Thought - provoking bookon educational philosophy
Systemic failures in education are usually followed by outpourings of
educational thought and advice, both that are worthy of serious
attention and that are not. The contemporary worrisome state of Sri
Lankan education has drawn many comments and observations both from
reputed educationists and others.
Prof. C. Kariyawasam's latest book while being topical assumes its
own place of significance and importance among academic publications in
the field of education as an item of permanent interest in the growing
literature on Philosophy of Education in Sinhala.
It is not Prof. Kariyawasam's first book on Educational Philosophy,
for he is the reputed author of several books in the field.
He has been associated with the Faculty of Education of the
University of Colombo for well over 45 years and has built a solid
reputation for himself through his teaching, research and writing as an
educational philosopher very well informed of the latest trends in
international thinking and as a creative thinker himself.
Having developed a well founded specialization in this area he is
quite qualified to write the present book for the benefit of discerning
The focus is on what should be the characteristics of the Sri Lankan
that we aim to produce through the educational process as its final
This being a question of educational aims falls within the domain of
Educational Philosophy as we understand and uphold the nomenclature of
educational studies in this part of the world where we have
traditionally expected philosophy to be speculative and to make a
positive contribution to the available stock of cognitions and beliefs.
We have, says the author, for a considerable length of time, been
studying the philosophies of education of ancient and modern educators
but not yet even thought of arriving at a philosophy of education
appropriate for Sri Lanka. The author intends his work to be a modest
beginning in this direction.
The book begins with an examination of the subject of philosophy, its
genesis, history and development, purposes and functions.
The author introduces philosophy as the 'love of wisdom' to be
attained by philosophical enquiry as opposed to physical experience of
the universe and human life, and traces the progress of this activity
from the philosophical enquiries of the Vedic poets of ancient Bharata
up to the views of the modern philosophers.
The contributions of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato,
Socrates, Confucius etc. are examined and useful and necessary
However rich and prosperous a society may be, if there is no
tradition of sustained deep thinking within it such a society is bound
to collapse sooner or later. Every philosophy indicates a noble way of
life by helping the individual to see himself or herself in perspective.
Philosophy provides answers to queries that may not be solved by
mathematical or scientific enquiry. A few such questions are as follows:
What is life? What is life's aim? What is beauty? What is goodness? By
raising this type of question the philosopher thinking beyond time and
space is able to place himself in a position of vantage over and above
the rest of humanity and seek to bring light upon the world, leading it
towards change by exploring the truth.
In addition to scientific and mathematical knowledge wisdom
illuminated by philosophy is essential for the progress of humanity.
"Philosophy mirrors society while being an embodiment of culture and it
reveals the ideals which society desires." (Page 12)
The path of education, like that of other human activities, is
illuminated by philosophy. Most philosophers have indicated their own
systems of education with desirable aims and appropriate strategies for
A system of education not supported by some philosophy becomes a
stray system of education. At the heart of every educational problem
there is a philosophical problem. Every educational practice or
innovation has its philosophical base.
At this point the author delves into the philosophical and cultural
history of humanity and pinpoints the main strands that have formed or
could form the mainsprings of educational theory and practice. The
author points out the essential elements in a culture of 'globalisation'
as opposed to the purely consumerist culture based mainly on modern
foreign cultural springs.
The author next proceeds to unravel the main theme of his discourse
which is a discussion of the more important characteristics that should
be developed in a student by a quality education to make him an ideal
Sri Lankan individual and citizen. To be sure the author is not the
first to dwell on this theme.
For instance, the Report of the National Education Commission (2003;
pp. 71-75) lists eight National Goals and seven groups of competencies
that will contribute to the achievement of the National Goals. They have
been presented in a categorized and packaged form to be implemented by
However, the present author considers the desired individual
characteristics in a more simplified and detailed form and describes a
number of the very prominent and important among them.
To mention just a few, a Sri Lankan should above all be patriotic,
should be endowed with the dignity of labour, should follow a simple
lifestyle and help safeguard the environment and should follow a
democratic way of life.
Each characteristic is clearly dwelt upon with instances,
illustrations etc. from ancient as well as modern literature, both
oriental and occidental, in a way that appeals and is useful to both the
professional educator and the non professional reader.
The author has been successful to a very great extent in discharging
the burden of describing a truly educated Sri Lankan and the result is a
useful and welcome addition to the growing literature in Sinhala on
Educational Philosophy which will be equally useful to educators,
teachers, parents and individual citizens who can find much helpful
guidance and direction within its pages.
The author's style, as usual, is forceful, straight forward and easy
to read and comprehend. This attractively printed and moderately priced
book should find an honoured place in every Sinhala reader's library.
