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Free education for the heart

13 July 2015 03:01 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The legendary Greek philosopher Aristotle has enlightened us of the fact that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education. Some 2300 years after the philosopher gave us these words of wisdom they are more important now than ever before because of the ongoing battle between the spirit of goodness and the forces of evil for the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of children.  

Such insights may have been in the heart and mind of President Maithripala Sirisena when he pledged last week that he and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would implement a long term plan to reform and restructure the process of education so that we would produce children who knew not just how to fly like birds or swim like fish, but to walk like human beings with care and concern for the needs and wishes of others and the country. 

Addressing thousands of Benedictines, young and old at a ceremony to mark the 150th jubilee of St. Benedict’s College, the President recalled his early days when as a child of a Polonnaruwa farmer family he often walked about five km to and from school. That was good exercise for the body and mind while they also had plenty of time for childhood games and heart to heart communication with the parents and other members of the family. Therefore he was deeply conscious of the need to reform the highly competitive and exam-oriented education system which often produced students with high qualifications but sadly lacking in liberative qualities such as selflessness, sincerity and a spirit of sacrifice to work for the common good of all the people of our country. 

The President was responding to a personal and fervent plea made to him by Malcolm Cardinal  Ranjith who, speaking at the same ceremony appealed for urgent and effective steps to reform the whole education process and structure. The Cardinal said he also had walked half a km to school sometimes twice and otherwise four times a day. Those were the days when there was no school van culture and children got good physical exercise in walking to and from school. Those were the days when there was no tuition mania either and children had plenty of time for fun and games—a vital part of childhood. 

The prelate said the principles of education in those days were not so highly competitive and exam oriented. He himself did not get eight ‘A’s at the O/Level or four at the A/ Level but that did not prevent him from reaching the dimension of a sacrificial life where he could work for the common good of all. 

Among the side effects of the school van culture is the excessive use of fossil fuel and the resultant pollution of the environment, the heavy traffic jams in the city and the precious time lost for millions of people quote in traffic snarls. The tuition mania had led to a crisis where most teachers have lost the vocational dimension. Teaching has become a big business today and there are many teachers who do not complete the syllabus in classes thereby forcing tens of thousands of children to come for tuition sometimes till late and night. The Cardinal said the mania of this tuition business was continuing even on Sundays. He urged President Sirisena to stop private tuition classes on Sundays so that most children could attend Dhaham Pasal in their places of worship. This was vital because if children did not learn the values of liberative spirituality in their schools and homes they might turn out to be selfish, self-centred, greedy, and thereby wicked individuals.  

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) at least two percent of Sri Lanka’s children do not go to school at all and more than 30,000 drop out for reason ranging from ill health or poverty. The report has recommended strict implementation of a ban on school admission fees, donation or whatever words in which a sophisticated form of bribery may be colour washed. Some school authorities say they need these donations or bribes for maintenance of the school, new buildings and related matters. The government has pledged it would double the budgetary allocations for education from next year and we hope this would help to fully restore the free education principle for which Sri Lanka has received the highest marks worldwide.    

  Comments - 1

  • Ravi Monday, 13 July 2015 04:30 PM

    We never thought who is supporting (money) to get free free EDUCATION! !!, NOT FROM OUR COUNTRY RESOURCE OR SRI LANKA GOVERNMENT MONEY. ALL THE EXPENSES FOR FREE EDUCATION INCLUDING TEACHERS' SALARIES ARE DONATED BY PART OF U.N.. THEY WANT TO BRING OUR LIVE HEALTHY AND WEALTHY LIKE OTHER WEALTHY NATION HAS. WE HAVE TO BE VERY THANKFUL FOR THE WORLD !!!!!


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