20 September, 2021

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The Task Of Modernising Society & Creating A Rationally Alert Population Of Sri Lankans

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

“Critical thinking must play a big role in educational instruction and assessment… the public education of science is vital”

Backward People

Despite decades of free education in Sri Lanka after the Kannangara reforms the island people at large remain backward and tied to feudal thinking and the black arts. Kattadiyas, Hooniyam specialists, astrologers and ‘divine’agents abound. Disaffected persons still go to places like the Senigama Devale to unleash divine -assisted revenge. Kattadiyas are specialists in intervening between a troubled person and a divinity.

Whereas the Buddha invoked his followers to be lamps unto themselves and not log into any deity, many of our Buddhist temples have devales as part of the establishment.

Our television channels have a substantial portion of time allocated to astrologers. This is Sri Lanka in the 21st century, which is reputed to have  one of highest rates of literacy in the South Asian region.

Ministers and Legislators Propagating Unreason

Is there a worser thing that can happened when cabinet ministers and MPs propagate unreason? These days Minister of Health, Mrs Pavithra Wanniarachchy is being dealt with by island-wide protest posters after her miserable role in encouraging the mythical interpretation of Covid-19 that has since engulfed the island?

One poster says: විද්යාව වෙනුවට මිත්යාව ජනගත කෙරූ පැණි මිට්ටි දේවී.’ [‘peni mutti goddess who socialised myth instead of science’] Pavithra  initially focused on the marketing efforts of Dhammika Peni or syrup. An ignorant  and cunning fellow created a syrup, which he claimed would see an end to Covid-19. Mind you, this was during the early phase of the dreadful conatgion that should have been diverted to finding vaccinations, respirators and an overall strategic plan to meet the escalation of the virus.etc. Pavitra next released charmed pots into the river in order to save the country from the vicious viral disease. She also did some other queer things. The irony is that she herself caught the disease!

But don’t leave Pavitra alone. Other ministers and parliamentarians  had joined her while His Excellency the President and the Prime Minister implicitly backed Pavitra’s magic. One could observe how ministers Wimal Weerawanse, Gammanpilla, Channa Jayasumane (supposed to be a Professor somewhere), Prasanna Ranatunge, Sisira Jayakody etc joined in the Pavitra cheer squad.

Derana media boss Jayaweera and the ITN guy also gave ample support  to making Lanka go backward and probably catch up retrogressively with the 18th century.

One may argue that it is advantageous for politicians in the Pohottuwa to let the population retrograde this way. The more ignorant a voter population remains the easier to fool voters and cover up a government’s myriad misdemeanours and incompetencies.

Education and Democracy

The ancient Greeks invented democracy but Socrates had been very critical that democracy can work against uneducated surrounds. In Book Six of The Republic, Plato describes Socrates’ thinking about democracy. “….why then, do we keep thinking that any old person should be fit to judge who should be a ruler of a country? Socrates’s point is that voting is a skill, not a random intuition. “And like any skill. it needs to be taught systematically to people. Letting the people vote without an education is as irresponsible as putting them in charge of a trireme sailing to Samos in a storm.”

Over the last 72 years history has shown how Sri Lankan governments have been at low productivity level and even dysfunctional. This can be largely attributed to poor education levels. Literacy isn’t necessarily education. Learning how the social and political environment works and learning to think critically about that is education.

Schools Curriculum Revision

Where are such areas touched in our schools?

In countries like where I live (Australia) critical thinking is embedded into every subject. Individuals who come out of such a system become savvy about the doings in the country. Hence, in this part of the world it is harder for politicians to fool the public or even to misbehave. Media, too, follows suite according to peoples’ expectations. We wouldn’t have a Derana or ITN propagating myth and covering rotten politicians for their advantage. This is a shame

I urge our learned minister of education, Professor GL Peiris, to systematically look into the school syllabi and seek its continual revision year by year. He doesn’t seem to be doing anything about that. There must be a national school curriculum commission run independently who will research and assist the minister. That cannot be left to officials working alone. Critical thinking must play a big role in educational instruction and assessment.

Religion Out. Comparative Religion In

Furthermore, subjects like religion should be out of the curricula because a religion isn’t a source of knowledge but a mere faith and prayer. There is no objection to schools having a practice session in religious prayer. In the case of Buddhism, its conceptual thinking  can be taught as part of  a subject like comparative religion, leaving Buddhism’s religious mode and gaathas out of syllabus. Individuals can be made good and skilled citizens without religion. In Australia state schools leave out religion although comparative religion is a subject. Comparative religion constitutes a social and conceptual study of a universal section of social behaviour.

Public Education of Science

It should be the task of the ministry in charge of education to steer the rest of government  and media to pursue the goal of modernisation and critical thinking, which is the core of modernisation. The public education of science must be part of the ministry’s gamut of responsibilities.

Oxford University was one of the first to focus on the public education of science as a speciality. Bill Gates has funded the chair since its inception two decades or so ago under the chairmanship of the esteemed Professor Richard Dawkins.

