No for International Universities- reform and reorganise existing Universities in Sri Lanka, with a separate University exclusively for Buddhist monks.
Posted on August 27th, 2010

By Charles.S.Perera

If “Foreign Unis will stop JVP hanky-panky”(news head line in Lakbima),  is the reason why the Minister of Higher Education Mr. S.B.Dissanayake  wants to set up International Universities in Sri Lanka, it has to be emphasised that it is not at all a wise decision .

The boycotting of lectures, going on strikes, and factional fist fights  announce a sad depreciation of the  system of university education in Sri Lanka.

From an interview the Minister of Higher Education Mr.S.B.Dissanayake gave to the Lakbima, one gathers very little about his idea of foreign universities he intends to establish in Sri Lanka . He himself seems to be  confused on the issue.

He says that he does not like the term private universities, and speaks of 78 private universities that have already been opened, which are profit making concerns.  Without speaking of what he  intends to do with the  78 private universities grabbing money from students, he says he will set up international universities launching about 10 of them to begin with.

The whole idea of setting up international universities does not go with the present independent development programme envisaged by the Government of Sri Lanka.  If the idea is to teach a lesson to the Inter University Students’ Federation and students influenced by the JVP , embroiled in constant strikes  and  most intolerable behaviour not expected of undergraduate of any respectability, the move to establish  international universities is not the solution to the problem.

The Minister himself does not seem to be sure of what he means by  setting up International Universities. To a question the interviewer from the Lakbima asked, ”  What are the laws to be enacted for bringing the foreign universities into Sri Lanka?” The Minister answered, ” There are two ways to establish a university. If anyone has the capacity, for instance, we can give him a chance to establish a university”.

If that is the idea, it will only be creating problems as those we had with the NGOs and INGOs that invaded Sri Lanka after tsunami  and interfered into internal affairs of the country. The government had a greater difficulty in getting rid of them. Does the Minister wants to create another such mess ?

If it is to invite established National Universities of foreign Countries like Oxford or Cambridge Universities of  UK, Sorbonne or Bordeaux Universities of France , Berlin or Freiburg Universities of Germany , or Harvard or  Stanford Universities of America,  to set up Branch universities in Sri Lanka , the Minister’s proposal is acceptable, but definitely not if it is to invite any foreigner who has the capacity to establish a university, to set up a university in Sri Lanka. The latter would be changing pillows to cure a headache, and the worst of it would be if the wrong people posing as having the capacity were  to set up  Universities.

The leading National universities of foreign countries will not agree to set up branches here thought they may agree to open offices to register students for admission to their Universities.

The Minister of Higher Education has got the wrong end of the stick with his idea of  setting up international universities.  Instead on precipitating action on such a dangerous move, he should first take action to close down the 78 private universities that he says are degree selling institutions. 

There is really nothing wrong with our universities accept that  the politicians like Lal Kantha of JVP had been allowed to manipulate the university students far too long resulting in  the chronic indiscipline that has infected the universities in Sri Lanka.  Destroying the future of young graduates by involving them in manifestations and strikes to fulfil political ends should be condemned and  it should be treated as a criminal offence and the perpetrators should be arrested and taken to courts.

Democracy is good as long as it is used for the welfare of the people and progress of the country. But when any one oversteps the bounds of liberty offered by democracy, that person should be taken to task.  Sri Lanka is a fast developing country and every body should be able to make sacrifices and put their shoulder to the wheel of development.  Strikes for increase of salaries , or better conditions of work should be put off until Sri Lanka has risen above its  present development stage.

The university students of today are the tomorrows  capital on which  Sri Lanka  depends for its  vigorous  development plans.  They are the “brain” of the nation and they should not allow themselves to be manipulated by Lal Kantha or JVP or any other person or group.  Their future lies in the future development of Sri Lanka therefore , they should prepare themselves with that prospect in mind..

Our Universities have the potential to reach Western university standards.  An example is the University of Moratuwa- a leading University recognised the world over.  It is therefore important to take  corrective steps to improve discipline, and make the students understand that the University is an institution for the  development of the intellectual capacity of young Sri Lankans to compete with the intellectuals of the world at large, and not to follow nincompoops like Lal Kantha  to end up as casualties of the JVP’s political ambition.

The Minister of Higher Education instead of giving chances to foreign  individuals “with capacity” to establish Universities, should make do with the existing National Universities to first,  rank them according to their importance and improve their teaching standards,  by recruiting instructors of quality, even “foreigners” to impart  adequate knowledge to the undergraduates to prepare them for the competitive world beyond universities.  

The language of instruction is no problem.  No one should down grade instructions in Sinhala, or Tamil.  Sri Lankans should be proud of their mother tongue, and should not be  made to feel inferior because they have not received an English education. The Ministers contention that  “”¦”¦. Our students are mentally backward as they lack English language skills”¦.” is wrong .  

The French, Italian , German, Russian, Chinese, Spanish Universities provide university instructions in their respective languages.  They provide facilities for students to study foreign languages.  Why should it be different in Sri Lanka ?

English is a foreign language, therefore, these students of Sri Lanka  should not be disparaged for their lack of English knowledge. But instead they should offered  modern methods  of leaqrning to make them  proficient in English.

English should be taught as a second language to all university entrants, so that they will have access to literature, modern science and  technology . 

But an important  aspect of the University education the Minister should look into is the admission of Buddhist monks to  universities.

