Senior Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary stated in parliament on Monday (19 February) that schools cannot be used as platforms for partisan politics and they do not invite or accede to requests by any member of Parliament or political party to speak at school events.
He was responding to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera who asked the Minister for Education (Schools) whether there are any Ministry rules, directives or operating principles that prohibit primary or secondary schools from inviting Members of Parliament (MPs) from any party, or Nominated MPs, as speakers at events.
Mr Perera then asked to Mr Puthucheary, "One complimentary question to the SMS. Is it the case that all members of Parliament cannot speak at schools and that include office holders, ministers, and so on so forth?"
Mr Puthucheary then stressed that schools have to be free from partisan politics so people should not be speaking in their capacity as a member of political party attending a school event.
Mr Perera then said, "I would take it that means ministers and office holders can actually speak at schools and I believe there is the case."
"If the ministers and office holders of the Government can enter schools and speak and personally engaged with students, but members of other parties represented in Parliament or Nominated Members of Parliament are not allowed to speak and directly engaged with students in the same way, would that not have the detrimental in two regards," he stated.
"One is the access that students have in both sides of political debate so that they can develop into citizens who can exercise sound judgement in political questions. And second, in terms of the capacity of students to develop their critical faculty into see both sides of the questions. Would that not be sort of one sided-ness be detrimental in that regards? Thank you." he added.
Mr Puthucheary then responded, "Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Perera for providing some clarity."
"What he is hoping for is for member of Parliament to attend and speak in school events in their political capacity. This is not appropriate. Schools have to be kept free from partisan politics. I think that the framing that the member made in the supplementary questions suggest that actually the intention is for him, or whoever he is speaking on behalf of, his party, to attend and represent political views," he said.
"This is not the intention of what we do in schools. If he would like to make a case as to why there should be partisan politics in school, I think that is the case he should make. We take the view that partisan politics should be kept out of schools," he ended.