The Oxford model should be replicated in Sri Lanka by getting the universities to have a department in charge of the public education of science. If Sri Lanka is to move ahead and join the scientists that drive education and technology forward such steps within an overall culture of modernity must be taken courageously.

*The can be reached at shyamonjayasinghe@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 7
    6

    USA with a population of 330 million has 9 Holiday’s with no religious affiliations’. SL with 21 million has 24 holidays with most of them being religious. Yet we have produced 3 mass murderers in the last 40 years. Prabakaran ( Christian/ Hindu ), Wijeyweera ( Buddhist ) and Zaharan ( Muslim )
    The most productive years are the ages of 20-40. After that the game is over for most people. Since people tend to take a Monday off if the Holiday’s is on Friday or Friday off when its on Monday, the cumulative average of 26 holidays over 20 years leads to the loss of about one year of the most productive period of an individual’s life . In the America, there is a widely accepted theory known as the 80/20 rule. 20% does 80% of the work, and 80% does 20 % of the work. Considering how lazy Sri Lankans are it must be more like 95% to 5 % ratio.

    • 0
      0

      Yet we have produced 3 mass murderers in the last 40 years. Prabakaran ( Christian/ Hindu ), Wijeyweera ( Buddhist ) and Zaharan ( Muslim )
      ———–
      There are many more you can add to that list. It should include several presidents and prime ministers.

  • 4
    4

    Westham
    Can’t disagree with you.

    • 2
      0

      “Our television channels have a substantial portion of time allocated to astrologers. “
      A very pertinent observation. Then there is the tendency to dwell on past glories, even fake ones like the Ravana story. As Mr.J says, the education system is the root cause of this rot. Up till the 70’s, the media was pretty forward-looking with many articles on science and technology in local languages. There was healthy discussion of religion without being slavish. That was because the editors of the time were people who had been truly educated in British times.
      Nowadays the media promotes all sorts of snake oils and fake history, because we have nothing to be proud of in the present.
      The education system has to be changed. Religion must be removed from the syllabus. In this country, culture is very much tied up with religion. We cannot have a narrow- minded and hypocritical all-male clergy having ayatollah-like control over our children’s thinking in this 21st century.

  • 2
    0

    Shyamon Jayasinghe, critical thinking is an alien subject in Sri Lanka’s education system. Except for the older and dying generations those younger don’t have a clue as to what it means. The teachers themselves are clueless.

    • 0
      0

      Universityes are a protected sector in Sri Lanka with old Cambridge style departments,faculties etc. They produce a dependent student(on imported Western disciplines). Structures and teaching practices contribute to this. Instead university education has to be liberatory of mind! There is no periodic evaluation/assessment of teaching programs, courses as in other developed ountries. Same (British)model of university is reproduced when new universities are established? Very little inter-departmental,interdicipinary interaction. Arts student cant learn a bit of law,medicine or science and vice versa.? Segregated teaching? There is a seminar coming up soon on the future of higher education sponsored by a group called Future of education in Sri Lanka.Look at their Face book page for more details.

  • 5
    0

    Shyamon, you are day dreaming. SL don’t have a single person with vision or patriotism. They are just fooling around screaming Sinhala Buddhism, appe ratta, appe urumaya all that is just bull shit. Referring to GL Peries, Nanayakara, Weerawnsne, Gamanpulle, Jayasumana etc is a waste of time. They are a bunch of jokers and crooks. GL one time dean of the law faculty and what a joke. He is a superclass clown and and a shameless moron. No wonder they call him as I say Peries. Other jokers are total write off. For them to think they must have a functioning brain first, leave aside honesty and integrity. These clowns are there to pick the bones thrown by Raja family. Now let us see our gentleman Ranil. What a shameless fellow he his. Can’t this fellow just wait at home and spend rest of his life. His coming to parliament itself is a crime. Now this joker justifies Basils illegal entry too. Ranil looks unwell, unhappy and frail may be his conscience eroding into him. A worst loser. So where can the people go to. Just see synthetic Namal baby gone to Tokyo while Rajah family says no foreign reserve. At least if the majority realise that this Sinhala Buddhist gundu has taken them for a good ride then there is some hope.

    • 0
      0

      We maintain elitist structures(many with old colonial features,practices) in the higher education sector producing imported disciplinary knowledge while giving no regard to Eastern knowledge and wisdom. Higher education is a highly protected and regiulated sector. It has not been liberalised as the economy, comunication field, health, commerce, etc. By liberalisation I do not mean privatisation. Liberalisation=opening up university education to the broader population. True there is Open university and external degrees .But the probloem is they produce the same old disciplinary knowledge(translated into Sinhala and Tamil)? Our university Dons are not knowledge producers. By and large the university community is knowledge consumers and translators. There is a lack of high grade research,in particular interdisciplinary ones or research journals. In the name of freee education,we maintain this old structure along with practices that o not contribute to production of innovative knowledge,findings, solutions to country’s problems. In the time I can recall there has not been a wide review of the university sector to find out how we are going, what changes needed etc.? There are no policy makers and Higher education researchers in the country. We only have managers and administrators. Why we call UGC(university grants commission)? Shouldnt it be university Commission?

