By Rifaq Azhar –
In modern days, the term called ‘Social reform’ has been exponentially grabbed much attention of various parties and also became the focal point of every discussion being held at various level locally and internationally. It is widely suggested by many intellectuals and experts that if any society desires to enrich its standard and livelihood and to be an exemplary society that succeeded tremendously in attaining its pinnacle in various spectrum of prosperity, must indispensably embark on self-evaluation first enabling it to clearly identify its areas of strengths and weaknesses, so that it will be able to come up with unique mechanisms to convert its weaknesses into strengths and brace itself enough to encounter future obstacles.
It is obvious that when we engage in any form of self-evaluation or prioritize the list of weaknesses that we probably face in day to day life whether it may be personal or social, the norm called ‘ignorance’ will immediately down in our minds as a primary weakness. Hence, all forms of ignorance prevailing in a society are obviously a great curse threatening the existence and self-identity of particular society. In this sense, none of us will contradict with my point that this threat namely ignorance must be overwhelmingly expelled in any way and at any cost. Perhaps, some may argue that it is not rational to say that ignorance still exists amid our society while the estimated level of literacy in Sri Lanka exceeds more than 90 percent. It is true to certain extend, but here I suppose to point out relatively wider aspects of ignorance about which we never mind or let say we neglected to think of it. The real meaning of ignorance which I intend to highlight is ignorance about our nature and hidden inner potentiality about which we are still not ready to discover, ignorance about our indigenous instincts and aspirations towards which as Sri Lankans we are quickly adoptable and having strong bond and above all, ignorance about our glorious history where our ancestors were able to control the region economically and culturally to larger extend and be strong enough to lead a respectable and decent life while they were shining in every facet of life without undermining their abilities and capabilities and even depending on ‘others’ for their livelihood and protection. It is more appropriate if I describe this ignorance as primary ignorance about us and our self-identity, which is obviously a great threat we have been encountering nowadays.
The primary objective of this article is to shed light on this perception about the ignorance and how we made ourselves forgotten by external and internal factors. Having comprehended this perception, we should clearly distinguish the areas in which this ignorance is reflected and still alive and how it controls the minds of indigenous people irrespective of their academic standard and social statues. Based on the meticulous observations and exhaustive researches conducted by experts and professionals, we can typically categorize the areas of ignorance into four. Those are education policy of our country; political and legal system prevails since colonial periods to this date; economic policies that were conceptualized by foreign minds and finally socio-cultural practices which were determined by North and have been willingly or unwillingly practicing by South.
Here, I neither mean to criticize the contemporary systems that our country has adopted in all four aspects which remain for many decades nor to introduce new policies as alternatives. Instead, I intend to urge ourselves to conduct self-evaluation in all facets of life including above four aspects in order to eradicate this primary threat forever and foster in ourselves the thought of self-identities and indigenous aspirations while we involve in social reforms. In this great journey, education can play a significant role in attaining such noble objectives. At first, I would like to raise a preliminary question over the outcomes of present education policy whether it has really attained what it does mean or failed to do so. As we all know that the ultimate objectives of any education are predominantly to impart knowledge that enables each student to be creative and beneficial to their own society and then nation and also to instil in them the very basic ethics and moralities while discovering and developing their hidden talents and skills.
By attaining such objectives, we can firmly believe that all forms of ignorance will be eliminated from our society whereas these objectives will surely create a society of which each member will be bearing excellent behaviours and admirable qualities and moulding themselves with precious attitudes and visionary thoughts. Besides, there is no doubt that these objectives will surely help us to foster brotherhood and love towards our environment. It is therefore very clear that the objectives of any education policy are not matters of how far we have improved the level of literacy or increased the passing rate in the exams or what kind of courses we offered in order for students to get their dreamed careers. Rather, those objectives should be beyond these measures. In fact, it will be a great success in human history, if any education policy could produce generations whose primary foundation is knowledge cemented with ethics and morality.
