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Old 30-04-11, 08:45 PM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default Prize giving- 1983 (10.12.1983)

Speech/Report of Headmaster Mr.Patrick Gunawardena

Mr. & Mrs. Weerakoon, Members of the Board of Governors,
distinguished guests, Old Boys, parents and friends.
It is with much pride, honour and joy that we welcome you,
Mr. Weerakoon to your Alma Mater today as our Chief Guest. It was very kind
of you to have accepted our invitation at such short notice, in spite of the
magnitude of the burden of your new office as the Commissioner General of
Essential Services, to grace this important school function.
We rejoice in seeing you as one of the most eminent men in our country
today featuring very often in the news headlines and ranked high by popular
vote in the “personality of the Year” contest run by a leading newspaper
Of the galaxy of outstanding students that adorned our College during
those pioneering years under Dr. Hayman, you were one of the brightest stars.
In those early days you took part in practically every sport, like soccer,
swimming and hockey but your first love was cricket, in which sport you
represented S. Thomas College Mount Lavinia at the 1st XI Cricket in 1948 and 1949 and won your cricket colours.
I remember you hitting a mighty six at the Royal-Thomian Match in 1949
as an opening batsman and putting up a useful 37 runs in a bid to win the match at a very exciting stage of the game when we had only to make 7 runs to win with 6 wickets in hand. The match however ended in a draw for want of time.
You were a clever student at the College and had a brilliant career at the
University of Colombo where you received a Second Class Honours degree in
After completing your University studies you served on the Staff of our
school for a short time.
You were awarded a Smith Mundt Scholarship and proceeded for post-
graduate studies to the University of Michigan, U.S.A. where you obtained the
M.A. Degree.

After you returned to Ceylon you entered the Civil Service and from then
on there was no stopping you in your march to success.
One of your earliest appointments in the Civil Service was as Asst.
Secretary to the Prime Minister, Sir John Kotalawela and you followed it up by
serving as the Secretary to the Prime Minister for five Prime Ministers thereafter.
A unique record for a public servant. You proved acceptable to them all despite their varying political ideologies.
Your rise to prominence without the stepping stone of patronage is a
tribute to your sterling qualities of integrity, reliability, adaptability, courage and total dedication to any task entrusted to you by the state.
The whole nation applauded the skilful manner in which you accomplished a task of the gravest national urgency and your humanitarian approach to the problems of caring for and the settlement of more than 50,000 refugees and displaced persons during the aftermath of human misery caused by the ethnic riots.
As a member of the Board of Governors of the College you have always
identified yourself closely with the hopes and aspirations of St. Thomas’ and we are grateful to you for the encouragement and support you have always given our school as a member of the 10 Year Development Plan Committee of the Old Boys Association.
We believe that no greater honour could fall on an Old Boy than that he
should be asked to preside at a Prize Giving of his Old school and to make the
Prize Day Speech and at the same time to be held up before the present boys as a worthy example to emulate.
It has become customary on occasions of this nature to offer pride of place
to the Chief Guest and later, almost as an act of grudging courtesy to receive his wife into our midst with a few casual compliments.
I am sure that you would rather than take umbrage with us acknowledge
with gracious gratitude the contribution of Mrs. Weerakoon to your success in
life. She must surely have been a great source of inspiration to you and given
you all the emotional and intellectual support that nurtured and enhanced your career.
We thank Mrs. Weerakoon for graciously consenting to give away prizes
and awards today.

We are happy to see several members of the Governing body of our school
present today. We are grateful to them for their wise judgment in directing the affairs of our school. I must especially thank Mr. Gerald de Alwis, the Manager of our school for his advice and ready help in solving school problems and thevaluable circulars and Educational material which he sends us from the Examination Department from time to time, and Mr. Leslie Habaragoda the Asst.Manager for the support and encouragement he has always given me.
We record with deep sorrow the death of Mr. Colvin Sirimanne, a member
of our Board of Governors.
We remember him with gratitude for his many acts of kindness, his deep
concern for the promotion of inter-religious and inter-racial co-existence in our Thomian family of schools and for the welfare of our school and education in our land.

The place of English

There is an urgent need in our country today, for the establishment of a
permanent autonomous body comprising respected educationists, men who are personally and politically disinterested, and have only the welfare of the children of our country and the nation at heart, for Educational planning in Sri Lanka.
This is necessary to ensure autonomy in education, educational stability
and planning for the future. Education is too valuable to be left in the hands of politicians and Ministry officials who change with monotonous regularity.
Today it is these authorities who decide what is best for our schools, what
we should teach, what language we should teach in, and even the books that
should be used for teaching.
The methods used are authoritarian, impersonal and characterized by a
uniformity which leads to produce a stereotyped, Examination-orientated system of education which stultifies the intellectual curiosity of a formative mind. The danger, of too rigid and uniform a pattern of education is that it will
not provide scope for individual difference and innate ability.
Over emphasis on examination has contributed to making school work
oppressive, fiercely competitive and private tuition orientated.

The greatest challenge to education comes from new opportunities for
introducing diversity in education and the need to apply the latest finding of
psychological, developmental and educational research over the last few years, namely that no one educational method fits all children, and schools must be open to educational experimentation.
The increasing popularity of Private evangelical Church schools and the
increasing pressure of demand for enrollment in these schools which cannot be met shows an amazing ability of these schools to prosper even during a period of recession and rising costs. This is an indication of the growing awareness even among the rural population of the importance of an education with an Englishbias and an international outlook.
Educational institutions which are not Government controlled have the
right and responsibilities to express their views about what needs to be done to develop the education system in keeping with the new demands to promote and foster racial integration and national unity in the years ahead.
Questions which were formerly taboo are being asked now, and asked
repeatedly in the context of socio-economic instability caused by distressing
current events.
Socio-economic and educational circumstances and needs have changed
and we need to adopt new measures to meet these changing circumstances.
One problem which this autonomous body can deal with is a very thorny
question as far as politics is concerned…..the place of English.
“More and better English for our children.” is the cry even among rural
parents, hence the rush for the “good schools”.
Over 140 Tamil students left our school soon after the communal crisis to
join schools in India where they could obtain an English medium education.
This is a clear indication that given the right of self determination of their
language policy in education the minority communities will opt for English as a
medium in the prestigious schools in the North and East.
The need has now arisen for science, Mathematics, accountancy and
Computer Programming to be taught in the English medium even up to the
G.C.E. (O/L) in schools that are able to cope with the demand.

The neglect of English during the recent past has already caused a good
deal of hardship and frustration to thousands of school leavers, and the
mushrooming English Tutories and “Spoken English” classes throughout our
country are capitalizing on this.
If anything tangible or progressive is to be achieved in this direction, this
problem should be tackled in the context of education and not politics.
On the question of the medium of instruction, the choice should be left
entirely to the parents, the students and the teachers, and should not be state decreed.
We need at the present time an educational system that is useful to the
country, a system that will weld the different ethnic components of our
population together, and at the same time one that is complete, modern, liberal and job-oriented in character with an international flavour, in view of the increasing job opportunities abroad for our youth.
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