Dr. Tilokasundari Kariyawasam, the iconic Lady who skilfully decorated the field of education introducing modern scientific mechanisms in Sri Lanka, is sick no more.
During the past half century, she was the towering personality who remained as a huge banyan shelter radiating knowledge and wisdom to the up-coming generations. Her psychological implementations were not limited to class room in schools, but diversified the scope of education for the benefit of infants, pupils, youth, adult and even those of the ruling class.
She was born at Balummahara village in Siyanekorale, in 1927. Both, her parents were school principals. Her father was a descendent of Keragala Wanasinghe clan, while the mother belonged to the Mapa generation. Thus she not only inherited family prestige but also substantial fortune from cultivations and properties to lead a comfortable life.
At first Tilokasundari was an old girl of Vishaka College Colombo, during the tenure of Clair a Motwani, as the Principal. During World War 11, she was admitted to Dharmapala College Pannipitiya and finally to Ananda College, when Mr. L.H. Mettananda was its Principal. Among her school mates while at Ananda, had been Sagara Palansuriya and W.S. Karunaratna (Later Prof. W.S.). Obtaining direct passes, she and W.S. together had entered the University of Ceylon at the time.
Dr. Tilokasundari often reminiscence the serenity of rural life. She had even travelled daily to the campus, from their Rockhill Estate at Alawwa, which was located on top of a hill, 2000 feet high. Her days at campus during Sir Ivor Jennings, had been a glorious period. Most of her batch mates had later reached distinguished positions in the country. Among them were Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Irangani Serasinghe, Kamani Meedeniya, Irangani Gopallawa. Others included D.B.I.P.S. Siriwardene, Gunapala Senadhera, K.M.P. Rajaratne, Dharmapala Wethasinghe, Stanley Tilakaratne, Rupa Wethasinghe and Ilean Wickramasinghe (Mrs. Siriwardane) and Phylisia Makalanda.
Whilst at the University Tilokasundari, for the first and last time had acted the main character in a drama titled “Sunethra”. The drama was produced by another batch mate named Piyadasa Kariyawasam. The event became a turning point in her life, as two of the couples who took part in it, later got married. Tilokasundari married Piyadasa, who also became a Director of Education while Ilean got married to D.B.I.P.S. later becoming the Principal of Vishaka College.
In 1952, she started her educational career by joining the Tutorial Staff of Vishaka College, as a young graduate teacher. At the time Susan Pullimud, was its Principal. In 1958, Tilokasundari, became the Principal of Sangamitta College Galle and in the following year she was promoted to the rank of a grade one Principal.
"Her books covered almost all the aspects education and deep philosophy in Buddhist doctrine blended with her skills and vast experiences"
During 1966 to 1968 she was awarded a British Council Scholarship to obtain her Phd, at the University of London. After she returned to Sangamitta, she was transferred as the Principal of Ananda Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Colombo. Meanwhile, she was elevated to the rank of Special Grade Principal which was also equivalent to the post of a Director of Education (D/E).
Since February 1972, she functioned as the Regional Director of Education, for both Tangalla and Matara.
In 1973, between July and October she served at the Ministry as the All Island D/E. Beginning in October 1973 to January 1976, she functioned as the D/E for Teachers Training Colleges.
From January 1976 to April 1977 she became D/E for planning.
In October 1977, she received a one year scholarship to the University of London, where she underwent a course of studies in Educational Planning, Administration and Management.
Thereafter being a grade one D/E, she held the post of Commissioner of the Educational Publications, for a period of three years.
In June 1983, she assumed duties as the Deputy Director General of Education at the Ministry.
Finally in 1989, she simultaneously served as the Ministry’s State Secretary and Director General of the National Institute of Education. However, due to pressure of work she relinquished her duties shortly, as the State Secretary.
Dr. Tilokasundari, had also served as a Director in State Printing Corporation and Library Service Board. Besides as a member of the Vocational Educational Committee. Being excelled in both oriental and occidental languages Dr. Tilokasundari, had authored over 25 books in Sinhala and in English. She also had the gift of oratory and had represented Sri Lanka, in Inter National Parleys and conferences on a large number of occasions.
Her books covered almost all the aspects education and deep philosophy in Buddhist doctrine blended with her skills and vast experiences.
Some of these were titled as – Achievement of Primary Level Student of Sri Lanka in Reading and Mathematics, A Study of School Drop – Outs in the City of Colombo, Suggestions for The Preparation of Language Books, The Story of Three Friends, Feminism in Theravada Buddhism, Munidasa Kumaratunga – The Genious, Buddhist Woman and Family Life, National Assesment of Educational Progress in Mathematics in Sinhala in Sri Lanka, Buddhism and Psychology.
Her demise is a great loss for the humanity at large creating an intellectual vacuum.