Colombo, October 6 (From DailyFT-Harmony Page): ThriBhasha is a Sri Lankan literacy-focused entity promoting knowledge and arts in all three official languages of Sri Lanka; Sinhala, Tamil and English which is collaborating with Read Plus, a group of Lankan publishers, a consortium of 15 leading publishing houses to promote lifelong integrated education for national wellbeing.
I am happy to address this event of ThriBhasha organised by Universal Heritage Inspire and held on the platform of Sri Lanka’s first virtual book fair.
I wish all the very best for the ThriBhasha initiatives to support especially self-published authors in remote areas of Sri Lanka by promoting their books, fiction as well as non-fiction, across the island and organising translation facilitated readings and interactions between writers using Sinhala, Tamil and English for their communication.
At this juncture, I appreciate the founder of ThriBhasha – Frances Bulathsinghala and her team for their efforts to build the nation through practically felt literacy and education.
I once again appreciate the organisers of this unique program for inviting me to share my thoughts with you.
Today, I want to talk about education and literacy for national unity.
There are relationships among three terminologies.
First, I want to briefly explain the meaning of each terminology.
Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, and habits. Education concerns the process of enlightening, maintenance and transformation of societies.
Literacy: the ability to read and write. Literacy skills are both general and subject specific, emphasising the value of supporting teachers of every subject to teach students how to read, write and communicate effectively.
National unity is solidarity within citizens of a nation, with minimum sectorial practices and close adherence to law and order. National unity makes a country strong and prosperous (rich). It makes it have policies and aims for which the people work together. Then other countries cannot easily oppose or interfere or attack it.
Education for national unity.
The progress and security of any nation depends upon national unity and emotional integration of its people. The aim of education is not merely individualistic. The purpose of education is to make the individual acquire social efficiency. But in our country education has not fulfilled the concept because our people’s aim of the education is merely individualistic and exam-oriented education.
The theme ‘Education for unity’ brings to focus the concept of relevance and balance in education. In examining these concepts, some questions beg for some consideration as follows:
How relevant are the educational offerings in Sri Lanka to real life situations?
How balanced are the learning opportunities and experiences?
How do relevance and balance in education foster unity?
Our policymakers, curriculum planners and all other stakeholders in the education sector need to re-examine our educational system, paying great attention to its relevance to learners and the immediate community including the family. The review should also focus on the preparatory capacity for the world of work and social responsibilities, its national relevance given the economic, social, political and technological challenges of the nation and its global relevance in a competitive international market.
It is generally viewed that if education is to contribute significantly to individual and national development, it should be relevant to national developmental goals, and the socio-economic conditions and natural endowments of the people.
Concerning the relevance of education in fostering unity, there are fundamental and structural educational reforms put in place by successive national governments to engender unity in Sri Lanka. They include: the introduction of values education either as a distinct subject or part of subject in the school curriculum from primary to tertiary level; establishment of unity schools across the nation; a wide range of national educational programmes and projects that cut across ethnic and state boundaries.
The general education system is an integral part of the national development process that impinges on the lives of all Sri Lankans. General education has an important role to play in providing relevant knowledge and generic skills such as initiative, decision making, problem solving, team work, responsibility, and leadership and communication skills in order to equip students to later function effectively as good citizens.
Given that a proportion of students are dropping out prematurely from school and high absenteeism in some of the provinces such as Northern, Eastern and Central of Sri Lanka, the following are some of the problem areas and issues affecting general education which are directly or indirectly responsible for some failures of the school system in the sphere of human resource development:
Wide variation in the Government-funded schools
Given the large size of the sector and the large and expensive quality-related demands faced by the educational system, the funding allocations by the Government for general education is not only inadequate but has also been declining over the years.
Although national statistics show that almost all eligible children enter grade 1, there is still some nonattendance in certain underdeveloped regions but drop-out rates increase as children pass through secondary grades.
One of the most significant issues Sri Lanka faces is the uneven quality of and access to education, despite its commitment to universal provision. Well-resourced schools are concentrated in the Western Province, facilities are fewer and of poor quality in rural areas across the country, where close to 70% of Sri Lankans live (Department of Census and Statistics, 2013).
(To be continued next week)