“Universality of University Education Worldwide”
Posted on December 30th, 2015

Sarath Wijesinghe – former Ambassador to Israel and UAE Solicitor in England and Attorney at law in Sri Lanka

Knowledge in Universal-and Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is universal, historical and shared by educated and intellectuals in the world. Access to education is recognized by the Constitution, United Nations and worldwide, as adopted in the academic Charter ” Acedamia Constituio” at university of Bologora” in 1158 or 1155 granting the right of travelling of unhindered passage of Knowledge and Education. It is said that Knowledge is power which is based in storage in University Education which is the cradle of knowledge of any Nation, where academic freedom is jealously guarded by the academics and protected by the law makers. Knowledge is a common language of educated worldwide shared through the higher educational institutions by sharing and exchanging hard earned knowledge and experiences. Knowledge is universal shared and utilized by the world over through Universities with committed educated intertextual fraternity. Sri Lanka and India has world class Universities such an Nalanda” and Sri Lanka has been a center for education in the past with the Indian/Asian influence.

Sri Lankan Universities

Though not world class, Sri Lankan Universities are far above Asian and South Asian counterparts in many ways. Sri Lanka and the Asians are far below the world ranking mainly due to lack of resources. With all Sri Lankan and Asian students excel in many international educational forums as brilliant academics and intellectuals. Out of many Peradeniya, Colombo, Medical, Moratuwa, and Open Universities worth mentioning struggling to cope with the competition on the world league of Universities for a reasonable position. But do our universities live up to the expectations of the counterparts is a moot issue and to be decided by the citizen shouldering the burden of the enormous cost and at the receiving end from all over. Universities are geared and targeted for the development of a Nation and the future generations based on the education policy of the respective countries. Did we have an Education policy or do we have one at all is a dilemma and a moot issue before the citizen. Highest echelons of the education are based on center of education structured on the needs of a country. It is based on agriculture, Industry, culture, and similar areas and depend on the resource and environment – human resources being at the top of priority. Sri Lanka is basically an agricultural nation with no agricultural universities available and no proper coordination with the State, Private sector and the agriculture industry connected to the universities as in other countries. This is only an example of an area of studies.  Israel emerged as a leader on High Tec and Agriculture 70 years ago with no water in a barren land surrounded by enemies. They desalinate sea water and produce water for consumption, industry, agriculture and to sell with the help of the universities and SME innovators. Today it is a world leader in agriculture/IT and adviser to major powers where the Universities have taken a pivot role in making 95% on agriculture based on technology. Students in Israel, UK or in the West do not agitate for Jobs or any other facilities. Jobs for University graduates are not guaranteed by the state anywhere in the world”. In Israel University students become SME’s with their innovations to be a part/part of the national development on agriculture, technology and other areas. In UK companies visit Universities to offer jobs as the students are productive to them for research and productivity. Only small portion joins the government sector and rest on private sector and their own innovative and productive projects. Drug companies headhunt students in universities for research looking for human resources from the universities. It is time Sri Lankan Universities and the Polite to change accordingly learning form the experiences of counterparts which is readily available through the university links worldwide network of education. Apparently the demand for students is in the education system geared to jobs, productivity and the development of a country including the private sector. We have too many Education Ministers and the Ministers of Higher Education are part time with many other commitments for them. Minister of higher education has another important and powerful ministry to manage and the deputy has the network of a successful private educational institution to manage and oversee. Country needs full time committed leaders in the Executive and the Legislature. These are food for thought during the formation of the new constitution which is in the making today. Number provincial Education Ministers have their own territory in isolation to manage the future of the country in education.

Article on Education

An article on education in a Sri Lankan paper prompted us to make these remarks as an eye opener of our polite and the academics for an open discussion and an action plan to change the outlook and the fabric of the education system and culture which unfortunately is politicized by narrow minded politicians using students as pawns for their political needs creating unrest and blocking the bright future of our able students at the highest achiness of education responsible for the future of the country. Tony Blair got schools to give healthy food in place of junk and declared that the priority was given for Education, Education and Education”. Our University students are pawns of power hungry politicians frequently on strike when their counterparts in the other parts of the world are busy with studies and development of the country and themselves. They demand closer of much needed private medical college which is a national necessity for the future of the country and the students who are compelled to study in substandard universities in Eastern Europe underdeveloped Asian countries with dire substandard conditions with meager and basic education facilities, when we have the potential for the best education system and the academics no second to any in the world.

