Jaffna Hindu Ladies College, 2010.
School time, na na na school time. Horror. One wishes more Sri Lankans would be accepted to Hogwarts. Instead, many Colombo district kids travel great distances to get to school, giving the city a second rush hour we call ‘school time’. Herein I’ve attached graphs showing how far kids live from their school, how long it takes them to get there, and how they travel.
The average Sri Lankan kid lives within walking distance of school, but not necessarily a good one. If more parents had the money, they’d probably join the school time traffic.
How Far Do Kids Live From School?
As you can see in the graph above, the average Sri Lankan kid lives within walking distance of school, which seems like a good thing. If you look at the provincial data however, this may not be a great thing. Kids from the Western Province (with better education prospects). Almost half of them (45.6%) commute 3km or more. Compare this to the Eastern Province, where only 14.2% of kid commute that far, but it’s not like they get a better education.
How Long Do They Travel?
Half of Sri Lankan kids can get to school within 15 minutes. The vast majority can get there in less than half an hour. This is actually pretty constant across provinces, probably because the kids outstation are walking a shorter distance and people in urban areas have some sort of mechanized transport (although this is hobbled by traffic).
How Do Kids Get To School?
The main mode of travel for school-going kids is walking. Again, however, the Western Province has the least amount of walkers and the most amount of kids taking school vans (24.3%) and a high amount taking buses (28.2%).
What Does This All Mean
The ideal is for a kid to be able to walk to a good school nearby. In Sri Lanka, most kids have a school nearby, but it’s not necessarily good. Hence, parents are spending, lying or bribing their way into Colombo schools. I know addresses in Colpetty that have twenty plus residences, mainly cause they’re then officially ‘close’ to a good school. Why is this so important?
Well, because secondary education is, sadly, what University is in the US. In the US I would be confused if an employer asked me what high-school I went to, but that’s quite normal here. And Royal and St. Thomas do get you into a lot of jobs. A lot of politicians sadly list that as their highest level of education, and quite proudly.
Anyways, while schools are available throughout the country, the most desirable schools are generally concentrated in urban areas. And parents do push to get their kids into these schools, because these come closest to giving those kids useful connections and jobs. Plus the best teachers, sports facilities, etc, are also concentrated.
What To Do
One option is to force fund rural and nearby schools into ‘being better’. This is kinda blowing against the wind, however. What blogger Serendipity recommends is a more comprehensive closing unproductive schools and transporting kids to the fewer schools that can be made to work.
The need of the hour today is a complete evaluation using new technology, population census and birth rates to ascertain which schools must be closed, and divert funds to transporting students at government expense to the better schools. These remaining schools should then be developed into a national standard where parents do not find every devious mode to send children to Colombo. The teachers there MUST be given a higher salary than Colombo teachers! Controversial idea but necessary if this project is to be successful. (Education Policy Part 1)
The way the numbers look is that Sri Lanka has enough schools, and 98.2% of kids under 14 under attending them (83.9% under 20). The question is why are parents spending, driving, bribing and cajoling to get their kids into particular urban schools, and how that demand can be addressed in an intelligent way. Simply building schools is not enough for the next century. Sri Lanka now has to get its children into the best schools possible.
Data from the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), 2009/10. The tables I worked from are available on Google Docs, but they are quite a mess.