Lecture at National Institute of Education, Maharagama, Sri Lanka - 10 April, 2002
The Rediscovery of Indigenous Principles of School Leadership:
Kannangaras Ideology of Humanism in the School Ecology
Some Reflections on the Kannangara Report of 1943
Sessional Paper XXIV 1943
Report of the Special Committee on Education (Ceylon)
Chairman, Hon. Dr. C W W Kannangara LL.D.
An Occasional Paper
Dr. Robert F. Sylvester
National Institute of Education
Maharagama, Sri Lanka
Wednesday, 10 May, 2002
By mind the world is led, by mind is drawn.
And all men own the sovereignty of mind.
I wish to first acknowledge the central role of the National Institute Education in establishing a culture of management in the country. I also wish to thank the Director General for his kind invitation to comment on the importance of the work of Dr. Christopher William Wijekoon Kannangara as the first Minister of Education in Sri Lanka from 1931-1947. Minister Kannangaras (1943) Report has been ably examined by a number of leading thinkers over the past decade as seen in the NIE (2001) publication of the Memorial Lectures. I am humbled to stand on this philosophical platform of learning that Kannangaras ideology of teaching and learning has built.
It is my perspective that Kannangara, the major educational figure of Sri Lanka, who was at the same time a revolutionary national, has left a rich heritage of principles to guide the educational planning over the past 60 years. His work also provides present educational policy makers and researchers in Sri Lanka with a bounty of approaches to the problems in teaching and learning today. It is Kannangara, alone, who has been called (in one of the memorial lectures) the master architect and the greatest builder of the educational system in Sri Lanka.
In reflecting upon the evident present needs of educational modernization in Sri Lanka as recently initiated by the Ministry of Education and other stake holders and funded by the Asian Development Bank (SEMP Project 2000) much oblique attention has been drawn by those professionals who have long-standing service in education in Sri Lanka to the relative importance of the Kannangara Commission Report of 1943. It is, in their view vital, in any attempt to establish an historical lineage of the present efforts at educational modernization. The following reflections have been gleaned from a study of the original text of the 1943 Commission Report with specific reference to the underlying philosophy of the present and continued efforts at rapidly developing a system of School-Based Management on the island. In addition, the Kannangaras Commissions model of character education, the notion of the development of human potential and the concept of global education which the Report articulates are all worthy of further examination as they are, even as presented in 1943, modern, in every sense of the word. These notes or reflections have also been informed by a study of the NIE (2001) text, the Unfinished Task in which distinguished Sri Lankan figures reflect themselves on the pivotal role of Kannangara in the present day world of learning.
Efforts at educational modernization often result in the borrowing of educational systems from abroad that may or may not be totally suitable to the conditions, needs and predispositions of a people. The Kannangara Report of 1943 offers to the dispassionate researcher in education, from whatever national orientation, an arguably modern framework of national education. It is now for the present generation of educational researchers both on the island and worldwide, to acknowledge in detail and study in depth the fundamental precepts and overall framework that this seminal work which offers to the student of national systems of education, comparative education and global education a rich source of new insights.
The research argument is, therefore, that modernization in the context of Sri Lanka in 2002 may more accurately be defined (in a stipulated manner) as a rediscovery of the thoroughly modern philosophical and practical frameworks proclaimed nearly sixty years ago in this island nation in the Kannangara Commission Report. A consideration of the Kannangara Report of 1943 as forming the underlying mission for educational modernization today may well be a useful research methodology and approach. I offer this perspective in the hope that the human resources so nobly developed in the past several decades in Sri Lanka may continue to contribute to both the development of the human potential of the nation and its continued contribution to the progress of the world community.
It is also worthy of note (and quite ironic) that despite efforts in the 1930s to create a commission dominated by foreign experts, the work that resulted in the 1943 Report was undertaken completely without the advice of foreign experts and resulted quickly in the raising up of 50 Central schools in a period of only five years. This is a remarkable story by any standard. In fact, those who have spoken to me from their own experience with the early Central schools themselves speak with tones of hushed reverence about the quality and dignity with which the educational enterprise was approached in those schools. The early development of the Central Schools by Kannangara was, by all accounts, a magical moment in the educational history of Sri Lanka.
