President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that any attempt to disturb the education system of the country, whether directly or indirectly, will not be permitted, and if required, new legislation will be introduced to address such conduct.
The President stressed the pivotal role of education in shaping the future of the country, and announced his plans to establish a modern education system that aligns with the demands of the 21st century. He further pledged to enhance the international reputation of Sri Lanka through these efforts.
He said that during yesterday’s cabinet meeting a new cabinet committee on education was appointed, consisting of himself, the education minister, and several other cabinet ministers.
The President attended the Matara Rahula College centenary celebration ceremony yesterday (25), where a three-day Educational Exhibition and Art Festival ‘Vidyabhimani’ is being held at the College. A special commemorative stamp was also issued by the President to mark the occasion.
Principal Major Sudath Samarawickrama presented a commemorative gift to the President at the event.
The portrait of the President painted by a 11th grade student of the College Yonal Mewidu, was also presented to President Wickremesinghe.
Addressing the gathering, President Wickremesinghe stressed the importance of education for the future of the country and stated that the government’s program to build a developed Sri Lanka by 2048 gives special attention to education. The government’s aspiration is to create a new education system in the country by 2035, and the government is ready to spend to modernize education in the future.
Addressing the gathering, President Ranil Wickremesinghe further said;
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for being invited to the Centenary Celebration of Rahula College in Matara. As we talk about Rahula College, we must not forget to acknowledge its former contributors, such as Mr. Gordon Pius, Notary N.D.T. Rajapakse, and C.A. Odiris Silva, who deserves a special mention.
Like all the prominent families in Matara, my family also played a significant role in supporting the development of Rahula College. It’s important to remember not just Mr. C.A. Odiris Silva but also his son from the Kanda Udaarachchi family including Mr. Ariyathilaka, Mr. Dharmapala, Mr. Harischandra, and many others.
Speaking of Mr. Dharmapala, he assisted me immensely when I first entered politics. The first public speaking event I attended was a two-day meeting he organized. I have met him several times since then, and he always talked about Rahula College.
In 1977, after Mr. J.R. Jayawardena became the President, he extended his help to this school. In 1980, upon his request, Mr. Jayawardena visited Rahula College. Even during my tenure as the Minister of Education, he talked to me about the school. He is our most senior politician and former senior leader of the United National Party, and thus we must fulfil his demands. Many other families have also contributed to the school’s growth, including the Wanigasekara family and the Wijetunga family, who I remember fondly.
Today, Matara Rahula College is a major educational institution in Sri Lanka, and many individuals who have served our country have graduated from here. As the President, I firmly believe that education is the greatest gift we can give to our youth. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many schools were established to provide education beyond those times, and Mr. C.W.W. Kannangara’s free education policy made it possible for all to obtain a secondary education.
However, we are now in the 21st century, and we must provide our children with an education that meets the demands of the time. During my visit to the College, I asked a young boy his age, and he responded, “Ten.” If he lives until he is 80, he will see the year 2090. Therefore, it is our duty to create an educational system that is well-equipped to face the challenges of the future.
Today, I am proud to say that my government is working towards 2048 and beyond. As part of our plan, we have committed to creating a good education system in the country by 2030.
In the next two or three years, we will be investing in a new economic program. After that, a large part of the funds we receive will be dedicated to education modernization programs. We believe it is crucial to create an education system that can face the future, as the youth of our country is our only national resource. They should be given a good education and build the future.
I have looked at countries like Singapore, Israel, and Switzerland, which have managed to succeed through human resource development despite limited resources. I believe we can do the same.
If I were to ask the teaching staff today whether it is possible to continue until 2050 according to our current education system, the answer would be “impossible.” That’s why we need to go for education modernization as soon as possible.
I want to make it clear that no one will be allowed to disrupt or interfere with the education system of the country, and if necessary, we will bring laws to ensure no one interferes with the education system. Education determines the future of our country, and if we establish a formal education system, we can make our country a major hub in the Indian Ocean.
That’s why the Minister of Education and I recently discussed and appointed a Cabinet Committee on Education. The Prime Minister, Education Minister and I, together with several others, will be part of this committee.
Our focus is on creating a future-oriented education system, and we have received reports from the National Education Commission and several other departments, including parliamentary committees. We must use these reports to find out how to move towards our goal.
By 2070, a bigger change will take place in society, and it will affect education. We are only seeing part of the technology now, including artificial intelligence and new arrivals like ChatGPT. We need to decide whether we want a school-centred education system or a student-centred system to prepare for the future.
I strongly believe that the school education system in our country should be revised and improved. With 13 years of education, we need to strive towards a more successful education system like that of America, where regular and advanced level exams are not held, but rather, the SAT exam and school report are considered.
To achieve this, we must introduce new subjects, such as climate change and history, while also emphasizing the importance of science, art, literature, and geography. Every student must study a science subject and an art subject. Also, English must be taught in every school within the next 10 years. We are currently working to connect all A/L to the internet, and we plan to extend this to the O/L schools as well.
Furthermore, I commend the Vanigapatuna dance performance I witnessed today, and I encourage more programs like this to be developed. In addition, we aim to implement professional programs received from Finland.
We also plan to merge the Vocational Training Authority and the National Apprenticeship Board, turning the current vocational training centres into vocational schools to triple the number of students. Additionally, we hope to provide loans on concessional terms without interest in the first two or three years to those who want to enrol in government and non-government universities for higher education.
To increase the number of engineers and doctors in the country, we aim to establish new universities that will allow young people to engage in higher education while working. Currently, we only have 2,500 engineers passing out annually. Our target is to have 10,000 engineers and 5,000 doctors passing out annually in the first phase.
To achieve all these goals, we plan to create a new system with support from institutions such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. This system will enable us to build a strong education system that can face the future and help us become a developed country by the century of independence in 2048. We will introduce these activities through the cabinet committee, discuss them in parliament, and implement them further.
Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, State Minister Shantha Bandara, President’s Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Southern Province Governor Willy Gamage, Postmaster General Ruwan Sarathkumara, Matara Rahula College Principal Major Sudath Samarawickrama, and other faculty members, former students, and many others participated in this event.