Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 April 2012





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Focus on a wide spectrum of education

I felt honoured to be invited to review a graphic work on education by a very seasoned and internationally acclaimed educationalist. Yet, I felt challenged too for this 400 plus paged voluminous work does not seem to include a single sentence that is not relevant to the important issue in hand. Lucidly explaining that if I were to quote significant passages from it, I would have to quote the whole book!

The central issue is mostly about the deprived children of the island and generally of the Asiatic developing countries and how they keep on missing what is owed to them in the arena of education while bonanzas seem to fall on the laps of children in favoured families with the expansion of opportunities. That is in keeping with the swift progress of the world in the material sphere. But what makes the scenario almost vicious is that the ‘haves’ are flourishing in the set up while fortunes ebb elsewhere. That the major segment of the population in many a developing Asian country belongs to the deprived sector is no startling news. Yet that it almost hinges on a hoodoo condition too is no startling news against the backdrop of ballooning affluence..


With the author's wide experience in Afghanistan and in other developing Asian countries as a lead figure in this area where poverty haunts the valleys, hills, dales, forests, villages and cities Dr. Ekanayake is amply suited to communicate his ideas and voice his suggestions. But we need no erudite scholar to focus on the widening gap between educational opportunities resultant on the varied devices for the educational enhancement of children of the economically well–off class.

Failed Pedagogy -
Need for new paradigms
Author: DR. S.B. Ekanayake
Published by
Coalition for Educational Development

Foreign countries just play it up drawing away our cash. The families steeped in poverty and hopelessness, especially the children are just bewildered by the swirl of prosperity all around and at a loss to get hold of a string to hold on to and rise. It is natural that they too wish to enjoy what life offers in this increasingly consuming society or at least aspire to a life of what is called, human dignity.

The book is too voluminous for a newspaper review but I too caught some strings here and there as the line up of questions on page 38.

System of education

To what extent has the formal system of education been of use to those who failed to benefit by it?

Has there been a second chance provided for the drop—outs of the system?

What are the attempts made to bridge the formal and non—formal systems?

Do members of the community have an idea of what is development and aims of development?

What are the ideal characteristics of a good education system for a rural pedagogical system?

What are the futuristic changes that we should envisage while keeping the above views and challenges?

I have here quoted only six (the more vital ones) in my haste to indicate the author’s identified areas to work out solutions. The areas are given below.

* Educational and training needs appropriate for rural settlements

* Identification of resources in rural area

* Identification of social, economic and cultural problems of Rural settlements

* Finding out specific training needs of school heads and teachers in relation to settlements

* Identifying attitudes and interests of parents towards formal education

* Identifying the needs of women in development.

The author goes on to chew on large and vital areas aligned to the topic such as the small school, strategies for teacher training for disadvantaged groups and impact of education on the life of the people. These chapters too are of great relevance to the present context in our island. Chapter 7 deals with pedagogy and development. Chapter 8 is on multiple class teaching. Chapter 9 is about school feeding program — implications on the quality of life of the rural poor and Theme 111 Education for quality of Life using agriculture. A cynic may comment that this is again miring the rural and poor child in the very circumstances he was born and bred in while the favoured fly to the skies.


But this is the very problem that has to be attacked as to how far one can bridge the gap. The chapter on learning from reality has the thought provoking sub–sections, Social ecology of the villagers, technology with a human face, rural technology, a saviour, program on lifelong learning from rural life, and agriculture based teaching and learning module.

It is pointless to close our eyes to the glaring fact that most of the island’s denizens come from the rural areas and stand second to the city affluent. What should be done is to grapple with the problem before it goes on having an impact on the young, their eyes bright with hope.

The bibliography is almost awesome and reflects the avid preparation the author indulged in for the production of this work other than surveys. I will end this review by quoting a section from the blurb penned by Dr. Atle Hetland, himself an international figure in education.

“The author’s aim is to bestow empowerment to the deprived, rural and urban in the developing countries so that they can take charge of their own development and destiny not leaving it to leaders and donors who may be more interested in their own affairs and have less understanding for poor people’s education and development needs that they claim at international conferences and in scholarly publications”.

Has he touched on the crux of the problem where ensuring a bright future for the poor rural child end up around gleaming tables?

He goes on, “In the years to come, it is hoped that Dr. Ekanayake’s new book and contributions by other thinkers will lead to new paradigms in education so that all countries can provide education for all their children. Prof. Wiswa Warnapala eulogises the book Failed Pedagogy as a bold attempt to broaden the vision of the field of education to other sectors. I however, wish that the book was titled “Failing pedagogy” leaving room for many improvements that the author suggests in all sincerity and courage of convictions. But the sub title “Need for new paradigms” does make it very optimistic and nothing like optimism to survive.


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