By Dr Nalin Abeysekera
Open University of Sri Lanka
A variety of topics and headlines surface on the economic and social set up of Sri Lanka from time to time. Learned people and others from different walks of life express their views based on the way such topics are highlighted in the Media. Whatever its final analysis may be, it is an essential feature of democracy. But it is necessary to re-analyse and revisit the particular issue, subject to such discussion in the country, to ascertain whether it is the ‘Real’ problem, which should be focused on.
I hope to discuss this ‘Real Problem’ through the issue at hand, namely, the Private Medical College problem, or the SAITM issue. The SAITM issue has come to the forefront in the media, just as much as the Ragama Medical college issue which came under discussion a decades ago.
One group expresses its view in its favour, while the other group speaks against it. It is unfortunate that these speakers focus on the symptoms of the ailment without making an effort to find out the cause.
We find a valuable example of this situation in Buddhist thought, thus:
When we examine this saying from a conventional point of view, it interprets as ‘associate the wise and do not associate the unwise or the balaya’. The definition s of ‘Pandita’ and ‘Balaya’ are not clearly understood here, and it leads to much confusion. The philosophical meaning of ‘bala’ are out thoughts which lead to the ten defilements, while ‘pandita’ denotes the wholesome thoughts that arise in our minds. It is the exploration of our own mind. But the conventional interpretation leads to much confusion and conflict.
We can discuss the SAITM issue within this framework. When we analyse it based on above interpretation , I can be seen that two factions seem to debate and argue within the conventional framework while remaining insensitive to our educational, social and political problems which form the philosophical aspect of this issue.
As stated earlier, even the Ragama Medical College conflict ended up treating the symptoms and not to ailment(or real problem). But I think this problem has paved the way for a more philosophical and intellectual dialogue, with a broaden outlook on the economic and social aspects of our country and our nation.
We see that most problems in our country are looked at with one’s own political mindset. But the SAITM issue needs to be addressed with a more applied approach from a philosophical standpoint. There should be a proper assessment of the facts of our education and the way for ward of the system of education, woven into the solution of this problem. When 250,000 students seek entry to higher education only 25,000 are admitted to the universities. It is the result of our cultural and economic deformity based on the concept of free education.
But there needs to be a broader social debate/dialogue which focuses on the learning methodology and the inability to merge with the needs of the country. We constantly discuss about the developed countries. But it is unfortunate that we have failed, during the past few decades, to link the abilities and skills of our students of the present, with the strengths drawn from the Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa civilizations of our glorious past.
Therefore it is vital for us to identify our problems as one Nation and one Country, without trying to fulfil our individual ambitions through media displays.
Our people are the lifeline of our country. The future lies with the younger generation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those who govern, the learned and the educated, to move our country forward on a purely Sri Lankan Model, befitting today’s world, while drawing from our great civilizations of the past and ridding ourselves from the island mentality.
Educational reforms at this point, should cater to the educational and social changes that are taking place today. leadership skills of the innocent third standard student who carries a seven kilo bag on his back, as well as the university undergraduate need to be developed through an appropriate educational pedagogy. It is the need of the hour.
The SAITM issue sends out strong signals that a change in the education sector of the country by looking at social ,economic factors within the framework of Glocalization (not globalization) in vital. We need to understand it philosophically (and genuinely) to create a sensitive generationwhich loves our country .This should be the role and responsibility of all intellectuals and citizens of Sri Lanka. It needs to be fulfilled without delay as it is positively bound with our country’s future.