  • 0
    1

    People,
    Dhammika Peni is an immune booster. Your chances of getting Covid then drops by 50%. As per pots on rivers, removal of negative energies further reduces it by 10%.

    • 2
      0

      Ramona,
      So you have done extensive research on it? Does a little kasippu improve efficacy? I mean when given to the patient?

      • 0
        0

        OC,
        .
        Srilanka’s COVID numbers are no better to that of India. Incumbent crooks in power have reduced PCR testing to roughly 10 000 /day, so the numbers of the infected are reported as lower than few weeks ago. There are enough proof material that support govt s misconducts of COVID handling. Media mafiose + Rajapakshe criminals may be thinking that entire srilankens are stupidier than those 6.9million mercy cows.
        :
        This is why EU countries have put them in the same list yet today. I ve been trying to return home for 3 weeks, but i am not yet sure of it – becasue healthy ministry s notifications are not reliable enough.

        And those who know nothing about the compositions of such concoctions: Any tonics , syrups or other drinks being available in EU/US markets could improve the efficacy to the very same level. I challenge if anyone who could prove that DHAMMIKA paniya being unique to its healing powers.

        At the time DENGUE hit the nation few years ago, there were also helawedakama promoters, that spread the same panaceas. If OC any others lived in SL, could add their thoughts on this.
        .
        Similar fairy tales were heard also from Madagaskar and Brazil. However, they are all gone out of focus, after the vaccines were introduced. It is believed 1% of full-vaccinated with BioNtech jabs are succeptible to fastly tranmissable DELTA variant.

  • 1
    0

    Ramona, are you serious or joking. If it is true then I feel so sorry for you. And it further confirms that being a country we have no future at all

  • 0
    0

    OC & BL,…….Sri Lanka is faring better than a place like India, percentage-wise. Indeed she is faring better than places like US and Italy. So, while the vaccine is essential (damned if you do; damned if you don’t), population with a healthier immune system will see far fewer deaths. India, even the natural remedies don’t reach the masses as they are not free, but the vaccine is. Sri Lank and everybody is rich enough to buy natural remedies.

    • 1
      0

      Dear Ramona:

      What do you mean by “healthy” or “healthier” immune system?

      Oxidative stress caused by one’s immune system can and does damage one’s own tissues and organs. Those whose immune response to an infection or antigen is exaggerated, the oxidative damage is greater and can be lethal.

      A case for meeting the body’s need for anti-oxidants (e.g. Vitamins A, C, E, and other anti-oxidative molecules) makes more sense, and this is a requirement for general good health.

      • 0
        1

        Sugandh,
        Guess Dhammika Peni has all those vitamins and minerals plus other micro-elements & a whole load of Lankan positive energies unseen in the human realm, but felt.All must be interacting, binding, and inspiring each other in a very holy way

        • 0
          0

          There is no other options than selective drugs, if anyone would seek to be away from COVID19 and its variants. Pharma companies will introduce even more vaccines in the months to come, after their on going clinical trials supplied enough data also covering young age groups.

          Those who were then busy with conspiracy theories on COVID 19 went self-mord today EUROPE with the numbers across the world becoming non-stoppable.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucharit_Bhakdi
          https://eu.boell.org/en/2020/09/10/it-must-be-plot-coronavirus-conspiracy-theorists-take-streets-germany

          Some politicians were behind those cross thinkers- comparable to what you got to see in SL – speaker, wattiamma-health ministers and other ministers that misled the nation. Channa Jayasumana the fake prof but in reality another baggage boy to Rajapakshe mlechcha family, yet today misleads the niaton.

          In europe, Prof. Bhakdi or the few postulated that the COVID19 infections are similar to that of common influensa viral infections. They repeatedly ridiculed out the manner how politicians imposed lock downs. However, to date, the statistics proved otherway around so that all such theories short-lived.

      • 0
        0

        Sugandh,

        exactly some info related to the facts. However, the role of antioxidants on protection us from any internal body reactions is unique from person to person.People as average knowledge is not yet improve about the common knowledge, and that is the reason, they become easy prey of the crook politicians and tricksters. Those who went after PANIBEEMWA were not just IQ lower portions in the society, to my records, there were also MBBS holders (local graduates), Science graduates, Engineers (all from local Unis) if I may remind you. This reminded me what Prof. Kovur explained about our society – https://www.onmanorama.com/lifestyle/keralaspora/2020/07/05/sri-lanka-rationalism-malayali-prof-abraham-kovoor.html
        .
        you may perhaps be our AMARASIRI we have missed on this platform ? Amarasiri was one of my favourite commenters on CT. I could share much with him, because he had come from science research. Eagle Eye was speechless but he repeated as is the case with him yet today, not being able to understand what Amarasiri commented.
        .
        Unfortunately, all what you have added above would not go to the heads of the average, so long myths continously govern their mindset.

        Nor would the most powerful symbiosis (crook politicians and media mafiose) care the little about the ground realities of the suffering people.

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