These notes are, therefore, organized in the format suggested above. They will reflect upon Dr. Kannangaras model of change, his ideas for the nature of school-based management, his concern with the development of human potential, his identifying of human values as central to the educational process and his thoroughly modern vision of global education as evidenced in the 1943 Report.
As the post modern age has somewhat exclusively focused on questions of human diversity in the consideration of human potential such an approach may seek to find a balance in which human unity in diversity could be considered as an operational and controlling principle of human development and educational policy in its broadest sense. I, therefore, hope to comment, before the end of this lecture, on the implications of Minister Kannangaras world-view and its concurrent obligation for principals to be model world citizens.
Seminal Role of Kannangara Report of 1943
The importance of a local culture of school management was evident from the very birth of the national system of education in Sri Lanka. The Honourable C.W.W. Kannangara chaired a committee of reform in 1943 that among many other reforms, prepared the foundation principles for school-based management in Sri Lanka. A few examples from citations found in the 1943 report of the committee may suffice. Kannangara is rightfully seen as the father of free education, the inventor of the Central Schools, the initiator of national languages as languages of instruction, the champion of freedom of worship and the defender of the rights and the obligations of the teachers. As Professor Goonewardena pointed out in the third NIE Memorial Lecture:
I consider his contribution to modern Sri Lanka as outstanding by any reasonable criterion. It is true that others were associated with him in the great educational reforms of the nineteen-thirties and forties; but his was the guiding spirit, the courage, tenacity and resolve that initiated and saw those reforms through, just as his almost entirely, was the share of all the slanders, the abuse and vilification that were hurled by the opponents of those reforms (NIE 2001, p 63)
Minister Kannangara wrote at a time of the difficult dislodging of the visible symbols of a colonial rule in which educational power was entrenched both in private and religious authorities. His 1943 Commission Report still today, does not seem to command the respect it richly deserves - that of a charter document for both a national system of education and the record of a recovery of a deep history of cultural aspirations that constitute the bedrock process of nation-building. As Professor Goonewardena further observed:
Kannangara had a clear vision of what he wished to do for his countrymen when he embarked on a public career. He also had a vivid vision (based on a wide reading of history) of what the people of his country has achieved in the various fields of human activity in ancient times. His views, however, was that in colonial times there was a tremendous disorganization and decline brought about by colonial policies especially in the educational field, and thereby, in other aspects of life. he referred to the decay or disappearance of the institutions which fostered the national culture and observed that a well-organized society....lost its cohesion and solidarity. (NIE 2001, p 63)
In the introductory pages, the chairman (Kannangara) made clear a definition of a national system of education when he quoted the father of the field of Comparative Education, Professor Isaac Kandel of Columbia University; A successful national system of education must arise out of and be adapted to the ethos of the nation concerned. Early in the report (Kannangara, 1943) a very clear set of balancing principles was established as it now relates to school-based management efforts on the island:
Very few in this country favour a perfectly State controlled system in which a central administrative authority defines and prescribes virtually every aspect of its organization, curricula, courses of study, &c. The State system we discuss here is on
in which control will be confined to what are called the externa of education, i.e., matters such as compulsory attendance, character of school buildings, medical inspection and health of children, size of classes, qualification, salaries and appointment of teachers and above all ownership of schools. We are agreed that the interna, i.e., those aspects of education for the promotion of which teachers and pupils are brought together, namely, curricula, courses of study, methods of instruction, &c, should not be made subject to prescription by the State. (p. 26)
While such an extreme set of balancing principles may not apply point for point in the context of todays economic and socio-political conditions in Sri Lanka, it could be argued that the Kannangara report established the broad principles of school-based management for Sri Lanka. In another section of the 1943 report the role of professionalism of the teaching activity was also presented as a locally-articulated phenomena:
The end of education is the growth and development of the educand through the exercise of professional freedom by the teacher. This is not to say that the teacher should be free of all controls from the administrative authorities or should not welcome help and guidance offered to him. He must be allowed freedom for experimentation and evolution of methods and given all facilities which will render possible the transmission, interpretation and development of culture. Another of the most important problems of administration is the provision of equality of opportunity. The object of educational administration has been aptly defined to be to enable the right pupils to receive the right education from the right teachers at a cost within the means of the State, under condition which will enable the pupils best to profit by their training. (p. 69)
Kannangara spoke for the development of human potential and civic service long before the recent theories of human potential from the post modern age. He attributed two fundamental features to an individual; that of the potential to achieve social recognition and the potential to
be creative and insightful. As the Persian philosopher of the 19th century wrote: Man is the supreme talisman, lack of a proper education hath deprived him of what he doth inherently possess. (Baháulláh, 1939)) For Kannangara the ideal citizen was clear;
The most useful citizen is he who can face a new problem and find his own solution. The spark of genius is nothing more than the spark of originality. In any walk of life the ablest man is he who instead of following the tradition blindly, does a thing slightly differently because he thinks that the result will be better (Kannangara 1943, p 12)
By mind the world is led, by mind is drawn.
