Educating Ourselves about Education

I remember a popular T-shirt we used to wear back in my college days in Delhi.

I WAS BORN INTELLIGENT. EDUCATION RUINED ME.

I am not sure if I am qualified to pass any statements about university education in Sri Lanka. I schooled here entirely. If it wasn’t for the few theatre projects that saved me, I might have hated the experience. I remember finishing O/Level and searching for a school that offered Sociology. After much heartbreak I found that Sociology is not taught at school level in Sri Lanka. In India they teach it in secondary school, I heard. Then I remember trying to find a school in which I could take English and Sinhala together for the exam. Only one school I visited in my school hunt offered the combination and that’s where I ended up.

No wonder Sri Lanka has not many bi-linguals.

Even then, at a stage when I hadn’t discovered Ken Robinson, Joanna Macy or Rabindranath Tagore, I knew there was something wrong with our system. I didn’t know the statistics that I know about it now. But it was enough to have gone through it. And actually, I had been one of the lucky ones to have survived the system pretty decently. So when I finished A/Levels I had made up my mind that higher education has to be somewhere else.

So I entirely missed the Sri Lankan university experience. Not because I didn’t get enough to get in. My scores, for some unfathomable reason (maybe my lucky stars, maybe fluke) was dazzling. Never again would I do so well in an exam but that A/Levels in 1999. I scored enough for Law Fac.

Maybe there were other reasons as well. I just wanted to be my own woman and life in Sri Lanka for a woman, is not that free. But I clearly recall that Sri Lankan universities did not appear very appealing to me.

But now, I sort of look back and wish I too had first hand knowledge of ‘Antare’. I cannot regret it since, it is not such a nice experience to exchange with my experience of undergraduate studies in Delhi. No way. But still.

The other day I watched this play by Academic Players “Janellen paninada?” It was a fantastic depiction of life in a campus. Love and Politics. And betrayal, of course, which is painful in both cases. It depicted so well,  the student politics. It’s the kind of play that every university should organise a discussion around.

We know how suppressive how our red brothers have been in universities. And the current crisis that has come up has thrown the commoner in a conundrum. The leadership training and positive thinking orientation course is supposed to stop the students from getting brainwashed by red bros. Is it premature conjecture to assume it can only be a replacement of brainwash? The papers are full of articles and cartoons. And I think this one sums up what I would waste many words to explain:

The other day a colleague told me that the UNESCO standard for average allocation from GDP for education is 6% and now we are down to 2. For more read http://www.tisrilanka.org/?p=5113

Year before last, 50% of students who sat for O/L had failed maths and 60% failed in English.

I also hear that this amount is less than the budget of a particular stretch of rail track which will only cut down 6 minutes of the travel time between its locations. And of course, I don’t even have to speculate the allocations that must be going for other sectors such as security and defence. I mean, security, now, is important than our future right?

I admit, the fact that GDP allocation is higher may not speak much for a the quality of an education system. Cuba spends a whopping 19% on education. I have to educate myself further if it’s any better than ours and how.

My main point is perhaps slightly different. And nothing novel. It’s the competition and the lack of creative and analytical thinking that bums me. I admit, it is something not only a problem to Sri Lanka. To cut a long story short, I post this video. One of my all-time favourites by Sir Ken Robinson.

And I am still educating myself on this one.

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