Education in Sri Lanka and Sir Arthur C Clarke’s legacy

Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene published an article on Groundviews today commemorating the first death anniversary of Sir Arthur C Clarke. In it he notes,

But can imagination and innovation take root unless we break free from the shackles of orthodoxy? For transformative change to happen, we will need to rethink certain aspects of our education, bureaucracy, social hierarchies and culture. Are we willing and able to attempt these?

For a start, no modern day Arthur Clarke is going to be inspired by Sri Lanka’s over-crowded and rigid curriculum or the antiquated educational system that places emphasis on rote learning and passing examinations. Throwing computers into the mix has not really modernised the mindset of those in charge. I was recently stunned to learn how the Education Ministry’s much-taunted SchoolNet web connectivity allows students to access only a handful of pre-approved websites! The babus who decided on this must fit the description in this rhyme Sir Arthur was fond of quoting, referring to a British educator of yesteryear: “I’m the master of this college; what I don’t know isn’t knowledge.”

Sir Arthur knew how closed economies and restrictive cultures stifled innovation — he once said the only memorable invention to emerge from Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe was the Rubik’s cube…

If as the President proclaims 2009 is the year of English and IT, he’ll be hard pressed to come up with answers to the challenges Nalaka poses and safeguard the legacy of Sir Arthur C Clarke by securing scientific inquiry that isn’t framed or undermined by nepotism, corruption and favouritism.

Read Nalaka article in full here.

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