The greatest disrespect and damage caused to the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka was the  scrapping of the Privena System of education to Buddhist Monks, and admitting them to Universities.  If some one can at least now rectify this great  unpardonable error committed against the Buddha Sasana  it would be another step towards the modernising of the Education system, and at the same time giving to Buddhism its rightful place of sanctity.

When an ordinary layman is ordained as a monk he adheres to 227  rules of Patimokkha.  He gives up connection to lay life.  But what has happened with the scrapping of Pirivena System and admitting Buddhist Bikkhus to Universities is that they have gone back on their vows of monkhood adhering to the patimokkha rules,  and turned back to become laymen in yellow robes.

A monk has to live the life of a monk- a mendicant living on alms, not become an Administrator, Director of a Corporation, a teacher, Parliamentarian, a drivers, or a motor cyclists.

Therefore the Minister of Higher Education has to reform the existing Universities without  setting up international universities, and above all he should separate the Sangha and the laity.   

And while reorganising the universities for lay students, he should set up a separate university for Buddhist Monks, without allowing them to mix with the lay men and women.  Buddha’s teachings including the disciplinary rules, cannot be changed to go with the modern way of living,  or  modern science and technological developments, because the teachings of the Buddha is timeless (akaliko)

The most disgusting sight we often see in manifestations in Sri Lanka university students, is the monks who take the forefront shouting slogans, with their robes in disarray, faces ugly with anger , disorderly, and for the most part unshaven and disgusting . 

There should be a separate university exclusively for  Buddhist monks.   They should be instructed in Buddha Dhamma.  But teaching foreign languages  may enable them to spread the word of the Buddha.

3 Responses to “No for International Universities- reform and reorganise existing Universities in Sri Lanka, with a separate University exclusively for Buddhist monks.”

  1. PRIYAN WIJEYERATNE Says:

    Universities in Germany, France etc teach in their languages is fine. But I think we should use a language like English simply because it is the international business language. Even Germans and French use English to sell their products. We must teach and use good Sinhala and emphasise learning and teaching in English especially for Engineering, Medicine, Science and Technology programmes or we will be left behind. I agree with Charles Perera that the Minister has to be clear in what he wants to do. He should not bring in more “kada” to cell degrees. He should also try methods of getting JVP out of our Universities and developing them to international standards.

  2. Raj Says:

    Charles has pointed out important issues. I agree with Priyan in saying that the minister should look for creative ways of educating the youths misguided by the JVP. One oy nieces when asked why she attended a rally organised by the JVP and was holding a banner she said ‘I dont know anything, no one except the few people in the front don’t want to be here, but we get threats, that’s why we came here’. This situation must be stopped. There is little difference between the tactics of JVP and that of LTTE. If the MR government could decimate the LTTE, bringing JVP to task must be a piece of cake to them. Lock up the trouble makers in Unis. Give Mervin Silva the job.

  3. KBS Says:

    I am a senior lecturer of a Sri Lankan university and I was really wondering why none of the intellectuals (including university lecturers) have not yet spoken or expressed their stand about the new universities. Sri Lanka is famous for doing what is necessary but in a wrong way. Privatisation of public transportation, allowing to setup international schools as business ventures, allowing to start private practices and private hospitals that charge exorbitant amount from patients, while the government hospitals are operating totally free and some time running without medicine are such examples. It seems that Sri Lanka is going to set another example under a leading student activist – Hon minister S.B. Dissanayake.

    To elaborate my view on this it is necessary to mention the present state of the government universities. I believe they are delivering their best while financially constraints in many ways. The teaching and laboratory equipment, library facilities and funds for research are far from ideal. Once private universities are started, the government universities has to work and compete with the private universities which can afford to have better teaching and laboratory and research facilities due to their higher income. They can attract good lecturers from the government universities too. There is a higher possibility that government universities will fail to maintain their standards at the presence of private universities due to lack of facilities and funds. If it happens, then those who can afford will go to private universities while the poor, who is at the moment partially benefited from free university education, has to enter to the struggling government universities. If the situation aggravated, this will make sure that none of the poor student will get quality education in the future.

    I agree what the above column letter expressed and I hope Hon Minister would draw his attention to the facts in the letter.

    I firmly believe that everybody who qualifies for university education should be allowed to enter a university. At the same time I think the university education in Sri Lanka is not free at all. It is free for those who enter to the university, but those who qualified but unable to enter, and the entire nation pay the cost. I think education, health, food, should not be given blanket free, because ultimately everybody has to bear the cost. The administration should be smart enough to devise methods such that poorer is benefited the most.

    As the recipients of free education are not responsible for what they have received, many easily go abroad and settle thanks to their good education leaving behind the entire nation. I implore Hon Minister to do a survey to count the number of university students who remains in the country.

    As the above letter mentioned, the setting up a loan scheme for all the students who qualify for the university entrance is the most appropriate thing the government can do. Then let students to decide which university one should enter. At the same time allow private or public universities to charge the same amount from every student for their education. Then those who can afford would pay by themselves and others can get the loan and enter the university. The government could subsidise the local students’ fee from Mahapola and the annual government allocations. The government may make the payback period as 10-20 years, but still the system will self sustain and it will not burden or deprive any poor. As India is doing, the recipient of the loan would produce a guarantor or asset bond so that even one goes abroad; he has the obligation to fulfil.

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