Teaching is a noble social service. It is not a profession that should be degraded or abused under any circumstances. The primary purpose of education is to produce a citizen who can assert his or her responsibility in accordance with his or her conscience and take responsibility for their actions. It is the result of a well-disciplined process. The driving force a child emulates in this disciplinary process is the teacher. The teacher has the responsibility to create a disciplined and knowledgeable social community to achieve the broader goals of a nation-state. Genuine teachers make great sacrifices in fulfilling this national responsibility. They work for the betterment of society by going beyond the call of duty without purely focusing on financial gain or myopic political objectives. A virtuous teacher with discipline is a national asset to any country.
Many are of the opinion that education in Sri Lanka is structured according to an internationally accepted methodology. Sri Lanka’s education system is highly praised around the world for its ability to produce well-disciplined and knowledgeable students. The purpose of education is not to help them pass the exam, but also to cultivate the faith that the student needs to live a disciplined life based on true qualities of humanity.
In Sri Lanka, education system began to be shaped by a more structured methodology around the early 1940s. Until then, education, which had been active for a variety of purposes and intentions, had been scattered. Low-income families in the country did not have access to education. Records suggest that it was those who involved by representing every ethnic groups exist in the country fought for the independence took the initiations to restructure the public education system in the country.
Accordingly, the Report of the Special Committee on Education was tabled in 1943 and approved in Parliament on 27 May 1947. The main objective of this was to ensure that all children from all walks of life were given access and opportunities for primary and secondary education without any hindrance. In 1905 the literacy rate was 5%. In 1947 it had a female literacy rate of 46% lower than the male literacy rate and today it has a female literacy rate of over 96%. Although the basic criteria for measuring literacy are debatable, the progress made by Sri Lankans in the general education system is exemplary.
Dr. Christopher William Wijekoon Kannangara, as we all know, was the pioneer in making education a fundamental right of the people in this country. He had a great vision for education in the country and he hoped to build a Sri Lankan nation with knowledge and skills based economy through social justice. His vision was not only to provide “free” education waiving the fees for schools and universities. He had a vision to redesign and reengineer the Sri Lankan nation with the aim of eradicating poverty and creating a unitary Sri Lanka through education. Records suggest that he was a staunch opponent of the tuition culture.
However, it is unfortunate that in the last few decades the education system in this country has deteriorated to such an extent that it has adversely affected the society. Later, the public education system in the country began to function to the tune of various political objectives. It is no secret that initiating schools based on religion is a fatal mistake in the education system of Sri Lanka. It created various divisions in the society. That division led to social mystification. Due to various changes made at the state level by rulers in the past to meet the short-sighted desires, education has become a victim of various frauds. They have taken the lives of children in this country hostage, pushing the future of the country into an abyss. As a result, the primary objectives of education were diminished.
The ongoing teachers’ strike in the country based on decades long wage inequality issue is illustrates the prevailing plight of the country’s public education system. Many striking teachers continue to run tutoring classes that provides them extra income. But there are a large number of students in this country who are unable to attend tuition classes due to poverty. Their education was almost completely disrupted by the strike. Under any circumstances the deliberate destruction of the future of children who seek the only solution to their poverty through public education cannot be justified. Sabotaging the future of these children is a national crime.
The existence of a nation-state depends on its ability to sustain the basic needs such as food, education, health, housing and transportation, without interruption. Self-destruction is inevitable in any country when these sectors fall prey to fraudsters. Therefore, sustained national policies without compromising the principles of the nation-state are needed in these key sectors. Cynical manipulation to gain purblind political desires not only causes social instability but also makes Sri Lanka a vassal state. The true nationalism of every citizen is laying on the capacity to understand the ground reality and fulfill the individual responsibility. That is the beginning of humanity. In any nation-state, individual freedom is guaranteed when individual responsibility is properly fulfilled. Instead, there is no point in making empty criticisms and rhetorical noises to degenerate society by neglecting individual responsibility.