Z-Score FiaZco

Like every other Sri Lankan student who survived (or didn't survive) the GCE Advanced Level torture, I can relate to the pain of 2011 A/L doers. People, who's negligence caused the pandemonium, must have collected an enormous amount of bad karma. Last week, one girl tried to kill herself after getting a lowered Z-score. Who should be blamed? Can we pin point a single cause for the whole problem?

Ministers of Education

After all it is the ministry of EDUCATION. Not just one, but there are two ministries dedicated for education. There are two cabinet ministers appointed to look after these prestigious institutions. Ministers are ironically products of Sri Lankan education system. Both of them were lucky to get through the A/L and to graduate. It is a surprise to see the two ministers still in their seats. They should resign, respecting the positions they hold. It is their duty to look after their ministerial affairs. It is a special situation , where the decision was made to calculate two z-cores or a single z-core for both old and new syllabus students. A decision that affects thousands of sensitive students and their parents. Politicians represent the public. They are responsible and obliged to do their job to the max.


There is a general feeling in the society that failing Advanced Level is a terrible thing to happen. AL streams are ranked as Bio, Maths, Commerce, Arts where it is preferable to fail in science subjects rather than to pass in arts subjects. "He got 3 B's in Bio, must be a very wise person". "3 A's in Arts, anybody can do that." GCE A/L is put in a higher place over London O/L and A/Ls. People are judged by the exams they pass. Students are straight jacketed. "If he can do, why cant you?" attitude is very depressing and unhealthy. People come from different economic, social, familial and even biological backgrounds which makes them face A/L differently. So is it fair to judge all of them by one exam they do? Sometimes passing A/L is just pure luck. Failures in A/L doesn't mean that they are failed in life. Society needs an attitudinal paradigm shift. Happiness is not only about passing exams, earning money and buying cars. It must be said that A/L, university, a good job doesn't guarantee happiness. One will want more and more after achieving these.


Parents unfortunately are the blind enforcers of social norms. They are driven by the social pressure. Even though not said directly, most parents forces their children to do good in A/Ls. They give the signal that they will love their children more if they pass exams. Parents love their children under the condition that they get through their A/Ls. It is not an unconditional love. If the parents cannot embrace the child who failed the exam, who will? Parents negatively adds to the pre-exam stress and the post-results depression. Children are seen as their own extensions. Passing A/L is something parents can boast about. If a child knows that he/she will be loved no matter what, her/his mind will be free. So free of stress and worry that they will do much better in their exams. Parents and prospective parents, listen to this amazing talk by Ajahn Brahm,


Students are pressured from several parties. They are pressure by parents, peers, teachers and by their own insecurities. They have to pass to please the people (neighbors, relatives) around them. They have to pass so that they can avoid the peer-rejection and humiliation. They have to pass so that they can climb the social ladder. They have to pass to achieve the perceived, guaranteed happiness they have been promised. Success doesn't bring happiness. Happiness brings success. Be happy, then you will be successful.

Poor Economy

If I had money, my parents would never make me do Advanced Level. If people had enough money they will not have to bear the unhealthy A/L competition since they can afford other alternatives. Rich kids do not have to bear the A/L hell-hole. They have alternatives. Rich kids can go abroad or follow an equivalent degree of even a better quality. Poverty, as somebody said, is the lack of options, lack of alternatives.


Z-score fiasco was not caused by a single factor. It is a result of complex factors that depend on each other. So it is not just the mismanaged Education ministry that should be blamed.

Pursuit of excellence should not be a pursuit of stress and depression. Break free from the prisons. Let go. Be happy. You need your love and compassion more than anyone. Don't be hard and judgmental on yourselves. A/L is just one incident of your life. Just know that there are many people without passing exams manage to be happy.
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