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women
Is gender discrimination a part of teacher training in Sri Lanka?
by Parakum Jayasinghe
September 28, 2016

Sri Lanka’s Colleges of Education are highly important as teacher training centres. The 16 Colleges of Education situated island wide produce the bulk of the trained teachers.

The trainees for the Colleges of Education are selected from the G.C.E. Advanced Level passed students. They read for a three-year Diploma in Teaching including one year internship in a government school.  These diploma holders are usually recognized in the field as teachers with substantial professional qualifications.

The vast majority of the teachers of the Colleges of Education are females and the gender ratio is around 1:10 in some colleges, according to official sources.

According to 2015 statistics of the Ministry of Education, for 4,129,534 students in 10,144 schools, Sri Lanka had a cadre of 236,998 teachers. 73% of these teachers were females and the Colleges of Education trainees reflect that ratio. There is no other single profession in public service of Sri Lanka in which 172,536 women are employed.

Our recent discussions with a number of lecturers, trainees, past students and other staffers of the Colleges of Education led us to learn a very disheartening practice in Colleges of Education. Our observation is open to be challenged.

Unlike the other higher educational institutes, the ‘politics’ in Colleges of Education appears to be consolidating masculine superiority. Ragging is not much prevalent in Colleges of Education but the senior male students always impress the junior male students to maintain the dominance of the minority males over the majority female population in the Colleges.

Influenced by the seniors, the male students in the Colleges prudently dominate their female peers in almost all the curricular and extracurricular activities, occasionally resorting to acts which amount to gender-based violence.

This sometimes extend to the extremes like male students permanently acquiring front seats in classes and females being forced to partake meals in the dining halls only after the males finish. Unfortunately, most female teacher trainees tend to accept the status quo of second class citizenry with time.

This is grave situation because gender-based violence becomes part of career training of the female teachers though it is not an accepted norm. Ultimately, the female teachers who pass out from Colleges of Education go before the students lacking something which is highly important in their future career of teaching.

Education authorities must be vigilant about this issue which has been rooted in the system of Colleges of Education since decades without adequate attention.

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Parakum Jayasinghe
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