The title of this book itself is thought provoking. One could argue that principles are static and hence whether there could be modern principles. As the author states in the foreword “yesterday’s education is not suitable for today, it is certainly not suitable for tomorrow”. In that context educational principles also should change in line [...]


Educating oneself on all that’s essential in education


The title of this book itself is thought provoking. One could argue that principles are static and hence whether there could be modern principles. As the author states in the foreword “yesterday’s education is not suitable for today, it is certainly not suitable for tomorrow”. In that context educational principles also should change in line with the transformations taking place in a rapidly changing world.

The book comprises ten chapters. Fittingly, the first chapter is on the Formulation of educational goals. At the outset the author cites the American writer, Stephen Vincent “we do not know where we are going. But we are on our way”. This quote succinctly epitomises the situation of a country without carefully planned educational goals. The writer goes on to discuss the common features of educational goals in the world and most importantly, the factors that should be considered in formulating them. In this context the national educational goals of Sri Lanka are discussed and followed by both eastern and western philosophical thoughts that can guide the formulation of educational goals.

The chapter ends with a list of competencies that one should acquire through education. I consider two very important aspects the writer brings out quite relevant to the present day education in Sri Lanka. First, that there must be a “a clear conception of the person we are going to produce” (Bertrand Russel). Secondly, Professor Kariyawasam quotes Piaget  “schools should be creating men and women capable of doing new things not simply repeating what other generations have done: men and women who are creative, innovative and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept everything they are offered”. As John Dewey had remarked “if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s we rob them of tomorrow.”

The chapters that follow elaborate on nine themes that can be considered as providing structure to any education system. The chapter on national integration for education is directly linked to the first national educational goal in Sri Lanka. The writer commences the chapter with an indictment on the Sri Lankan education system, which is quite true. He states that one of the most significant roles that education should have fulfilled was to produce a Sri Lankan with common qualities that go beyond narrow domestic walls such as ethnicity, religion and language. While elaborating on the concept of national integration the writer proposes pragmatic suggestions as to the role of education in nation building task. The tapestry of modern Sri Lankan society, he argues, was woven over a period of 2,000 years with the influence of Princess Kuweni, up to the modern Euro American global culture. This chapter exemplifies Bertrand Russell’s view that “it’s coexistence or no existence”.

The next two chapters- Life-Long education and Global education are interrelated. I would have preferred to read chapter 6, Education for the future immediately after these two chapters as I feel it would have been a fitting accompaniment to the other two chapters. In chapter three the writer elaborates on the view that the “entire life is a school for every man from the cradle to the grave”. He also argues that life-long education should be based on a philosophy and not a “shopping – mall curriculum”. Another important concept in the modern world – autonomous learning is linked very aptly to life -long learning.

While discussing the positive as well as negative aspects of globalisation the author spells out in such a context, the salient features of global education curriculum, the characteristics of a global education teacher and the competencies that should be developed in a global citizen. Going beyond Julien Huxley’s (1947) prediction that the world needs a global philosophy, Professor Kariyawasam proposes a global anthem, a novel thought to ponder, to show the oneness of mankind in a globalized world.

Accountability and values are two concepts that are much talked of in the modern world. However, often the reference is in a negative context – that is lack of accountability and erosion of values. Therefore, these two chapters are important as they give insights as to how modern principles of education could incorporate inculcation of accountability and values in schools.

Soft skills are another buzz word in the context of modern education, especially with reference to the mismatch between the products of education and the demands of the job market. The author emphasises that Sri Lankan culture embodies many soft skills and lists many such skills that should be incorporated to the curriculum at schools and at higher education institutions. He also emphasises that inculcation of soft skills should commence at home. I would however, have preferred if the author had insisted that the development of soft skills through education should not be at the expense of hard skills. There must be a balance between the two.

One could wonder as to the inclusion of motivation in a book on modern principles of education. Motivation is the drive to accomplish any task. Without motivation no learning takes place and hence it should be an important ingredient in deciding educational principles. The author very correctly states that it is not sufficient only for students to be motivated but also that teachers should be equally motivated. Sadly in today’s classrooms a motivated teacher is a rare sight. Therefore, the quote from Haim Ginott’s (1973) “ between teacher and child” as well as Stanley Zehm’s “My belief about teaching” should be a ‘manthram’ to all teachers.

In a country where there is no clear language policy for education and the decisions regarding the medium of instruction is decided by politicians, the chapter on Language learning should be read by policy makers as well as practitioners.

Professor Kariyawasam writes in simple language using the local idiom yet maintaining an academic genre. He draws inspiration both from western, eastern as well as traditional knowledge to which the Sinhala reader may not have easy access. Thus this book fulfils a much felt need of the Sinhala reader and the book can be purchased at a nominal price. In this context it is worthwhile to make reference to two of the companion volumes he authored sometime back,  The Sri Lankan who should be produced by Education (Adhayapaneyen Bihikala yuthu Sri Lankikaya) and the Professionalization of the Teacher ( Guruvaraya Vrthiya Thathvayata Pathkirima ) which should have been subjected to the scrutiny of the academia for they were the first of its kind in Sri Lanka’s educational literature to disseminated new thinking in education. While Sri Lanka’s output in the genre of novels is commendable it is equally necessary to equip the Sinhala readers with books on education, science and technology to develop human capital.

This is a book that should be read by students, teachers, curriculum developers, policy makers as well as politicians. I hope that Modern Educational Principles will be translated to both Tamil and English, so that it would be available to a wider readership.

Professor Roland Abeypala in his introduction to the author refers to him as an excellent teacher who produced three generations of students. I had the privilege of  being one among his second generation of students. Usually, it is a teacher who reviews his student’s work. Therefore, to have been given the opportunity to review this book is a rare honour for me.

(The reviewer is the Senior Professor in Humanities Education and the Director of the National Education, Research and Evaluation Centre of the Faculty of Education, University of Colombo)

Book facts
Modern Educational Principles (Nawa Adyapana Muladarma) by Professor C. Kariyawasam. Reviewed by Marie Perera


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