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Government Gazette

Education: where do we go from here? Part III:

Reinvigorating the institutions

Excerpts from the sixth annual Sujata Jayawardena memorial oration by Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga delivered on November 26 at the BMICH.

Continued from yesterday

As much as we characterize of identify Japanese through certain well defined criteria, an attempt must be made to craft a definition for a true Sri Lankan. Some of the major characteristics that I advocate for a Sri Lankan are being:

i. patriotic

ii. courteous

iii. disciplined

iv. punctual

v. productive

vi. valuing team


There may be many more that can be included here. But, his grouping encapsulates the bare essentials.

Tertiary and technical education, more focused towards career education. File photo

There can be any number of subjects taught, but each subject must have a distinct bearing on the student, it must positively impact on the quality of life of the individual and relate to our cultures, values and what we stand for. Our education must help us to wade through life which is full of vicissitudes and the foundation for such a state of mind must be developed by the school, supported by parents at home. We cannot prepare every child to be a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or some other professional. There are many occupations that contribute to the well-being of the fabric of society. There must be a division of labour.

However, every child must be prepared for the unpredictability of life. That is where education must concentrate.

In addition to book education, there are many other areas on which our educationists must seriously focus. I outlined a few criteria to define what a true Sri Lankan should be. There is also the ethical side of education. Various names are coined to describe this essential component of one’s education. Some call it moral education, some others call it value education and yet others name it ethics. Whatever wed call it, the essence of it is that we must teach our children the rights and the wrongs. The importance of respecting our elders, living by the foundation laid by one’s religion in one’s life, respecting the space and freedom of others, protecting the environment, learning to agree to disagree, upholding democratic values, and abhorrence of violence at any cost are a few that I would like to highlight.

In 1995, a best seller authored by renowned author, Dr. Daniel Goleman, a US citizen presented to the world, a new concept - Emotional Intelligence, also known as EQ. Goleman through his well researched book argued and debunked the theory that people with a high IQ always did well in life. IQ has been the basis on which selections had been made to many coveted positions. Seminal research has shown that having a high IQ does not guarantee someone to be successful in life. On the contrary, those who have a high EQ are bound to have success stories in life.

This ground breaking thought was based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences postulated by the renowned educationist, Professor Howard Gardner at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his book, Frames of Mind, published in 1984, Prof. Gardner reveals the prerequisites of an intelligence. “To my mind, a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills of problem solving - enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters and, when appropriate to create an effective product - and must also entail the potential for finding or creating problems - thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge.”

Gardner demonstrates that there exist multiple human intelligences, common to all cultures - each with its own patterns of development and brain activity, and each different in kind from the others. These potentials include Linguistic, Musical, Logical - mathematical capacities, Spatial, Bodily - kinaesthetic intelligences as well as the ability to arrive at an emotional and mental sense of self and other people. Rather than reducing an individual’s potential to a single score on an IQ test, it is the fostering and education of all these intelligences that should be our concern.

Goleman based his theory of Emotional Intelligence or EQ, mainly on the ability to arrive at an emotional and mental sense of self and other people. These are also known as intra-personal and inter-personal intelligences. The main components of the EQ framework are:

A. Personal Competence

1. Self awareness

2. Self regulation

3. Motivation

B. Social Competence

4. Empathy

5. Social Skills

Each of these dimensions consists of many emotional competencies making it an overall 25.

Each of these competencies can be learned. Goleman says that an emotional competence is a learned capability based on emotional intelligence that results in outstanding performance at work.

He presents in his best selling book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, the results of a US national survey of what employers have been looking for in entry-level workers.

“Specific technical skills are now less important than the underlying ability to learn on the job.” Employers listed the following:

* Listening and oral communication

* Adaptability and creative responses to setbacks and obstacles

* Personal management, confidence, motivation to work towards goals, a sense of wanting to develop one’s career and take pride in accomplishments

* Group and interpersonal effectiveness, cooperativeness and teamwork, skills at negotiating disagreements

* Effectiveness in the organization, wanting to make a contribution, leadership potential

* Of six desired traits, just one was academic: competence in reading, writing and mathematics.

The purpose of presenting these concepts is to stress on the importance of the need to revolutionize our school curriculum, both from an academic as well as an extra curricular standpoint.

The need of the future is to turn out individuals that fit the requirements of the employers where there is a lot of emphasis on soft skills and also the skills for living with confidence. What I advocate for the future is to turn out emotionally intelligent students who will be able to cope with innumerable ups and downs in life and yet contribute to the well-being of self and others.

To be continued



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