Many senior scholars based on their observations and researches over the consequences and the ground realities that our national education policy has so far generated, have articulated their positions which are against to the present education system and its policy that have been followed in every schools. Moreover, they lash out this system and policy since they all were conceptualized by external elements neglecting national aspirations and requirements which should have been the core of every education in Sri Lanka and they continue to say that present system has accumulated all its efforts only to supply adequate employers as per the demand that corporate cartels create periodically. Therefore, the main concern of their critics is the fact that our education policy failed to indoctrinate indigenous potentiality and moreover it totally neglected the aspirations of native communities. Rather, entire system, which is even stranger to local mind-set, has been designed catering to the requirements of imperialist masters. In fact, the objectives of our education system ranging from kindergarten to university levels are virtually concentrated on adopting selfish psychology with its different dimensions by creating perception that education will provide good jobs and then excellent emoluments along with some perks.
According to many senior educationists, they point out that failure to instil in each student the love of readings and curiosity towards research and also failure to encourage learners to adopt sense of moral responsibility towards their own family, neighbour and society are some of negative consequences of present system. In addition to that, many senior experts in the field of economy and finance argue that the present education failed even to provide the students the very basic financial knowledge in its every stage. Instead of that, it cleverly and covertly promotes among students the culture of unrestricted consumerism and fancy lifestyle. On other hand, many environmentalists express their concerns over the current education policy that it almost failed to inculcate in every student the sense of love and care towards the nature and environment. By saying this point, it is unfair if anyone rush to label me as conservative or whatever name. Here I would like to inhabit in ourselves the thought that although we explore the world and other civilizations, we must act in accordance with aspirations of native people. Briefly saying, our education system, which is however stranger to our community, failed to eradicate all forms of ignorance that were mentioned previously.
Since Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and pluralistic country made up of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers, our education system and policy should have been designed catering to the aspirations of native communities not to the aspirations of international communities. Many senior educationists suggest that this idea of accommodating all ethnic groups while designing and developing the native education policy and contents has been deliberately avoided due to various reasons. According to them, excluding the minorities from all aspects is yet another ignorance that we didn’t realize yet. This ignorance led the country towards brutal civil war that prolonged about three decades. What we have achieved through this bloody conflict is none other than loss of humanity and backwardness.
There are many vivid testimonies that all communities in this country irrespective of their religion and race had immensely contributed to the advancement of this nation and still they continue as same as before within their capacities and capabilities. But, it is unfortunate to point out that we have been covertly instructed to erase our happiest moments and the sense of harmony and tolerance that we used to share among ourselves prior to the advent of colonial powers. This is the turning point where we tend to forget. While undertaking excessive research on colonial era and the patterns of imperialistic dominance since then to modern days in which the North happened to control the South, we will be able to spot what were the root causes of these series of ethnic tensions that took place in the past history; who were the major players behind the veil in the history igniting the conflicts and discriminations and what were their motives behind all such scenarios. In search of such elements that divided people into groups in the past, we can somewhat find relevance between colonial era and modern age of technology in terms of root causes and key players and also identify best strategies to overcome this obstacles forever.
In short, there are two types of ignorance that we didn’t realize yet. One is ignorance about us as whole and our inner potentiality and hidden talents whereas the second is ignorance about our nature or our primary strength which is none other than pluralism. The failure to realize the first ignorance led us to lose our self-identity and make us to depend on others forever. Besides, second ignorance brought divisions and discriminations among us resulting brutal conflicts within us. At this crucial juncture, education based on the reality and truth is most powerful weapons that everyone can use against any form of oppression. Having strong believes in education will definitely help us to expel all forms of ignorance and to resist any external threat come across on our way to progress and sustainability. If we could succeed in education in the line with the aspirations of native people, we will be able to overcome all forms of ignorance rooted in rest of other three aspects. I strongly believe in that proper education policy and curriculum designed by us not by others on par with our identity and aspirations can play significant role in expelling all forms of ignorance among us and subsequently uniting all civilians of this nation under the one identity called Sri Lankans.
Rifaq Azhar – Student – PGD in International Relations, Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies – Colombo