And all men own the sovereignty of mind.
The more recent Report of the Education Reform Committee of 1979 called for a radical change of heart and of life-styles in the establishment of education at the level of the school. The report cited the misuse of the school by the politician, the poor relations between the school and the contiguous population and the tendency of principals and teachers to see only an opportunity for advancement rather than a service to the nation. Minister Kannangara had already earlier established the necessary balance of principled professionalism in 1943:
Teachers who take to teaching for love of the work are but few and those who take to teaching merely because the job happened to be vacant, or there was nothing else to do, are many. It is nevertheless equally true that any task in which there is not genuine enthusiasm is at best a bore, and he enjoys the best who undertakes his work with enthusiasm. Teachers, too, have the great advantage of craftsmen, that they see the products of their labour shaping themselves in their hands. (Kannangara 1943, p 115)
Principals, for their part, in Minister Kannangaras view, must ensure that the learning attributes needed to prepare students for productive work in society in such areas as communication skills; leadership skills and technology skills (which are, unfortunately, often part of the informal rather than the formal curriculum) are continuously being nurtured, developed and improved. In this manner, the pastoral role of the principal (which is a natural outgrowth of Kannangaras ideology of school ecology which was amply demonstrated by the early Central schools) needs to be articulated in the direction and in the context of preparing students to be competitive and competent in the world of work. The principal must model behaviour and model a learning process that addresses (at the same time) the local narrative, the national economy and the global requirements of productive citizenship. As Kannangara noted in the 1943 Report when commenting on the school as a community:
As a nation becomes more closely integrated economically the importance of these qualities [good citizenship, politeness, tact and public spirit] becomes more evident. The sturdy independence, or self-dependence, of the peasant is not enough for the complicated social structure created by the increasing division of labour, and the corollary of the western economic system into which Ceylon has been drawn is, as the theorists have long ago pointed out, social solidarity. Somewhere, and as early as possible, the boy and the girl must be taught that they belong not merely to a family but to a nation, and, indeed, to a community of nations. (p 114)
As seen by this citation from the commissions text, another remarkable feature of the 1943 Report is its thoroughly modern perspective of global education and the case to be made for the development of a global civic culture (in the words of the peace researcher Elise Boulding) within the national programme of education. Such an approach was strongly encouraged by the leading founder of Comparative Education, Professor Isaac Kandel of Columbia University, who is quoted by Kannangara in his preface to the body of the 1943 Report. In
this regard, I would argue that the pastoral role of educational leadership on the island might, usefully, be centred upon the principles of stability, security and solidarity in such a manner that human unity, or the oneness of humankind as embodied in numerous United Nations charter documents, becomes a central humanist principle reflected in planning and practice for all educational leadership. Such a fundamentally Buddhist principle is also in evidence in the Kannangara Report.
Models of Human Unity: The Scientific Basis
Buddhists and all other followers of the major revealed religions, believe that the unity of the human race is not just a spiritual principle but also a well-established scientific fact. In one of his earliest publications related to paleontological work in east Africa, Richard Leakey acknowledged the scientific reality of this human unity spoken of in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights :
We are one species, one people. Every individual on this earth is a member of Homo Sapiens Sapiens and the geographical variations we see among peoples are simply biological nuances on the basic theme. The human capacity for culture permits its elaboration in widely different and colorful ways. The often very deep differences between those cultures should not be seen as divisions between people. Instead, cultures should be interpreted for what they really are; the ultimate declaration of belonging to the human species
In a comprehensive history of the continent of Africa in geological and human terms, John Reader provided a picture of the scientific data related to the migration of early humans out of Africa:
Several strands of evidence - fossil, genetic, and linguistic - point persuasively to the conclusion that every person alive today is descended from a population of anatomically modern humans that existed only in Africa until about 100,000 years ago. They were nomads, and they soon spread around the globe.
