score of 4.12 and misses medical college by 0.13 points.
Now the parents of student B are preparing to sell a piece of land, mortgage the house, or send the mother to work in foreign country so that they can find the Rs: xxx that they’ll have to pay for medical college in Bangladesh or if one is lucky, one close to home next to the Oasis hospital.
Wait a minute. That is not fair. If the parents sold the property before the child sat for the exam and spent the money on higher-end tuition services they would not have to send the child to Bangladesh or have him/her labeled as a pariah or pelted with stones for attending a private medical school in Sri Lanka. If secondary education is free, how come people who are able to pay more for tuition get a better chance at the race for medical slots?
Fair is fair. We should discount the Z-score by an amount equivalent to the amount paid for tuition and apply a new “Z (more fair)” score, retroactive to all selections made for 2004/2005. Will it be an unnecessary disruption? Nah. These kids do not have much to show for the 2004/5 academic year. They have been too busy defending the right of the state to obstruct the rights of other people.
[I’m not familiar with the Z score, but in Sri Lanka it’s basically the number that your life gets bubbled down to]
How would the Z minus T score work?
Z Score = Your Grade – Average / Average
T Score = Tuition Paid– Average / Average
Z! = Z Score –T Score
How do we find the amount paid by ‘Student A’ for tuition? It can be done with a little help from statisticians and from dedicated JVP cadres. For example, it is very likely that the amount spent on tuition is related to family income. The number of siblings too would be a factor. Let us get some of social scientists to do a sample survey, work out a formula that can estimate the tuition paid by each candidate using their family income and other family data, and we are ready to program the computers at University Grants Commission.
How do we get the family income, number of siblings and all other contributing factors to feed into the computer? No problem. The JVP cadres know their neighbors all too well. They even know the national ID number of every body and may even have some of the cards with them still [cause the JVP used to confiscate ID cards to prevent people from voting]. Local brigades of JVP cadres can assist the gramsevakas to forward the income and assets data to the UGC for each of the 90,000 or so students who qualify for university. With the programs already loaded, the computer at UGC can spit out the new and more equitable list in a split second.
While some of the students who were admitted to the 2004/5 academic year are packing their bags to yield room to their more deserving brethren, let us continue spend our energies to find more equitable ways to share the spoils from a decreasing business tax base, increasing VAT burden on the populace, and the ever ready supply of loans from foreign donors. Who wants the private sector to bring additional investments into the higher education sphere when the state can tax, beg, borrow and spend?