The reviewer is formerly, Senior Professor of Humanities Education
and Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Colombo.
The monastic order and the pot
"The monastic order and the pot" could be a roughly approximated
translation of the original name. The issue springs, what has the
Buddhist monastic order to do with pots? You may get enlightened by and
by as to that aspect.
As it is, this story that lends the name to the book, we can deal
with it first and meet the main character in this tale, who is none
other than a young Bhikkhu. Throughout the tale he is plucking the heads
of sprats and putting them into a pot.
Sacrilegious? No, Wait. He has been digesting the Baisajja Kandakaya
of the Mahavagga Paliya the previous night that reveals some surprising
facts. Here the Buddha in the height of his compassion, condones
nutritious night meals for sick monks. Even animal flesh seems not to be
ruled out if the sickness demands extra nutrition.
So, the young bhikkhu has taken the liberty of preparing a broth or
soup of potatoes, beans, carrots, "sarana" and sprats for the Loku
hamuduruwo, the aged sick bhikkhu. The young bhikkhu himself, however,
is a vegetarian.
The sight of the sprats swimming in the water in which he is washing
them evokes a plethora of contemplative and creative thoughts, some of
them nauseating. To avoid the nausea he begins to see the small
creatures now devoid of life in a new light.
They seem to have suddenly got instilled with life. Some mischievous
circle and try to escape from the water, with or without heads. Living
beings trapped in the toils and coils of the Sansaric journey, trying to
What an inconsequential incident to weave a story around, some may
rationalise. But for me therein lies the beauty of this literary work.
The incidents are apparently very trivial but the messages finally
conveyed hinge on the philosophical.
There are ten other stories spawned out of seemingly "inconsequential
incidents and events", a few of which are given here that emanate the
fragrance of the unsophisticated rural village life tinctured with the
teachings of the Buddha.
It is not the deep Abhidhamma as such that the villagers have
absorbed but the more easily understood concepts as love for all living
beings and the readiness to forgive and forget.
In the short story "Naini" it is that doctrine of Maitree which makes
Amma dissuade others from harming the reptilian visitor to the house. "Naihamy,
yanna. We are all innocent people. trying to eke out a living." (Hon.
Snake! Please go away).
The "naini" obeys and slithers away. But the author does not confine
himself to mothers and daughters and sons. He deviates. The settings
become diverse, yet within the precincts of the rural paradigm. It does
not take much mental exertion to sense the author's veering towards the
area in and around Pasdun Korale, where the young author was probably
born and bred.
There is the backstage drama of the mighty minister's reception, the
impact of the new technological wonder ie. the "Mobile" in a rural
house, the mental state of a solitary pensioner and even the mental
fantasies of a lover-couple on the Horetuduwa bridge.
The stories are terse and briefly put. But after reading them a
heaviness descends on the discerning reader. Why? In some strange way
each story has conveyed a starkly truthful message as of the professor
who has not bred any disciples to continue his work. The young man who
visits him realises the futility of the professor's life.
Yet, on his way back he sees the bamboo shoots sprouting almost
stubbornly from the hard earth. They are red hued, fleshy and vibrant.
Are they the young men who are wriggling out into the limitless creative
world out of their own abilities?
Shirley probably belongs to this category. The seemingly trite nature
of the plots articulate another tragedy if one were to call it so. It is
the paucity of wide experience. One sees writers of the calibre of
Shirley who have spent the major part of their lives cocooned in the
wilds of Pasdun Korale.
The bright lights of the cities of Europe and of other continents,
the jumble of issues cropping in these foreign cities on which
expatriate writers just let their pens run smooth, our local young
writers from the villagers have yet to see and experience.
Some of them might never set eyes nor experience this vast spectrum
that nourishes the imagination. But global gallivanting alone does not
make a successful writer. The brilliant Bronte sisters who wielded their
pens so deftly had never stepped out of their country.
Nor a good many writers, both male and female belonging to different
epochs. Talent would flower sometimes stubbornly especially when
determination accompanies it generously. Shirley certainly has not had a
wide exposure. But like the bamboo shoots he has broken the hard earth
and come out.
Today, according to his bio data he is not only an established writer
(author of two well - researched books on children's drama) but a stage
play scriptwriter, a deputy director of a media organisation and a
Having earned his degree in communication he has earned his diplomas
in his chosen field and is about to wade into the inviting field of
teledramas. Sky just now is the limit for him. He seems to look for
sponsors to boost his talents and lend a helping hand. Other than his
bio-data some stories in "The monastic order and the pot" transpire this