It took three decades of war, ethnic conflict and loss of thousands of lives for Sri Lankans to realize the importance of unity. Sri Lanka now stands in a position where the country is gradually recovering from brutal wounds of war and this is high time for the nation to look into aspects of promoting unity among diverse cultures and ethnic groups to avoid the reoccurrence of such a tragedy. One way of achieving unity among different ethnic groups is through education. Enlightenment of the nation about the importance of unity can only be achieved by educating people.
This essay will analyze the ways of achieving unity through education with relation to the Sri Lankan society. Language is a powerful tool which can be used to achieve mutual understanding among cultures. It can also be used to share knowledge. So it is important to break language barriers between people in order to bridge them through communication. As the 20 million population of Sri Lanka consists of people belonging to diverse ethnic groups where, more than one language is used, it is important to promote a trilingual education system, provided the most widely spoken languages in Sri Lanka being Sinhala, English and Tamil.
The learning of all aforementioned languages should be made compulsory at primary level. Education in schools should be offered in all three mediums and the equal importance of these languages should be emphasized. The adaptation of a trilingual policy in education will facilitate the access to cultural texts and knowledge and promote unity through interactions between students where, mutual understanding can be achieved. Equal importance to all the cultures should be given and students should be educated to respect the customs and traditions of other cultures and religions or racial groups.
Once steps are taken to break the language barrier, interactions between students from all parts of the country should be promoted. This could be done through extracurricular activities such as organizing cultural festivals and organizing field trips where students from the North can visit schools in the south and vice versa. Also schools could work together on joint ventures or projects where students will get opportunities to make new friends. The system of schools around the country should be linked to acilitate the knowledge sharing g process and this could be done through the implementation of a common platform, for an example as a social network among schools for sharing ideas and knowledge. National coherence will be achieved through interaction of cultures and this will promote national unity. The education system should be reformed to promote divergent thinking and it is important to change the attitudes of students from the contemporary social views of attributing a person to a specific nationality (Sinhalese, Muslim or Tamil) to attributing people to the common nationality of Sri Lankan.
This should be taught at the school level so that future generations will hopefully have a different but positive attitude towards other cultures besides their culture. Promotion of learning cultural studies and peace and conflict studies as a linked subject at secondary and tertiary levels where students will be given transfer scholarships to different areas of the country to study about culture and traditions of a particular ethnic group and also be given opportunity to study and research about post conflict consequences.
Creation of a platform for tertiary level students to present findings from their researches to help the process of national decision making, this can be achieved by creating partnerships with state universities and the assistance of university academics can also be used in national policy making with regards to reconciliation.
In my opinion, the above four factors, Adopting a trilingual policy and Promotion of learning cultural studies and peace and conflict studies as a linked subject at secondary and tertiary levels interactions among students, promoting the concept of a common nationality and are the most important to be considered when achieving national unity through education. Concentrating on the significance of two of the above factors in achieving national development, the adaptation of a trilingual policy plays key role in this narrative.
As unity is promoted through mutual understanding, individuals can unite and work together towards attaining national development. Since equal significance will be given to all the nationalities and thereby language and cultural disputes will be solved and the reoccurrence of a tragedy such as the ethnic conflict which crippled the Sri Lankan economy will not take place.
Peace is the most important factor to achieve national development, for a war torn country, achieving economic stability would be a mere dream. As for the importance of interactions between people for national development, it can be stated that greater interaction between diverse groups of people facilitates the process of sharing knowledge in different cultures. This knowledge can be used to develop modern technologies and sciences.
Knowledge and the creation of intellectuals who are nourished with rich cultural knowledge can help develop innovations and policies that will help the country achieve economic growth and stability. In conclusion it is to be understood that when considering the above factors, giving equal significance to all ethnic groups, adopting a trilingual policy and developing people to people contacts is important to achieve national unity and national development. As a saying goes, ‘United, we stand, Divided we fall’.