Education – we never got it right
Posted on August 6th, 2010

Sunil Vijayapala   Australia

Perhaps what we Sri Lankans need now is a highly skilled technical force to meet the challenges of the 21st century rather than the present emphasis on producing academicians.  This strategy needs to be revisited and in fact the need is a twist in Sri Lankan education system and not concentrate on establishing new private and state Universities but to create more and more technical colleges to produce qualified certified technicians and trades people to handle the ever increasing demand on trades such as masonry and brick laying, carpentry, machinists, multi media trades personnel, electronic technicians to name a few.

 Our Karakuttan brains of pedantic pundits and politicians especially in the Education sphere never got their strategies right and every time they attempted something new it was a massive failure.  Some of us were victims of the most dreaded NCHE during mid 60s at Adv. Level exam however they were at the receiving end of an severe onslaught by Vidyodaya Uni students when an attempt was made close down the Science Faculty.  Imagine the damage it would have caused if this faculty was closed on the advice of some local and foreign pundits.  Thanks to some sacrificing students who protested violently(a guy who kept his neck against the wheel of the car carrying “ƒ”¹…”advisors’ which was virtually smashed is now a top official in Defense Ministry) to save it and now the faculty has grown leaps and bounds and probably Jayawardenepura Uni. stands one of the foremost unis. among the Universities in Sri Lanka. 

 Our Unis have being ranked very low in the world ranking system, which is not a true reflection of the real situation,  which can be solely blamed on Uni administrators/Dons for not responding to requests for Assessments by Foreign Unis.and Assessment bodies(my personal observation),  and failing to submit latest curriculums on courses especially in Science discipline.  

 The topic of medium of instruction in English has once again precipitated and is currently being debated.  SWRD was wise enough to bring down the disparity between English educated students in city areas and Sinhala educated students from rural areas, in introducing the Swabasha act, which people assumed was an ethnically motivated decision.  In fact this move was directed at and hit hard the English speaking Sri Lankans and by 80s our students from so called English speaking Schools were jabbering in Sinhala, which was a breath of fresh air to most people and a curse for Colombons.  One of the most depressing aspects of our second rated English education is that most, including teachers, have lost the ability to pronounce words correctly.  Teledramas is proof of people who appear to be Colombons murdering the Mad Cow’s language “ƒ”¹…”coal for call’ “ƒ”¹…”ordour for order’ “ƒ”¹…”loan for long’ “ƒ”¹…”ischool for school’ list goes on and on. 

 Sometimes one wonders whether this English complex is more to do with our fairer sex (with all due respect for them) than with any other identifiable group. I have often being a critique of Mother Superiors and other Christian and Catholic nuns and clergy who blatantly abuse human rights, sanctioning girls speaking Sinhala within school premises.  These people need to be taken to courts and punished under Human right abuses, as this is a flagrant violation of freedom of speech and expression in ones own mother tongue.

 Nowadays some have joined the bandwagon to spread English language all over the island so that everyone has a fair knowledge of English both oral and written.  Fair enough! But our pedantic pundits, including the former Education Minister paved way for a medium of instruction in English in state schools which unfortunately will re-surface the division of Rural and City complex, as it’s a fact that the City students will speak and write better English than their rural counterparts.  It’s no surprise that at job interviews the questions will certainly divert from English to Rugger and the so called English speaking schools in cities will have a better success rate although the broken English speaking candidate from a Central school would be far more intelligent.  Besides the better English teachers will NEVER sacrifice their lives to teach English in rural areas and will concentrate their careers in cities.

 Taking for example a classic case where the importance of teaching English to Buddhist monks, who would be recruited to propagate Buddhism around the globe.  So far so good no qualms about this approach, as English will be exploited and used as a tool.  But the lunacy would be when the same Buddhist monks attempt to teach Buddhism to students or adults in Sri Lanka.  This is exactly what our pitiful politicians aim at with their obsession with English and it will be a reality in the near future.  When rural folk and city folk begin speaking English eventually Sinhala language and Tamil language will disappear from the face of Sri Lanka and our Educationists and politicians would have a sigh of relief and utter with loud voices “ƒ”¹…”we have achieved our objective and at last we can die in peace’.  This is what our average Sinhalaya aspire for, breaths, and lives for and in the future may even sacrifice their lives for this cause. 

 Yours truly always advocate teaching of English as a subject but to go beyond this is pure madness.  Imagine like Vampire Victoria, if one of our kings conquered the world and with time we would have attempted to spread Sinhala language world over and the immense satisfaction we would gain! and moreover economic advantage if everyone spoke Sinhala.  This is the same approach the English speaking countries take spreading English with the notion and warning “ƒ”¹…”without English no survival for a developing country’ smart propaganda indeed and proper subtle conditioning.  The English myth is a creation by non other than English speaking world and to fool Chinese, Indians, Sri Lankans etc. (including to participate in Spelling Bee competitions, as this is the most inconsistent language on earth!)) who have been worshiping them for the last 200 years.  English became a fashion icon rather than a tool and led to other misapprehensions over the years.

