The following is a restrained response to Goolbai Gunasekara’s reprisal titled “International Schools produce patriots of quality” (September 5th / The Island) aimed at my article “Focus on English medium a necessity” (September 3rd / The Island).
As the heading highlights, my initial writing focused on a crucial national problem. It was not aimed at any small section of the educational system with the aim of freezing demand for such private enterprise. So, Gunasekera is attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill with the ulterior motive, I suspect, of protecting the reputation of the profit-oriented educational institutions in Colombo.
Anyone reasonable would see that I was not referring to international schools in Colombo, but to international schools in the cities!
My argument is that the medium in those schools, which is indeed a highly conducive one, is denied by national policy to government schools. I also pointed out that the situation in the majority of such international schools is not up to the mark of the exorbitant price charged from their customers. My sole intention in writing my article was to call for national policy makers to sift away the chaff, and enable the modern educational trends to be woven into the national system of education.
I am indeed amused to observe how my writing has aroused a tidal wave of rage and repulsion because of the misinterpreted notion of a threat to the growth of private educational enterprises in Colombo. The fear of losing their customer base following a challenge from knowledgeable quarters would have been the root cause of such repulsion. A streak of white wash was duly applied by utilising the emphatic declaration “patriots of quality”. In my article, I have not opined on international school students’ patriotism, but on that of government school students from rural areas. My exact words were “immensely talented and patriotic students from the humble ‘game pasala’ are handicapped by their poor proficiency in the English Language”. Students from rural areas are indeed patriotic, given their strong allegiance with their culture and high bonding with the environment they grow up in. Hence, the heading of my critic’s article “International schools provide patriots of quality” is sadly out of context and conveys misinterpretation. Come to think of it, it is reasonable to have doubts regarding the critic’s uncalled-for defense of international school students’ patriotism, given their widely-known heavy adaptation of the filth of Western culture. Anyhow, I am glad that my writing provided the incentive to launch an advertisement campaign for Colombo’s international schools.
Nevertheless, it was appalling to observe the contemptuous manner in which Mrs. Gunasekara terms the sadistic acts of ragging and vandalism as the result of the “quota” system that brings students from unprivileged areas to the state universities. What an insult to the common man!
The violence exhibited by university raggers, drug gangs, Facebook parties, video game players, etc. are not the creation of village schools, but are cancers mutating in the entire socio-economic set-up, perpetuated by pressing hardships, the rat race for wealth and overall economic stagnation. If this situation intensifies, all of us will be pushed down the stairs.
I am also answerable to an accusation levelled by the said writer, regarding my ignorance about local A Level students’ opportunity to fly to foreign lands. I am indeed aware that a large population of government school students are engaged in foreign higher education, especially in countries like Russia, China and Malaysia. However, the point that I wished to make in my initial article was that international school students, with their superior equipment of an innovative, English-medium education and generally high socio-economic status, are given an incomparable head-start in their university careers and future jobs, most likely in foreign countries. Is it wrong to request an equal opportunity for government school students, especially from the ‘game pasala’, which would enable them to rise above their current limits of personal and career development. Should not these lasses and lads be empowered to choose lucrative avenues of employment without falling prey to unemployment and living in despair, having not achieved their high potential, as they do now? Should all of our children, or only a select few, be provided with international standard English-medium education, which in the current world, is more powerful than any weapon in regard to its ability to direct one’s path of life towards its highest possible elevation. A composed discussion on my proposition to upgrade Sri Lankan education is readily welcome, but it is a pathetic waste of words, and paper, to take one word of my argument and senselessly blow it out of proportion.
P ABEYSINGHE MALLAWARACHCHI