Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lost in the maze of education theories

The Island, 10/06/2011, By Padma Edirisinghe

"Some people have two sets of theories on a subject, education or otherwise," announced an All–Knowing.

"What do you mean?" asked the uninitiated, blissful in her ignorance.

One set for private belief and the other, to woo or even deceive the world"

"Still I do not understand," persisted the mentally weaker.

"Say, a certain famous patriot would boldly enunciate that the Swabasha is the best lingua franca for a child. Nothing like the language he learnt at the mother’s knee. His or her talents would efflorescence through this native tongue of his and through no other. But his private thoughts on the best medium of instruction for a modern day

Child was quite different. There the child has to be his own and the language has to be the global one where on e can reach the skies"

"I see." I remembered this dialogue when reading above facts on the educational scenario in Papua New Guinea in mid 20th Century or more specifically, Father’s

O Neill’s hopes and aspirations and dreams for Papuan kids. Did they reach the skies? Read on.

Here he begins.

"It is not difficult to get the children to school here .It might even be said that they are very keen on school. Yet attendance is not compulsory"

Then what is the issue? His double standards as in the case of our own brilliant statesman. Here he is.

"I have always encouraged them to miss no chance of advancing their education

And yet deep down I felt that I was a hypocrite …."


HE gushes that if he was a little copper coloured fuzzy headed pot bellied Mengen brat ( indigenous Papuan New Guinea boy) he would never go to school at all. When the sun scorches his back waking him up what will he want the brat to do? To take his little dug—out canoe and paddle along the warm green waters of the lagoon. Soon he would be there among the fairy castle coral reefs with their caves and pillars of blue, green gold and red. The brightly hued fish too are down there slowly weaving in and out of their trellised homes. He can see the white of the sand beneath and the dull glitter of the sun above the lagoon’s surface .Circumventing him is a sphere of clear vision fading into darker blue at the edge.

Or he might spend the day with the wild pigs in the bush or with the wingless bird the cassowary or the possum or the wallaby. Or ramble along the beach looking for the place where KUrasina the green turtle lays her eggs. He might spot the tiny little bush fowl and the heron, the Gao that lays her pale blue eggs in her nest in the mangroves. And then he would again get into his canoe and paddle nowhere blissful in an aimless voyage.

"But go to school with its ink and chalk and dusters? Where the cat is always on the mat and two and two always make four and no other number? OR sorrow! "

Jean Jacques Rousseau also paints a lotus eating phase for the early stages of a child ,much above the line when average modern society sets taboo for the child to do any lotus eating and get down to the serious business of fashioning his or her future. .Of course he seems to be morbid when he states that if you sacrifice the childhood a boy or girl is entitled to as a human for the preparation for adulthood that he or she may never get a chance to enjoy, Rousseau never bargained for a healthy society where child mortality is very low making 90 % of children just grow into adults without any mishap on the way.

Especially in Sri Lanka, where the Health Minister gets criticized often, children’s mortality is very low. So there is, may be, justice in this over-done preparation for adulthood that begins with tuition classes at primary class level. After all it is a cut throat world of wicked competition that the child has to face and the sooner the child enters the fray the better.

So let the canoe paddle along the lagoon empty. Let the wild pigs the wingless birds, the possum and the green turtle look for the little boy in vain. He or she is there huddled in a miserable corner, with or without a tutor before him or her preparing for the oncoming adulthood.

Did Jean Jacques Rousseau or father O Neill say anything important? Huh, who cares when Mammon is strutting in all glory to and fro grinning hideously?

All is not gone. Humans are very ingenious .They are said to be the most brilliant among the living species. So a half –way house can be planned with the best of brains getting together. No one would opt for asylums for mentally disturbed getting filled with those of tender years.