 While focusing back on the core argument of getting our education right at least in this decade we need a proper strategy.  If we were to compete with other countries and not be subservient we need to have an edge over others through investing on Research in various fields.  Universities must be utilised to carry out research for private companies, through funding so that both institutions can benefit mutually.  A central coordinating body needs to be established to link Universities, Government Departments/Corporations and Private companies so that undergraduates can be trained in respective fields and to engage on vital research in various fields.  An institution to recognize inventions, innovations and creations by simple Goviyas, Bas Unnayes, students, Engineers, scientists etc. must be established to facilitate the ease of patenting locally and abroad and those inventors need to be introduced to private entrepreneurs to further their aspirations to benefit monetarily.  Our ingrain jealousy makes things worse and professionals do get frustrated and leave the country to other countries where their expertises are sought.  A simple Sinhala speaking man who has invented a car engine which runs on water has no backing from anyone in Sri Lanka and that’s a very sad situation.

 Our schools curriculum needs to be revamped radically to introduce vocational subjects such as Horticulture/Agriculture, Animal husbandry, Carpentry, Ornamental fish rearing, Fashion. lathe work etc.etc.replacing at least 50% of theoretical stuff which is currently measured at examinations, the ability of students to cram a hoard of crap and vomit within a couple of hours.  We need to test the intelligence of a kid rather than his or her ability to cram and reproduce, which has been our good old education for the last 100 years with tuition class business flourishing in recent times.  We need to produce bright kids but that does not necessarily mean that we need to choke EVERY student with theoretical crap!, which is hardly used in later life in our careers. We need to produce practical kids who would be far more useful to a country than theoretical pundits who will make the same mistakes as their predecessors, who were theoretical pundits themselves.

 True some of our people excelled in foreign universities and some held important positions in recognized world institutions but did this benefit our country in any way except the prestige of say producing the first graduate from Asia at Oxford(or Cambridge?) and breaking academic records?  Both Sinhalese and Tamils are very intelligent races as their ancient history proves of building colossal structures and irrigation systems unparalleled in the history of humanity.  And with the advent of barbarians, especially the British, we lost that brilliance and embraced the foreign cultures and especially the neo-Sinhalaya is a far cry from the ancient Sinhalaya.  We need to realize this and have our own methods to solve our own problems and English is no panacea for our ills.  Modern day complex problems need complex solutions and certainly we have the wisdom to do this without being conditioned by subjugating races with their own agendas of world domination.  This forum is a classic case to prove this point, except for a few bad apples!

 A word about some virulent comments made by some writers on this journal/website (owned by one of my dear friends) which again is a reflection of their pathetic education.  Wisdom will prevail if people refrain from castigating especially religious leaders, irrespective whether they believe the doctrines or not, making repugnant, repulsive remarks as this course of action making irresponsible statements will divert our focus on core issues on discussion.  We, with limited knowledge, should also refrain from engaging in fruitless, baseless debates on origins of races to prove a point leading into pernicious false beliefs, encroachment of lands, etc. etc. as both Sinhalese and Tamils suffered enough and let’s find some true wisdom and consolation to bring back peace to our mother land, and move forward as one nation.

 “Dhammachariya Suttra

As a cesspool filled over a number of years is difficult to clean, similarly, whoever is full of impurity is difficult to make pure. Whoever you know to be such, bhikkhus, bent on worldliness, having wrong desires, wrong thoughts, wrong behavior and resort, being completely united avoid him, sweep him out like dirt, remove him like rubbish. Winnow like chaff the non-recluses. Having ejected those of wrong desires, of wrong behavior and resort, be pure and mindful, dwelling with those who are pure. Being united and prudent you will make an end to suffering.”

 Sunil Vijayapala   
Australia      

4 Responses to “Education – we never got it right”

  1. De Costa Says:

    Sunil,
    What you said is not correct.
    True, our tradesmen may not have been registered and licenced as in western countries. But we do have excellent tradesmen and excellent trades practices. Surely this can be improved by providing formal training on the aspects of safety etc., but the fact is even under current eduction system we never had disasters and will not be as long as traditional values are trade practices are maintained rather than following western style mere “paper quality” only.

  2. sharpeshooter Says:

    Costa – a valid point and a very professional way of stating your view, rather than resorting to silly personal remarks. You have the right for your views and vice versa; people who read will judge right and wrong. These are my observations and views about our education and any ideas which will work to better the system must be appreciated and tried.

    As for for the other previous(first) comment – ‘Thopiya da gatthata mata karanna deyak na’
    I do not treat this forum as a battle ground or a place to exibit wit or disparage others but consider a place for a decent dialogue among people who have a bit of wisdom. Being critical is fine but focus on the issue/topic and put some ideas on the table.
    Sunil Vijayapala

  3. sharpeshooter Says:

    First comment – is this man angry about everthing, everyone or angry with himself?
    Sunil Vijayapala

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thanks to Sunil for bringing up important issues. English, like any other foreign language in Lanka, should be used purely for purposes of communication. It is a useful tool. Those who use it for Ego purposes will fail, for people will see through the deception quite easily. Also, learning English as the suprior language may bring with it a whole plithora of negative values, inimical to life in our small island home. Those who use it purely to belong to elitist groups too will fail, because the basic values of such groups are usually hollow. On the plus side, learning English will help us survive in a Globalised world.

    I have met Sinhala villagers & simple Sinhala folk in the city who spoke NO English at all, whom I consider wonderful because of their decent ways, life values & ethics. I still think of them, many years later, with immense respect & affection. No, it is not the English language, it is the VALUES & ETHICS that matter in life. That is much more important than the English language.

    We think that English should be taught in Lanka, but only as a second language. Those who wish to go/live abroad, should have opportunities to learn better language skills, including English.

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