By Dimithri Wijesinghe
The 2019 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination results were released on 27 April, jarring some of us out of the trance we’ve been in during this semi-dystopian existence that has become our reality.
While this may not have been the case for the students who were eagerly awaiting their results, it was somewhat of a reality check for the rest of us, reminding us that there are things to look forward to.
According to an official at the Department of Examinations, this year’s O/L results will not be mailed to the schools whereas a special system has been set up where school principals and zonal education directors could use passwords to obtain the results online as mentioned by Commissioner General of Examinations Sanath Poojitha. (For more information, get in touch with the Department of Examinations on their hotline 1911, or call 0112 784 208, 0112 784 537, or 0113 188 350.)
The Department of Examinations further provided that from the 556,256 candidates who sat the GCE O/L exam last year, 73.84% qualified for Advanced Levels (A/Ls).
Results are important, but so is your health
With our warm congratulations to everyone who has got through, we spoke to a number of students who received their results on how things have been for them awaiting a major moment in their educational journey during a global pandemic.
M.W. Shenal Wimalabandu, who got 9 As, stated that he was conflicted while waiting for the results. He shared that while exams and results aren’t everything, the O/L results were very important to him, but every time he worried about it, he felt like there were more important things to worry about.
He said he hopes to follow the mathematics stream for A/Ls. He shared that he had begun classes in combined mathematics and physics, but those were halted on 2 March due to coronavirus. “There’s a bit of fear on how everything will get sorted, and I have no idea how things will affect us in the long run,” he said.
Aathika Nassar, another student, stated: “Our results were announced to be delayed for a month. We were really upset because we were anxiously waiting since 12 December, but as the situation worsened tremendously in the past few weeks, the results were the last thing we were concerned about. We knew it would be released when ready, and obviously, like everyone else, we were praying for the pandemic to end as soon as possible.”
She further shared that while she was prepared for the worst in terms of her results, she never would have thought of preparing for a situation like this pandemic. Aathika said while most people would have started tuition classes immediately after exams for A/Ls, she hadn’t really planned to, and in that sense the virus has not affected her plans.
A shift in career interest
Interestingly, Aathika shared that when looking to the future, “the pandemic has forced me to believe in the vital role health-related services play in our lives, even though we don’t feel it until such a disaster strikes. Therefore, my current plans are now leaning more towards considering medicine as an option for my future career”.
While even prior to the pandemic, there was no shortage of medical students and young minds showing great interest in entering the medical sector, the pandemic has really left an impression on our country’s future generation.
We spoke to Kotahena Methodist College O/L science teacher Vijayadarsani Sangarakumaren, who shared that while conducting classes online these days for kids who will be taking the O/L exam in 2020, she has seen a considerable shift in the thinking patterns of her students.
She said that while most of her students at some point want to be a doctor, in general, there was no real understanding amongst young people with regard to the intricacies of the medical sector. However, now she is seeing her students and their peers show great appreciation for all the elements that go into maintaining the effective health sector we have in Sri Lanka.
“Students have said they have felt safe because they will be taken care of by the Government if their health is in trouble, and they want to be part of that when it comes to selecting their careers. Even the ones who have had no interest in medicine have expressed that they would like to think of the subject combinations that could help them be of assistance to those essential services,” Sangarakumaren said.
Ensuring the safety of students’ futures
Sangarakumaren also shared that while it is heartening to see them develop an interest in civic duty and grow in their civic-mindedness, as teachers, they are concerned for the current batch of students facing a great disadvantage when it comes to doing their exams, adding that it would be a shame if they are not allowed to follow through because of school closures.
We spoke to Amaani Nazaar, who also just received her O/L results. She shared: “I can sense that things will get more complicated in the upcoming days. This global crisis is hitting the education system badly. The schools and education institutes are being closed for a month or two and I think students facing upcoming exams – O/Ls, A/Ls, and even scholarships – will face the most difficulties.”
With regard to the scholarship examination, which usually takes place in August, Commissioner General of Examinations Poojitha had stated that they feared the exams would not be held as scheduled previously, and that the new dates would depend on the advice of the Health Ministry and the task forces. However, the Education Ministry has so far maintained that the Grade Five Scholarship Exam will not be postponed.
Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutes in an attempt to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), these nationwide closures are impacting over 90% of the world’s student population, and UNESCO has been supporting countries in their efforts to mitigate the immediate impact of school closures, particularly for more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and to facilitate the continuity of education for all through remote learning.
In Sri Lanka, while some of the educators we’ve spoken to have shared that they have attempted to adopt remote learning methods, not many students have access to such facilities. They shared that because of how our education system is structured, it is highly reliant on our high-stakes examinations which then select or certify students and decide if they move on to the next level, and in some cases like the Grade Five Scholarship Exam, the quality of the rest of their education.
With the coronavirus forcing school closures, children prepping for the next stage of their lives are facing a grave disadvantage. They shared that it is their hope that the authorities will come up with a suitable alternative that will create some relief for those students who are facing exams this year.