Need for students to acquire skills to face life confidently, says President’s Secretary

Launch of ‘History of Royal College – 1985 to 2010’

Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge on Wednesday stressed the need to revolutionise Sri Lanka’s school curriculum, both from an academic as well as from an extracurricular standpoint.

“Sri Lanka’s education system has undergone much tinkering over a period of time, at the behest of individuals, rather than a body of cohesive and rational thinkers. This has resulted in a rather disjointed system that leaves the student totally unprepared for the world of work,” he said.

Royal College Principal Upali Gunasekara, Lalith Weeratunge and others present at the event. Pic by Indika Handuwala

“The need of the future is to mould children to fit the requirements of employers, where the emphasis is on soft skills, and also the skills to face life with confidence,” he said.

“There can be any number of subjects taught, but each subject must have a distinct bearing on the student. It must positively impact on the quality of life of the individual, and relate to our cultures and values,” Mr.Weeratunge said.
“Education must help us to wade through a life full of vicissitudes, and the foundation for such a state of mind must be developed by the school, supported by parents at home,” he said.

“We cannot prepare every child to be a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or some other professional.  There are many occupations that contribute to the wellbeing of the fabric of society. There must be a division of labour. However, every child must be prepared for the vagaries of life. That is where education must focus” he added.

“Sri Lanka has a democratic political system and a responsive private sector. Above all, there is peace in the land, after 30 painful years. Time is ripe and the stage is set for us to focus on rapid growth and development. We need to change the complexion of our system of education, to produce the range and variety of skills required for development purposes,” the Presidential Secretary said.

He stressed the need to reinforce the system to be strong in areas of lifelong learning, as distinct from schooling. “The problem with most educational institutions is that, they try to teach people what to think, not how to think.

Contrary to what Francis Bacon said, knowledge alone is not power. Knowledge has value only in the hands of someone who has the ability to think ‘out of the box’. People must learn how to think ‘out of the box’, to reach their potential and achieve their dreams,” he said.

“Undoubtedly, imparting critical thinking skills need to be incorporated into our system of education.  One of the reasons people don’t achieve their dreams is that they desire to change their results without changing their thinking,” Mr. Weeratunge further said.

He called upon students to learn to go an inch wide and a mile deep. “We must learn to do fewer things thoroughly, rather than many things inadequately,” he said.

Some of the major characteristics that he advocated for a Sri Lankan are to be patriotic, courteous, disciplined, trusted, punctual, productive and valuing teamwork.

In conclusion, he quoted the Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing thus, “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change, until we notice how failing to notice, shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

Mr. Weeratunge made these comments in his keynote address at the Navarangahala, Colombo, as chief guest at the launch of, “History of Royal College -1985 to 2010″. The comments came in the backdrop of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling annulling the Z-score system used for the last A/L examination.

Royal College launched its second history book, highlighting many milestones and facets of the College.
It is 177 years since Royal College was established from its genesis as Hill Street Academy.

The History of Royal College from 1835 to 1985 was chronicled by S.S. Perera, in a 603-page history book launched in 1986, while M.L. Fernando was entrusted with the task of completing the legend from 1985 to 2010. The Royal College Union (RCU) was responsible for initiating its compilation and publication.

President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Sunday Island’s Chief Editor Manik De Silva, Sunday Observer’s Editor-in-Chief Dinesh Weerawansa, The Nation’s Editor-in-Chief Malinda Senaviratne, all old Royalists, Royal College Principal Upali Gunasekara and RCU Secretary Manju Ariyaratne graced ‘The History of Royal College- 1985 to 2010’ book launch.

It was of historic significance that four outstanding old Royalists including the senior most officer in the Sri Lankan Administrative Service and three chief editors of leading English newspapers were in attendance.

Mr. Weeratunge said he was greatly honoured to have been invited by the Principal of Royal College, his alma mater, to be the Chief Guest at the launch of a landmark publication, “History of Royal College – 1985 to 2010”. Hailing from a village in the South, a stranger to the city life of Colombo, Mr. Weeratunge who entered Royal in 1961 as a First Former, said that he felt a sense of accomplishment to address this august assembly.

Speaking at the event, Royal College Principal Upali Gunasekara said, “History has to be rewritten in every generation, because, though the past does not change, the present does.” “Each generation asks new questions of the past, and finds new areas of sympathy, as it re-lives different aspects of the experiences of its predecessors,” he said.

“Royal College was an exceptional institution that had witnessed a long journey of ups and downs, adding to its character, resilience and longevity,” Mr. Gunasekera said.

Group of 80-ers turn 50

“The boys who entered Royal Primary in 1971, have all grown up, and are an inspiration to us all”, said Royal College Principal Upali Gunasekara, addressing the Group of 80, their teachers and other Royal guests assembled at the east wing lobby of the main building. A memorable Teacher Felicitation ceremony titled ’80-ers turn 50′, was held to honour past teachers who had guided and moulded them in achieving excellence in their chosen sphere of life. Group of 80 president Shalitha Wijesundara delivered the welcome address.

The ceremony was filled with nostalgia, merriment and speeches that were witty. But, first things first. One wonders if these mischievous and rambunctious old Royalists have indeed grown up, as during the ceremony, ‘sparks’ of mischief, remembrances of school capers past, escapades and ‘what-not’ surfaced in abundance, as the ‘young’ old boys felicitated their beloved teachers.

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