Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDITORIAL -

With a huge al­lo­ca­tion of more than Rs.100 bil­lion be­ing made for ed­u­ca­tion in the Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill pre­sented in Par­lia­ment on Mon­day, the Gov­ern­ment needs to go be­yond money or cer­tifi­cates of qual­i­fi­ca­tions and fo­cus more on the val­ues of char­ac­ter-build­ing and at­ti­tu­di­nal changes so that our schools will pro­duce re­spon­si­ble and eco-friendly cit­i­zens.

A par­a­digm shift is re­quired here and es­sen­tially it is to teach the chil­dren the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­com­ing suc­cess­ful and be­ing fruit­ful. In the highly-com­pet­i­tive glob­alised cap­i­tal­ist market eco­nomic frame­work, be­ing suc­cess­ful is rooted in the vice of self­ish­ness and self-cen­tred­ness in ad­di­tion to the neg­a­tive fac­tors aris­ing from greed, envy, jeal­ousy and other vices.

In con­trast, be­ing fruit­ful es­sen­tially means liv­ing and work­ing for the com­mon good of all, to build in­ter-re­li­gious, in­ter-racial di­a­logue and co-op­er­a­tion in vi­tal spheres such as cli­mate change, poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of con­flicts in­stead of re­sort­ing to war or vi­o­lence. The No­bel Peace Prize this year was won by a world­wide move­ment work­ing not just for nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion but for to­tal nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment. This is­sue is vi­tal with the United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump still in­sist­ing there is no op­tion but a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the nu­clear con­flict with North Korea.

Ear­lier this month, the National Unity Gov­ern­ment pro­vided life and health in­sur­ance to some 4.5 mil­lion chil­dren in about 11,000 pub­lic and pri­vate schools all over the coun­try. Gov­ern­ment lead­ers also say they are fi­nal­is­ing plans to en­sure that stu­dents get at least 13 years of ed­u­ca­tion even if they fail the GCE (or­di­nary level) ex­am­i­na­tion or fail to get suf­fi­cient marks at the GCE (ad­vanced level) ex­am­i­na­tion to en­ter a univer­sity. A mul­ti­tude of vo­ca­tional train­ing cen­tres, mainly in the sphere of high tech­nol­ogy, will be set up for them to get good and pro­duc­tive jobs so that they could play an im­por­tant role in eco­nomic devel­op­ment and also have a voice in de­ci­sion mak­ing. This needs to get pri­or­ity be­cause the fu­ture be­longs to the younger gen­er­a­tion and their voice needs to be heard clearly in de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cesses.

The National Gov­ern­ment has pledged that in its Vi­sion 2025 pro­gramme, the main aim is to cre­ate a just, peace­ful and all-in­clu­sive so­ci­ety. To achieve this, the ed­u­ca­tion par­a­digm shift is vi­tal. All ma­jor re­li­gions in­sist that a vi­tal need here is an in­ner lib­er­a­tion from self­ish­ness, self-cen­tred­ness, greed and re­lated vices which pro­mote or pro­voke a de­sire to be per­son­ally suc­cess­ful. That sys­tem teaches that if per­sonal suc­cess can­not be achieved by fair means, the stu­dents could re­sort to foul means or cut-throat­ism. Ex­pe­ri­ence shows that such self­ish­ness or self-cen­tred­ness of­ten leads to self-de­struc­tion. The lack of sin­cer­ity also dam­ages re­la­tion­ships with other peo­ple, caus­ing con­flicts and quar­rels, bit­ter­ness, jeal­ousy and un­for­give­ness which pol­lute so­ci­ety.

Our re­li­gions teach us that in­ner lib­er­a­tion from self­ish­ness and self-cen­tred­ness are vi­tal for stu­dents to be­come sin­cere and re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens. That is why it is nec­es­sary even to hold a weekly class to train stu­dents on how to be sin­cere, other-cen­tred and re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens in­stead of wal­low­ing in the pigsties of self­ish­ness or greed. High qual­i­fi­ca­tions are good. But high qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to take the moral high road will give stu­dents a price­less cer­tifi­cate in so­cial jus­tice from so­ci­ety it­self.

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