Systemic failures in education are usually followed by outpourings of educational thought and advice, both that are worthy of serious attention and that are not. The contemporary worrisome state of Sri Lankan education has drawn many comments and observations both from reputed educationists and others. Professor C. Kariyawasam’s latest book while being topical assumes its own place of significance and importance.
It is not Professor Kariyawasam’s first book on Educational Philosophy, for he is the reputed author of several books in the field. Professor Kariyawasam has been associated with the Faculty of Education of the University of Colombo for well over 45 years and has built a solid reputation for himself through his teaching, research and writing as an educational philosopher very well informed of the latest trends in international thinking and as a creative thinker himself. Having specialized in this area he is quite qualified to write the present book for the benefit of discerning readers.
The focus is on what should be the characteristics of the Sri Lankan that we aim to produce through the educational process as its final product. This being a question of educational aims falls within the domain of Educational Philosophy as we understand and uphold the nomenclature of educational studies where we have traditionally expected philosophy to be speculative and to make a positive contribution to the available stock of cognitions and beliefs. We have, says the author, for a considerable length of time, been studying the philosophies of education of ancient and modem educators but not yet even thought of arriving at a philosophy of education appropriate for Sri Lanka. The author intends his work to be a modest beginning in this direction.
The book begins with an examination of the subject of philosophy, its genesis, history and development, purposes and functions. The author introduces philosophy as the ‘love of wisdom’ to be attained by philosophical enquiry as opposed to physical experience of the universe and human life, and traces the progress of this activity from the philosophical enquiries of the Vedic poets of ancient Bharata up to the views of the modem philosophers. The contributions of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Confucius etc. are examined and useful and necessary inferences drawn. However rich and prosperous a society may be if there is no tradition of sustained deep thinking within it such a society is bound to collapse sooner or later. Every philosophy indicates a noble way of life by helping the individual to see himself or herself in perspective. In addition to scientific and mathematical knowledge, wisdom illuminated by philosophy is essential for the progress of humanity.
The path of education, like that of other human activities, is illuminated by philosophy. Most philosophers have indicated their own systems of education with desirable aims and appropriate strategies for their attainment. A system of education not supported by some philosophy becomes a stray system of education. At the heart of every educational problem there is a philosophical problem. Every educational practice or innovation has its philosophical base.
At this point the author delves into the philosophical and cultural history of humanity and pinpoints the main strands that have formed or could form the mainsprings of educational theory and practice. The author points out the essential elements in a culture of “glocalisation” as opposed to the purely consumerist culture based mainly on modem foreign cultural springs. The author next proceeds to unravel the main theme of his discourse which is a discussion of the more important characteristics that should be developed in a student by a quality education to make him an ideal Sri Lankan individual and citizen. To be sure the author is not the first to dwell on this theme. For instance, the Report of the National Education Commission (2003; pp. 71-75) lists eight National Goals and seven groups of competencies that will contribute to the achievement of the National Goals.
They have been presented in a categorized and packaged form to be implemented by professional educators. However, the author consider the desired individual characteristics in a more simplified and detailed form and describes a number of the very prominent and important among them. To mention just a few, a Sri Lankan should above all be patriotic, should be endowed with the dignity of labour, should follow a simple lifestyle and help safeguard the environment and should follow a democratic way of life. Each characteristic is clearly dwelt upon with instances, illustrations etc. from ancient as well as modern literature, both oriental and occidental, in a way that appeals and is useful to both the pro educator and the non professional reader.
Prof. Kariyawasam has been successful to a great extent in discharging the burden of describing a truly educated Sri Lankan and the result is a useful and welcome addition to the growing literature in Sinhala on educational philosophy which will be equally useful to educators, teachers, parents and individual citizens who can find much helpful guidance and direction within its pages. The author’s style, as usual, is forceful, straightforward and easy to read and comprehend. This attractively printed and low priced book should find an honoured place in every Sinhala reader’s library.
The reviewer was former Senior Professor of Humanities Education and Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.