A few months ago in the Daily News (Thursday, 17 January, p 9) a small news item caught my eye. It reported that a lost river civilization was discovered of the western coast of India that dated back 10,000 years where the previous earliest sites of civilization dated only to about 5,000 years ago. This does not surprise me, as the most recent findings of the combined sciences of paleontology, linguistics and genetics seem to paint a picture of a series of migrations of Homo Sapien Sapiens out of Africa starting about 100,000 years ago but not migrating from what is now the savannas of east Africa by land routes only. Significant convergent evidence now points to the early migration of human populations by water eastward along the coast of Africa, the Arabian peninsula and the coast of India. This, of course, provides us with a very interesting perspective of the importance of the island of Sri Lanka deep into the history of the human race. Strategically, the first human populations from Africa who were successful in migrating by water would eventually pass between the Indian continent and this fine island. Our human roots in Sri Lanka are truly deep. The diversity we see today on the island is but a modern and geologically recent expression of a wonderful human past with direct ties to our collective ancestral home which was Africa.
While we are now able through the advances of science to look back deep into history to view our collective inheritance and human origins, we also are able to view the entire world as a single entity, a common home for all of us. Such a world is now seen not as a soft and idealized global village but rather as a globalized stage upon which the rich leverage their capital advantage and the poor are seen to be at the mercy of what Thomas Friedman (2000)
calls the electronic herd who are capable of shifting capital from one country to another around the world - at lightning speed.
In terms of the effects and requirements of globalization on the requirements of educational planning in Sri Lanka the Director General on the 20th December in a briefing with the ADB project on educational modernization noted:
We can only be partners in a global enterprise if we are able to maintain and develop a unique identity as Sri Lankans and develop our human resources for the economic development of the country.
Dr. Guruge in the Fifth Memorial Lecture at NIE commented on the potential loss of a deep racial memory of culture at a time of an explosion of information and new educational enterprises:
[The] Challenge is to benefit from the on-going knowledge explosion, the scientific and technological revolution and skill development without sacrificing the traditional spiritual and social values and without forgetting or trivializing the incomparable cultural heritage of several millennia. (NIE cited on p 8)
Having established a case to be made for Kannangaras humanist perspective I wish to now reflect upon some of the implications of his call to teachers to teach the pupils:
Somewhere, and as early as possible, the boy and the girl must be taught that they belong not merely to a family but to a nation, and, indeed, to a community of nations. (p 114)
I wish to argue that this role is central, not peripheral to the pastoral or moral role of
educational leadership in Kannangaras vision. I would also argue that this vision is entirely modern, progressive and appropriate for our times. But the specter of globalization presents a rough, ugly territory and different experience for most of the peoples of the world today. Perhaps some defining would be useful. While characterizing the dynamic force of globalization within the fields of economy, technology and politics Lubbers defined it in the following manner:
Globalization is a process in which geographic distance becomes less a factor in the establishment and sustenance of border crossing, long distance economic, political and socio-cultural relations. People become aware of this fact. Networks of relations and dependencies therefore become potentially border crossing and worldwide. This potential internationalization of relations and dependencies causes fear, resistance, actions and reactions (online at www.globalize.org.)
A related and more detailed definition was proposed by Robertson and Lechner(1985 cited in Robertson 2000) as:
Globalization is the process by which the world has become a single place - where political, economic, and cultural spheres of life are becoming increasingly interdependent. However, globalization has not made the world a harmonious, integrated system. Historically, this process has been rife with conflict and reactionary movements, and is not reducible to monocausal forces like capitalist development (p. 9.)
The Commission on Global Governance drew attention to a sense of otherness and an accelerating pace of globalisation. The commissioners called for the acknowledgement of a higher consciousness as proposed passionately by Havel (1996.):
Acknowledging responsibility to something higher than country does not come easily. The impulse to possess turf is a powerful one for all species; yet it is one that people must overcome. In the global neighbourhood, a sense of otherness cannot be allowed to nourish instincts of insularity, intolerance, greed, bigotry, and, above all, a desire for dominance. But barricades in the mind can be even more negative than the frontiers on the ground.
