The Change I Want to See
To arrive at the change I want to see, I questioned five areas: What needs to change, who needs to change, where does it need to change, why does it need to change, and how should it change. At the end of the last presentation, I was at the point where I was trying to create a change within the education system, but was uncertain how to utilise my knowledge in a manner where it can be structured and replicated by anyone else in the education field.
The first place I began my research on finding out the unique impact I have on my students is by asking some of my former students which aspects of my personality and my teaching skills they responded to and in which manner. Some of the key points they mentioned were my ability to connect to them on their level by treating them as equal, by validating their concerns before offering advice, and humanising the ‘lecturer’ by sharing my personal life with them in order to teach. The major apex of the conversation was when they unanimously agreed that after attending my class, they didn’t want to die anymore. They said by attending my class on Human Centred Design based on Empathy and my personality as a lecturer combined, they found a new appreciation for their trauma and began to love who they are as a person. Here, I understood that the way I deliver my module was driven by my need for them to ‘like themselves’ the way I love who I am right now. Unintentionally, this has been translated in my working ethics (Gunesekara, Nikeshala, Jayasundara and Wewegama, 2022).
This brought on the ‘who’ part of the ‘Change I Want to See’; I want to create a generation of Sri Lankans that don’t want to kill themselves based on peer pressure, cultural and traditional pressure, and the romanticisation of depression and suicide that are key concerns in the Sri Lankan youth currently.
To understand the education system better, some key interviews were conducted with Santhush Weeraman and Sumithra Rahubadda, who are prominent figures in Sri Lanka with extensive knowledge on Sri Lankan culture, tradition, and the education requirements. Both being parents of two different generations also added to the research. The main aspects I took from here are that education systems have always been political and has been about creating division (Rahubadda, 2022), and that education can happen outside the classroom on directing them where to go in life, and the classroom will provide how they will get there (Weeraman, 2022).
Combining with certain ideas in Ruptures in Sri Lanka’s Education: Genesis, Present Status and Reflections by Panduka Karunanayake, where it has been a struggle since Sri Lanka’s independence to keep politics out of education, and how difficult it is reform existing cultural and tradition-based systems (Karunanayake, 2021), I decided to pay more attention to how this specific change could be delivered outside the classroom.
In the middle of researching these topics, a major event started taking place in Sri Lanka. Driven by an economic crisis that left Sri Lankans without electricity, fuel, gas, and inflation, Sri Lankans took to the streets to protest against the current President and his family known as the ‘Rajapaksa Regime’ as nepotism while heavily utilised.
A peaceful protest with no violence, rioting, or looting, the protestors are keeping it alive with song, dance, humour, and creativity. Unlike previous protests, heavily organised by the government with a majority of Boomer and Gen X attendance, this protest saw a heavy incoming of Gen Y and Gen Z. Sri Lanka, being attacked by old conditioning, started to retaliate with younger creativity. This experience has been a conditioning disrupter to parts of my thinking that have been conditioned by the previous generations.
My question here is who is teaching them all this as this way of thinking is definitely not taught at schools or in the local media.
Based on the current research, the area I’m looking at is the education received outside of the curriculum with the main stakeholders being parents and teachers by profession to open a two-way communication with Gen Z. Under the idea that ‘it takes a village’, I would like to aim at opening up a constructive dialogue between those who are the key personals in that village.
What: Younger generations should not be hating who they are, their surroundings, or where their lives are heading.
Who: There should be a certain change happening between generations where they make space to understand each other and instill the traditions that are rational to keep and understand the ‘culture’ that is now.
Where: The village it takes to raise a child. Focusing mainly those responsible for giving an education outside the school system.
Why: More and more Gen Z students are jaded about their current lives and where their future is going.
How: Currently, based on my observations in the classroom and interview findings, I am looking at four areas that could be used to drive this intention; empathy, adaptability, curiosity, and being global citizens with Sri Lankan roots.