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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

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Inspiration from the past

Naturally when we are reminded of our National Heritage, the visuals that run through our mind are the ancient tanks and Thupa. However many of us are unaware that these physical resources are just examples of our national heritage. Many of us tend to neglect the most important aspect; the marvellous technology and creativity that went into their making. Generations after generation we were taught to look at these creations in a Western perspective, not taught to be inspired by them.


National Heritage Minister Dr Jagath Balasuriya

To be proud of our National Heritage we should be able to understand the very knowledge that our ancestors applied to erect them. Only by doing so can we look through these constructions and can whole heartedly appreciate and love our national heritage. Anthropologist Pandula Endagama observed that this knowledge should be passed on to the younger generation for them to be able to produce magnificent models as our ancestors.

He appreciated the government’s recent initiative to add National Heritage to the school curriculum while recommending to merge it with every subject rather than making it a solitary subject which might become an extra burden on the students.

“National Heritage is seen in every subject. For example in the Math class we can teach our students how our ancestor had applied the Pythagoras theory here in our country though they were oblivious of this.” However our ancestors had been aware of this knowledge. In the same way there is a vast knowledge related to National Heritage in every other subject.

Qualified teachers

However he doubts the capability of the present day teachers to couple this knowledge with their respective subject. He suggested that school teachers first be trained for this task. “They must be able to make National Heritage a part of children’s life,” he remarked.

Endagama brought out examples of art, nutritious food patterns, sewing and stitching practices that minimize wastage, indigenous medicinal practices and environment friendly approaches of our ancestors as valuable knowledge to pass on to the younger generation.


Anthropologist Pandula Endagama

He stressed that bestowing this type of knowledge should be the main focus of this initiative to add National Heritage to the school curriculum.

Meanwhile, National Heritage Minister Dr Jagath Balasuriya said that the suggestion to add National Heritage to school curriculum will be an important move to form a patriotic generation which will be immensely useful in the pursuit of the country’s development. He observed that patriotic feelings oft the motherland can be generated by making children aware of their National Heritage.

This suggestion is still at the initial stage. It will be carried forward after conducting a comparative research with other countries.

Multicultural

“We are aware that this is a complicated issue and must be handled carefully. National Heritage does not only mean the Sinhala Buddhist heritage. It also includes all other religions and ethnicities.

He pointed out that the country had been under colonial rule for a considerable period of time. The influences of Dutch, Portuguese and British have become a part of Sri Lanka. “We should make our children aware about these influences too,” said the Minister. Agreeing with Endagama’s opinion, the Minister reiterated that National Heritage does not necessarily have to be a separate subject but can be a division under Social Studies and History.

He noted that a committee will be appointed shortly to proceed in this task. Intellectuals and general public will be given opportunity to present their proposals to the committee, he remarked.

No burden

“We do not want to make it another burden on children under the modern competitive education system.” It is evident that Information technology (IT) will also become compulsory in the coming years. The minister expressed the need to proceed, taking all these into consideration.

He is positive that the country possesses enough school teachers who have done higher studies in History or Archaeology to support this initiative after proper guidance.

Minister Balasuriya said that they hope to form a Heritage Policy with the help of intellectuals and professionals in the field. “Heritage policies are operative in many other countries such as Australia. We will undertake this task and once formulated will be presented for Cabinet approval,” he revealed. There is no doubt that the knowledge of National Heritage is invaluable to everybody. It can improve one’s attachment to one’s motherland. It also helps to enhance creativity. With this knowledge our future generation will be able to admire and derive inspiration from our dignified history.

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