What is the purpose of education? And what does it prepare a person to do? Or rather, what should it prepare a person to do..
Currently in the world, education is aimed at providing the student with some sort of opportunity to make money. Its like training a hunter to live in the jungle. Although balance is provisioned for by giving room to spiritual education etc, as Sir Kenneth tells us here, the current system is mostly designed to train a person to cope with Industry.
But lets leave the merits and demerits of such an approach to a different, more idealistic post. Let us just look at the Sri Lankan education system as it stands today and ask if it is even capable of producing a sufficiently competent industry employee to begin with?
Having gone through my whole school life under the local system of education, i was privileged enough to be able to pursue my bachelors from an American university, albeit administered by a local institution that followed the American way of teaching. And i saw some real differences. For instance, most of my marks are based on,
- Group presentations, which help me get used to working with and sometimes leading a team of people, also enabling us to explore subjects beyond the boundaries of curriculum’s or syllabuses.
- Classroom discussions which encourage me to speak up with my views and question others’ opinions,
- Written assignments which make me do my own research enabling me to acquire my own understanding of the subject matter
- Written exams, well we’re all familiar with them.
I’ve found that as a result of this i remember things i learned much better. More importantly it helps me understand the practical implications of theory, having had to research and do presentations on real life scenarios. And importantly, it improved my communication and people skills, somethings that are greatly lacking in Sri Lankan employees taken as a whole.
Even professional qualifications like CIM, which is based in the UK, are moving towards a more hands on approach. Most of the current curriculum is project based rather than exam based, which makes me slightly regret being in the latter part of the old curriculum, but not by much. Project work is hard, time consuming and challenging, even though it is fulfilling.
But such an approach, im sad to say, is completely absent in Sri Lanka. Even subjects like the physical sciences have little or no practical teachings when you take the system as a whole. I know, since i was part of that stream for my local A/Ls. There could be various reasons for this such as a lack of funding and infrastructure, but mainly i feel it is a problem of approach and mindset.
Sri Lankan students are not allowed calculators in exams, whereas in the real world your company wouldn’t dream of having such a policy. Sri Lankan A/Levels are famous for carrying confusing and convoluted questions rather than more direct ones aimed solely at testing the student’s knowledge. Sri Lanka has outdated curricula and backward thinking processes that just try to hammer knowledge into students’ heads; it doesn’t help make them think.
The other day I was talking to a friend who had just graduated from an international school . She mentioned having learned a subject called the ‘Theory of Knowledge’. Themes like the origins of knowledge, the ambiguity of facts, the differences of individual thought processes etc. were some of the stuff she had learned about. The system at her school was aimed at teaching its students intelligence, not just knowledge.
The Human race is living through exponential times. Most of the learning that happens today will not be used for the jobs they are intended for now in fifteen years or so, highlighting the need to innovate change at a greater pace. And if that is the dilemma facing the world as a whole, we in Sri Lanka have a got lot of catching up to do what do you say?