Saturday 18 August 2012

Our Education-2: Purpose of Education



Sri Lankans have all the reasons to be proud of a "sound education system !", until the late 60s.  

How sound was it?

Why do we need education....? A million-dollar question that we can debate upon for the next few weeks. 

In my opinion, education is to make better human beings that can optimize the resources available for the maximum benefit of society. 

We had such an education system for a few thousand years.  From the schools for royal families to highly sophisticated "Piriven" education system down to rural farmers; knowledge was disseminated from generation to generation for the purpose of optimizing available resources. 

Suddenly things were changed in the 19th Century; as the British Rulers created the "new education system" through formal schools. 

Britishers established the education system for their own benefits.

They needed obedient servants for smooth governance. And the education system was formulated to produce "loyal educated locals" for such purpose. 

"Manufacturing of vehicles was Britishers' job. Repairing of them when they are broken was Sri Lankans' job". 

After a couple of centuries, we are still taking forward this concept, as very obedient servants. We still are proud of being good mechanics who can repair any vehicle that those "masters" make. 

Instead of "optimize"; western education teaches how to "maximize" the usage of resources. And unfortunately, we Sri Lankans learned how to help Westerners maximize the usage of our resources.

To end this part let me tell you some experience of my life.

There are few developed countries that generously support research in Sri Lanka. Those researchers who are funded by these funding schemes have something in common. 

They all do basic research.

These researchers may have listened to hours of preaching by the representatives of their funding agencies on the importance of doing basic research in our countries. Those white people have broad smiles and stamina to talk nonstop for hours. 

They will lavishly fund you to find the symptoms of mystical kidney disease or chemical composition of apatite or characteristics of lightning in Sri Lanka. 

However,  the day that you ask them for funds to develop a pharmaceutical for the kidney disease or ready-to-sell product from apatite or surge protective device to safeguard equipment from lightning.........

..........that broad smile disappears. Their words start emitting a strong scent of discouragement. They will start again preaching about the importance of basic research and publishing papers after papers.

In between the lines, they say "You servants of ours, the masters!,  do basic research and provide us the information in the form of research papers. It is our duty to develop commercial products based on your data and sell them back to you. Otherwise, why should we fund your research"

And I was once at the bitter end of this story.


  1. So true.
    During my final year engineering degree in Sri Lanka, we were asked to research work and do presentations. Our professors expected us to chose from the list of topics they provided - most of the topics are on how to use technological equipments for Sri Lankan use cases. Final presentation slides were like marketing slides for those stuffs, and no wonder a number of our professors were stakeholders in the firms that import them to Sri Lanka.

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