By mind the world is led, by mind is drawn.
And all men own the sovereignty of mind.
However, Kannangaras vision of the role of a national system of education was modern in every sense of the word. He demonstrated a deep sense of humanity in the 1943 Report and reasserts the dignity of the human being throughout its outline. The establishment of a national identity could not be undertaken, in his view, without a value-laden educational enterprise and a progressive view of the world:
Though we emphasize the importance of establishing national unity through education, we urge precisely the reverse of the strident and intolerant nationalism, with its national bigotry, its racial discrimination, and its contempt for religion of all kinds, that is the fundamental cause of the present conflict. The nationalism we hope to see established depends on its being on toleration and understanding. Among a people so varied as ours any other kind would produce not national unity but national disruption: and that toleration which we ask our own people to apply to each other we would wish applied to other nations. This toleration is in fact a characteristic of our
citizens. The communities of the Island have for many years lived in peace and amity. We are anxious that the teaching in the new educational structure may be inspired with the same toleration and the same desire for peace among men of all nations.(Kannangara 1943, p 10)
Our Global Neighbourhood
In 1995 the United Nations-appointed Commission on Global Governance published its study (Commission on Global Governance 1995) on the values of civic institutions in a global context. In a document entitled Our Global Neighborhood, the commission set forth the object of its work as being to respond to the developing and commonly-held world-view that observes a current transition of human maturity from the nation-state to a global system. They also noted that personal and national identities are faced with new points of tension. In setting out one of the impediments facing them, the commissioners indicated that:
The problem [of considering the issue of self-determination] is not made easier by the absence of any clear definition of what constitutes a people or a nation. It is time to begin to think about self-determination in a new context - the emerging context of a global neighbourhood rather than the traditional context of a world of separate states (p. 74.)
The commissions text covered a wide range of topics including: commonly shared human values, democracy worldwide, caring for the earth, global civic ethic, planetary security, and finance for global purposes. They termed the global neighborhood our human homeland and noted that the challenge would be to maintain principles which are guided by basic human values and which make global organization conform to the realities of global diversity(xvii.)
The Commission on Global Governance Report began by mapping the development of non-governmental organizations since 1909 as rising from an initial few hundred to a figure of well over 30,000 at the end of the 20th century. They also reflected on the post-war development of the multinational private sector and the rising influence of transnational corporations which, in effect, have become substitute nation-states, operating across and above national borders. The members of the commission on Global Governance also recognized that the modern world called for education that allows students to cross a variety of boundaries, both physical and intellectual:
As the physical and other boundaries that have separated communities, cultures, and states are eroded by waves of intellectual and technological change, cherished notions of citizenship, sovereignty, and self-determination are being challenged (p. 45.)
In reflecting on the last fifty years of human progress and the agenda of global concerns, the Commission viewed the changes of the last decades as comparable to the rise of the nation of Islam in the century after the Prophets death, the European colonization after 1492, the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the appearance of the modern international system at the start of this century. Yet they distinguished the modern period from the past periods of change by citing the present pace of change, the global spread of the present changes and the global visibility of these changes (ibid p.12.) They called for a vision of a common future in a time of uncertainty. Solzhenitsyn (1978) also characterised the present age as a transitional epoch. In an address to the commencement ceremony at Harvard University the Nobel laureate and (then) literary exile described his view of our place in time:
If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era (p. 43.)
In the review of ethics for global concerns the Commission on Global Governance quoted, at length, a paper presented by the globalist and ecologist Ward in 1971. For the purposes of this examination of the ideology of Kannangaras world-view, it may provide some insight into one of the reasons why the world-view of students in the development of a national system of education has yet to be fully explored:
The most important change that people can make is to change their way of looking at the world. We can change studies, jobs, neighborhoods, even countries and continents and still remain much as we always were. But change our fundamental angle of vision and everything changes - our priorities, our values, our judgements, our pursuits. Again and again, in the history of religion, this total upheaval in the imagination has marked the beginning of a new life....a turning of the heart, a metanoia, by which men see with new eyes and understand with new minds and turn their energies to new ways of living (Ward cited in Commission 1995, p. 47.)
