Posted by: lrrp | May 31, 2008

Re-introducing History in school curriculum

The teaching of History of Sri Lanka was withdrawn as a subject and included in Sociological Studies – nearly thirty years ago. The minister in charge of education was Dr. Badi-ud-din Mahmud. He created history with the introduction of the national system of education bringing all State assisted schools under one banner during the time of Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike. Some cynics described this national endeavour as the ‘Take over of schools’. Pure nonsense.

The national system notwithstanding, the Sinhala students, particulary the Buddhist students began to suffer heavily due to the withdrawal of History as a separate subject.

At that time different histories were taught in schools: European History, World History, British History and Indian History. As a student at Prince of Wales’ College, Moratuwa, I enjoyed the privilege of learning all these subjects. Still, I treasure those text books read for different histories.

Since the subject was telescoped into Sociology absolutely nothing was taught to benefit the students. A grand wave of disinterestedness spread fast among both the students and the teachers.

At that time many Buddhist institutions like the All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress, the Colombo Young Men’s Buddhist Association, the Lanka Mahabodhi Samitiya, the Sasana Sevaka Samitiya protested against the move and made representation to many quarters.

Since nothing was happening to restore the status-quo, those organisations planned to teach the chronicles like the Mahavamsa and Culavamsa to the Dhamma schoolchildren.

Sometime ago, Cultural Affairs Minister Lakshman Jayakody who later became the Minister of Buddha Sasana too entertained the same thought.

Now, after a fruitless period of nearly thirty-five (35) years, Minister of Education, Human Resource Development and Cultural Affairs Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku’s committed interest to re-introduce History as a separate subject is gathering momentum. Already the Mahanayaka theras of all Nikayas – including the Kelaniya, Kotte, Rohana, Udarata, Sabaragamuva provinces expressed their appreciation and complete co-operation to make Minister Kodituwakku’s commitment a success.

The Bhikkhu Sangha have informed the Minister not to allow the bureaucratic tactics to delay the implementation of the program on the pretext of lack of text books, translations and updated versions, to go ahead immediately since all the text books on Sri Lanka History are available. Since, History was not taught in the proper manner in schools, publishers refrained from reprinting the books.

Minister Dr. Kodituwakku, a historian and an educationist himself believes that all students whether preparing for law, medicine, arts, languages or science should possess a sufficient knowledge of the country’s History.

Often heard lament is those attending international seminars, conferences and parleys cut a sorry figure due to their ignorance of the country’s history.

Every right thinking person should consider his or her bounden duty in every possible manner to propagate the teaching of History in all schools.

Professors and Lecturers of History in our universities, those who are outside the universities in retirement, Dr. Sirima Kiribamune, Professor Rohanadheera and Dr. Lorna Devaraja and those living abroad like Professor Ananda W. P. Guruge and Professor David Kalupahana have a vital role to making this venture a going concern uninterrupted so that our children – the present and the future generations will be able to live up to the ideals of Dr. Kodituwakku.

The Minister should consider entrusting to a committee of Historians including those living abroad to plan its implementation successfully.

One redeeming feature is that this is the first time in recent history that a ministerial pronouncement appreciated and applauded by all the sections of the country. That will be history in the making.

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