“An invaluable addition to the scholarly literature on Sri Lankan social development” says Emeritus Professor Laksiri Jayasuriya, University of Western Australia; Foundation Professor of Sociology and Social Welfare and Dean Social Sciences, University of Ceylon, Colombo; and author of ‘Taking Social Development Seriously: The Experience of Sri Lanka’ and numerous other widely recognized publications.
“Taken in its totality, it brings out two irrefutable phenomena in the field of education policy formulation and implementation in Sri Lanka” says Deshamanya K.H.J.Wijayadasa, former Secretary to the President.

Reviews

POLITICS OF EDUCATION REFORM: A BOOK REVIEW

(The Island -October 11, 2013)

by Dr. B.S Wijeweera

Mr. Eric J. de Silva, a former Secretary at the Ministry of Education and a person who has through his several contributions to the English newspapers displayed an abiding interest in the well-being of school education in this country, has put out in book form, through the agency of Sarasavi Publishers, a valuable anthology on Education and Education Reforms using his own writings as the pivot to bind them together. It is a veritable storehouse of information on educational reforms that will be useful not only to scholars and researchers but also to informed persons who have the interests of the education system at heart.

He has interspersed the narrative with an astute critique of the way education policy has been formulated by successive governments – the major lament being that changes in education policy have been brought about in a purely ad hoc manner, with very little consultation with stake-holders, and peremptorily announced to the public through the media or from public platforms....

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Getting Away from a Colonial Model

(Sunday Island-October 19, 2013)

by Leelananda De Silva

In the 1970’s, Sri Lanka ranked high among developing countries in the league tables for education and health. Its outstanding achievement was in female education. This was the result of investing resources in education without any form of gender discrimination. There were many desirable outcomes as a result. The decline in population growth rates can be largely attributed to better education and high rates of literacy. Improvements in health were partly the result of better education. According to World Bank and UNESCO statistics, Sri Lanka allocated about 3.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education in the early 70s. In 2010, that share has declined to 2%, at a time when the international development community is attaching the highest priority to education, as a way of overcoming poverty. (Shares of GDP for comparable countries like Malaysia and Vietnam in 2010, are over 4 percent.) .....

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DRAWING ATTENTION TO A SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS

(Sunday Times-October 27, 2013 )

by Dr. Dayanath Jayasuriya, President’s Counsel

I first met Eric de Silva in the mid- 1970’s when I was in the Attorney-General’s Department and he was a Senior Assistant Secretary (Defence). Since that time he has held key positions in public administration as the Government Agent of Trincomalee and later as Additional Secretary to the President and Education Secretary. He had an impeccable record in public service coupled with a vision for the future and his services were soon utilised by various UN agencies In the early 1990’s we were both based in Bangkok, where he and I served as consultants to UN-ESCAP and the UNESCO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, respectively. It was during this time that we had occasion to meet more frequently and discuss matters of mutual interest. Several years later I met him in New Delhi when he was on a major mission to evaluate UNDP funded projects. I had served as the Regional Adviser for one of these projects and was interviewed by him for the purpose of the evaluation. The project on HIV and Development was of a path-breaking nature which blazed a new trail but the path was studded with pitfalls. His report was frank, analytical and concise. It brought out his extensive experience in public administration and inter-agency coordination as this particular Project was subjected to many UN inter-agency turf issues and political and other pressures from vested interests....

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How ‘reform’ messed up education

(The Island -November 27, 2013)

by Dr Panduka Karunanayake

Regular readers of The Island are well attuned to Eric J. de Silva’s crystal-clear, incisive thinking and unambiguous, razor-sharp writing, delivered in his unassuming tone.  He depends on facts and cogency of argument, rather than superlatives or exclamations – clearly opting for proof instead of persuasion.  Add to this his long, illustrious career as a civil servant of the highest order, with standards of integrity that used to teach some contemporary politicos lessons they hadn’t learnt in school, and his unfailing memory and attention to detail – and we have a repository of experience and know-how that is priceless.  And education is his pet topic......

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Sri Lanka Journal of Economic Research Vol 1 No 1 - Book Review

(December 2013)

Nisha Arunatilake
Head of Labour Employment and Human Resource Development
Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka


Introduction

The 1970s were an eventful decade for the education sector in Sri Lanka. Theinsurrection that took place at the turn of the decade clearly showed the need to changethe existing system of education from one catering to the elite to one empowering themasses. The 1972 attempt to cater to this need was unsuccessful and did not appeal tothe public who pursued social mobility through education. The new government that came into power in 1977 was eager to please the public that it reversed many of the introduced reforms. But the process of education policy reform continued with the 1981 White Paper. Eric de Silva, becoming the Secretary of the Ministry Education in 1980, clearly had the dual advantage of studying the attempts at education policy reform in the 1970s and the first-hand experience of education policy making in the early 1980s. In his book, Politics of Education Reform and Other Essays, he shares these experiences and knowledge by chronicling education policy making in Sri Lanka. Today’s policy makers can learn several lessons from this narrative...

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