And all men own the sovereignty of mind.
The Contribution of Rabindranath Tagore and Kannangara to Education
Kannangara, like Rabinranath Tagore is a cultural treasure for the entire world. His perceptive and prescient vision for the education of a nation and the preparation of those people for their
role in a world society arguably have provided Sri Lanka with a precious and unique world-view. At the inauguration ceremonies of his West Bengal school Tagore noted his own world view:
Let me state clearly that I have no distrust of any culture because of its foreign character.... What I object to is the artificial arrangement by which this foreign education tends to occupy all the space of our national mind and thus kills, or hampers, the great opportunity for the creation of new thought by a new combination of truths. It is this which makes me urge that all the elements in our own culture have to be strengthened; not to resist the culture of the West, but to accept and assimilate it. It must become for us nourishment and not a burden. We must gain mastery over it and not live on sufferance as hewers of texts and drawers of book-learning (Dutta and Robinson 1996: 221-222).
During a tour of China, Tagore (cited in Chakravarty 1961) further outlined a philosophy of global education in the national context;
When races come together, as in the present age, it should not be merely the gathering of a crowd; there must be a bond of relation, or they will collide with each other... Education must enable every child to understand and fulfill this purpose of the age, not defeat it by acquiring the habit of creating divisions and cherishing national prejudices. There are of course natural differences in human races which should be preserved and respected, and the task of our education should be to realize unity in spite of them, to discover truth through the wilderness of their contradictions (p 216).
Wole Soyinka the Nigerian Nobel Laureate commented on the widespread fear of loss of identity by religious groups in the face of the celebration of the recent Christian millennium. In reflecting upon the global interest in the then approaching millennium he pondered:
Why should we not celebrate with the Christians? Why shouldnt every century, every decade, every year by whoevers reckoning be an occasion for universal participation, when we are seized with the consciousness of a passing era, a moment for universal stock-taking, deep reflection and new resolves. There is nothing futile about the seizure of such moments for the advancement of thought and the re-examination of human relationship, so let us prepare to celebrate the Chinese or Tibetan New Year, the Buddhist millennium, the Hindu, the Moslem, the Zoroastrian, the Orisa millennium and indeed any other watershed of the cultural and religious calendars of the world that serve to remind us that, no matter what routes we take towards the structuring of our spiritual institutions, the goal is ultimately towards the oneness of our humanity.
Schools clearly have a role to play in the formation of character and educational leadership is, by nature of the role, responsible to a large degree, to take the lead in nurturing a culture of stability, security and solidarity in school communities. The culture is expressed, in its highest form, as a personal, a communal, a national and a global experience. We need to give children a stable place not only in the community but also in the nation and in the world. The sense of security in the school community should also reflect those world-views. Finally, the solidarity so naturally expressed and seen at the level of family and community is, of course moved to the level of the nation and now in an age of the planetization of mankind (Tielhard de Chardin) at the level of the planet.
The potential loss of a consciousness of human values that the Director General has cited on more than one occasion must be addressed, in the first instance, at the level of the family and at the level of the school The controlling principle, however, in terms of human values, must now be considered to be the oneness of humankind. Upon this principle must a nation be built. One loyalty does not preclude the other. Principals more than any other individual in the school community will increasingly be called upon to reflect such a reality. The controlling principle of the oneness of humankind operates evenly in any country though its manifestations may differ from region to region.
I believe we could all benefit from a more complete and direct study of the Kannangara Report in our efforts at supporting modernization of educational practice throughout the island. As the 1943 Report provides both the framework and direction for sustained educational change in Sri Lanka, I believe there is a strong case to be made for the consideration of modernization efforts, such as school-based management, to be not borrowings from a western notion of modernity but rather a rediscovery of the fundamental philosophy and practice of National Education which the Kannangara Report espouses. A consideration of the Kannangara Report of 1943 as forming the underlying mission for educational modernization today may well be a useful research methodology and approach. I again, offer this perspective in the hope that the human resources so nobly developed in the past several decades in Sri Lanka may continue to contribute to both the development of the human potential of the nation and its continued contribution to the progress of the world community.
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