EDITORIAL-What’s wrong in Int’l Schools teaching history and religion in English?

30 September 2014 06:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


ome big-wigs in the Government had lately lamented that international schools in Sri Lanka did not teach History and Religion. Ironically, at the same time Education Minister Bandula Gunawardene had said last Thursday that teaching History in the English medium in international schools had been stopped since 2009. He said this was being done in line with Government policy that history and religion should be taught to every child in his or her mother tongue -- Sinhala or Tamil.

The reason for this Government policy is not clear. However, the outcome of the policy has been the production of tens of thousands of citizens by the international schools without the knowledge of the history of the country they live in.

International schools are an irreversible reality today. At a time when the Government is promoting foreign universities in the country, private schools such as international schools cannot be treated as outcasts. On the other hand, the education above GCE Ordinary Level is now largely privatized by way of tuition classes. Almost all students who hope to sit for the OL and AL examinations from Government schools attend tuition classes, sometimes run by the same teachers who teach in their schools.

It is hence hypocritical to outcast the private schools in the form of international schools while embracing the tuition concept.  It is also worth noting that many politicians in Sri Lanka send their children abroad for education in foreign private schools where the history of their country and their religion are not even heard of.

Many parents admit their children to international schools not in search of fame or due to pomposity, rather they do so because they do not get slots for their sons and daughters in the popular government schools. And the fact that they ease the burden of the public coffers in the field of education is a different matter.

If the Government had recognized the existence of international schools where the medium of education is English, what is the use or for that matter how fair is it to the students of those schools to deprive them of the knowledge of history or religion, just because they study in English? If we consider the history of the country as being so great, in what language are we going to impart that greatness to the outside world?

The mother tongue and the medium of  instruction are not the same always. In most cases the medium of instruction of a person is the language in which the primary education is imparted to him or her, and not necessarily the mother tongue of the person concerned. Hence the medium of thought of most  children studying in international schools is English. Therefore it is more appropriate for them to be taught important subjects such as history and religion in their medium of instruction.
English is the link language in Sri Lanka, according to Article18 (3) of the Constitution. In other words it is supposed to be the language of communication among various communities in the country.

At a time when various groups are fermenting tension among religious communities, the existence of a sizable group that has the command of the link language and religious knowledge would be inevitably vital to create an understanding among the several communities living in Sri Lanka.

  Comments - 1

  • sanjaya Wednesday, 01 October 2014 10:53 AM

    These decisions are not made based on studies. Some statement is uttered on the spur on the moment. There are plenty of history books in English. Marie Musaeus wrote a very nice book on history intended for youngsters. Pl read that to see how lucidly history can be imparted in English.

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