Weapon that changes the world | Daily News

Weapon that changes the world


Moratuwa University Chancellor Prof Emeritus K K Y W Perera expressed his views on educational reforms in the country at his recent address at the General Convocation of University of Moratuwa held at the BMICH last month.

excerpts of the speech:

It is indeed a happy event to me personally to see the large number of high quality graduates qualifying today, because I had the fortune to take part in the formation and early growth of the University, as the very first Dean of the Faculty of Engineering & Architecture. That was the only Faculty at the formation in 1972.

Now, graduating from the University of Moratuwa has taken you quite high in the ladder of success. You had the capability as well as financial and other support, which some others did not have. The country supported you and therefore you have an obligation towards helping others in the country who have not been as fortunate or clever as you are. Towards people who are trying to rise up, but are unable do so due to lack of resources or due to other unfortunate circumstances.

Undoubtedly you will soon rise to high level influential positions where you can help others in education, jobs, job creation etc. Your predecessors, (our former graduates) have reached the levels of Heads of Government Departments, CEOs of leading companies, Secretaries of Ministries and even Cabinet Ministers.

In addition to doing productive work through which better jobs and new avenues are created, they can influence or adopt new policies. Most of you, with your high level of intelligence will reach such levels. You do not have to wait for too long; it is possible to think and act in these terms from your first job onwards or from now itself. Action to help the people out there is urgent!

Earlier graduation

The minimum stipulated age to enter a state University of Sri Lanka is still 17 years, same as during the era of1950s. In foreign countries, and to some extent in Sri Lankan private sector education, one can complete a degree by the age of 21. We should examine the bottle-necks of the public sector education system which caters to the largest number of people, and take remedial measures where necessary to remove the injustice. We should enable earlier graduation by speeding up the calendar and avoiding disruptions.

National schools

Looking into the path towards the University entry only is not adequate. In fact, if we look at the entry level to schools, many modifications appear desirable there. We have good schools, called “National Schools”, for which an “area rule” is applied for admission.

One has to be within an area close to the school (closer the better) in order to gain admission to Grade 1 of these schools, with a few exceptions. If it is “National”, it should be for the whole country. Why restrict to an “area”? The practical result of the rule is that those who can afford will build, buy, lease, rent or otherwise occupy houses close to these “National Schools.” (This will add to traffic problems and to congestion.) Many of those who cannot do so, due to financial or other restrictions, will forge documents to “prove” (that they are residing close by) even at the risk of falling into trouble.

Even small children at the age of five years are coaxed to lie regarding their home address! Are there solutions to avoid such unethical actions? There are many, but I will cite one possible solution. There may be many other better solutions.

One solution is to close down the primary sections of these big schools and admit students to grade 6 or above, through a competitive test. Because of closing the primary sections in National schools, there will be more classrooms and other spaces available to enhance secondary level education, with students selected from the entire nation.

I am sure you will probably think of better solutions.

Think, debate and canvass for better solutions towards the benefit of the country; you have gone through the steps, are intelligent and have the energy to become change agents!

This so called “area rule” has and is doing a significant damage every month and every year, but is accepted year after year blindly without question. Large numbers of schoolchildren are daily transported to “the area” using “school vans” from as far as Kalutara, Gampaha, Negombo, Kottawa etc. Morning traffic congestion in and around Colombo is very heavy and is partly due to this, as can be observed with the difference during school vacations. The same applies to Kandy and other big cities. The very boys and girls to whom we are trying to give a good education are made to waste two to three hours per day on travelling! They could have used such hours for play, or other activities, providing better physical and mental health.

Branches of well known schools in peripheral towns

With whatever solution that is adopted, it is necessary to operate high quality primary classes (with or without higher level classes) in the peripheral towns. A branch of Royal College at Panadura, a branch of Nalanda at Minuwangoda, a branch of Ananda at Gampaha,……, Pannipitiya etc. Are these concepts impossible? Some administrators may say it is not possible because teachers are not willing to go or cite other reasons X, Y, or Z. But, many teachers of National schools in Colombo live in the outskirts and travel to Colombo; they are likely to accommodate such a move, particularly because of transferability between Government schools which is available.

The fact that opening branches of big schools in sub-urban towns is possible has been proven, when with just one session of bombing of Colombo (using aero-planes) which occurred during world war II in 1942, most big schools shifted out of Colombo! A branch of Royal College was established at Bandarawela, a branch of Nalanda College at Minuwangoda etc. I was one so affected, having had to shift to a branch of Ananda College hurriedly established in a Cadjan (coconut leaf) sheltered temporary building constructed at Bendiyamulla, Gampaha. But teaching and learning was good!

Today, such shifting can be better planned and may be phased. Such branch schools in district towns would encourage parents to send the students to the periphery rather than to Colombo and other main cities.

Those residing out -side Colombo would certainly like the children to be closer to home, provided the education was good. Though possible, hard policy level decisions with the contribution of Educationists, Architects, Engineers and IT specialists are necessary, followed by implementation. A solution of this nature will reduce the pressure to migrate to Colombo, and other big cities.

Transport congestion will also reduce. Is there a need for such a large number of multi-storied sky scraper type buildings to come up and move the population away from nature?

Reforms within our reach

What I have given above is just one example of many possible reforms within our reach. There are many other defects in education and also in other areas which we don’t see, because we are ‘born’ with these and have lived too long with them.

Young persons like you have a nascent vision; do not turn a blind eye for too long, but become the correcting force for betterment of people. 


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