It’s Time for Holistic Education
25 Nov 2015 by Sulaiman Rameez
Let me start off by reminding us all, that Education is a human right, and it is also a fundamental human right (A right that is enshrined in the constitution of a country). The absence of holistic education is without doubt the deepest root cause, responsible for arguably every single development challenge and crisis the world has faced and is facing. Vice versa, it is also the most effective solution. Which is why questions are thrown at governments as to why education is not a prioritized portfolio within the government budget. The Sri Lanka National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2014 on Youth and Development indicates that in Sri Lanka although expenditure has been increasing in terms of finances, as a percentage of the GDP it has been on a steady decline and has fallen to 1.72 % and this is a serious concern in terms of long term national development.
I’m sure we can recall the recent protest that took place, causing severe traffic congestion in Colombo. The entity that organized the protest, the IUSF had two demands they were asking for; to do away with private universities where the IUSF convener was noted for the statement; “We are hoping to stage the protest against ‘fake degrees’ offered at a certain institution while urging the government to abolish the private universities that are being operated at present” and to grant a Higher National Diploma, the same status of qualification as a degree. It would seem unnecessary to dwell into the facts of the latter demand, because it is evident to any rational human being that there is a reason a Higher National Diploma is called a higher national diploma.
The privatization of higher education is an interesting demand that has sparked a lot of debate, especially among the youth. According to the NHDR one of the main problems we face is the inability to absorb those who qualify for higher education. This gaping shortage of capacity has encouraged the introduction of private universities and higher education institutes. According to a recent survey over 80 percent of youth stated that universities need to expand opportunities and admit more students, and nearly 47% agreed that private universities would be a good alternative to state universities. Nevertheless, 49% also said that the cost of private universities would be a barrier to accessing higher education, suggesting that the state higher education system may still be the most important means of accessing higher education for most young people. I’ve heard people say that it will create inequality and worsen the already massive gap between rich and poor. I’ve heard people say private education is profit motivated, and education is a right, that should not be dependent on income, that it is an opportunity everyone should be entitled to. The NHDR states the social opinion of how private higher education institutions, while improving access for some people, will affect equality of opportunities, a highly valued aspect of the Sri Lankan education system. Yes it is correct that the current system of Private and Public schools in Sri Lanka does institute neo-feudal class segregation, but that too is now accepted as a part of today’s society.
Taking in consideration the fact that Sri Lanka is a country with a growing population and that we have moved into the categorization of a middle income state, it is quite beneficial that we have competition in the education sector. But while having private entities in the industry, it is important that the government continually plays a key role in guiding all institutions, private and public through a well thought out national programme, which will ensure holistic education. Of course it would be difficult to have a same standard in all schools, but at least a common structure or framework will be able to provide an education that covers all areas necessary regardless of the schools administration or ownership.
Regardless of whether it is in an air-conditioned room or an open garden with lovely trees, as long as the content of what is being taught is holistic and is sensitive and done well, our country can move along a steady upward trajectory.