IT Language skills, General Knowledge and Private Education

These are areas to be improved for better results and to produce productive graduates with no burden to the country and themselves. It has become a fashion for students to carry a mobile phone, but link IT to subjects Is not heard of. Knowledge of English and other foreign languages are week or nil among many students. Private and practice education should be freely available to the students who could afford to raise standards and avoid billions of funds pouring out of the country. We must encourage and provide for private Medical Colleges, Technical, Agricultural and all other areas to attract foreign students. Education and universities should be linked to the agriculture and manufacture, industrial sector with IT and innovative enterprises with SME’s in public private partnerships with universities as in other parts of the world.

Way Forward

Country needs full transformation of the education system geared to employment and development. Mealy promising to increase the funding will not solve but aggravate the issues. Funds will be misused and wasted with no proper plan of action and strategy. It is still not too late for launching a policy for education and transform the universities in line with counterparts in countries with a vision and a vibrant policy changes. Unpalatable decisions such as reducing the number of Ministers/Ministries and give responsibility to the correct person for the job will be a good start. Discipline should be given top priority and a campaign to educate students, parents and the citizen on the values, value of education, while paving the way to keep the pace of the modern developments in Education and skills for human and other disciplines aiming at employment and development. Education should be linked to agriculture, IT, development, industry and the network of academic and practical excellence on education. Our aim should be to transform Sri Lanka to a Hub on Education in the Asian region attracting foreign students and improve the university to be close to the University League in the World to be a world class Education Hub. This is an achievable target as we are blessed and armed with world class students and educated intellectuals in Sri Lanka and worldwide prepared to serve and to be served.

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3 Responses to ““Universality of University Education Worldwide””

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Given very high levels of brain drain of particular ethnic groups, investing more in universities is actually a waste. The aim of taxpayer funded universities should not be to produce professionals but to be part of national development, providing medical, engineering, business, governance and other professional services to the nation. This is what justifies taxing taxpayers to teach 2% of the population at the tertiary level.

    Sri Lankan Tamils are excessively represented in medicine, engineering, IT and business studies. Total Sri Lankan Tamil undergraduates must be capped at 11.5% by faculty nationally which is their ethnic percentage. Sri Lankan Tamils have a near 90% brain drain. With over 35% in key faculties, and 90% brain drain, this is a blackhole draining taxpayer funds. Most of them end up financing anti-Sri Lankan activities from Canada, etc. It is a double whammy.

    Similarly underrepresented upcountry Tamils (and others 5%) and Muslims (9%) should be allowed more undergraduate opportunities up to their respective ethnic percentages. They have the lowest brain drain. If invested in them, national development is assured. Sinhalese must be allowed 75% opportunities in all faculties.

    Taxpayer funded university admission must be based on ethnic quotas which will do justice to taxpayers, rural patients, local industries and the nation in general. NICs (newly industrialised countries) Malaysia and Brazil have ethnic quotas in taxpayer funded university admission.

  2. aloy Says:

    This writeup is a gem. I think Sarath should be made a Minister of of Development. He has understood the world trend and the direction our education system should go.
    I do not think we should put quota’s to university entry positions again as suggested by Dilrook as that is what spawned the tiger terrorism. Our rulers should devise ways of giving opportunities to more deserving rural students in Sinhala areas.
    Sarath has highlighted how Israel has developed the agriculture, industries etc. using the universities. That country has one of the oldest civilisations; so do we. Our ancient agriculture systems have no parallels. They got degenerated due to a long period of colonization by the west. Almost immediately after we got independent the ethnic war began and we did not have an opportunity to plan and develop the country. During Dudley and Sirima time they tried but due to forex shortages we could not take off and the tiger war dragged us down. Although forex started coming in later due to expatriate labour force, the government that was in power wasted it on unproductive ventures and also syphoned off large chunks to their bank accounts.
    I believe we still have the best universities in the region; they may not rank high among others in the world due non availability of foreign lecturerors and foreign students. This can easily be changed by attracting lecturors and students of SL origin. Also we must give high priority to use of IT. I am in Engineering Consultancy field. I handle many areas in engineering that we did not learn in the Uni in late 60s. But we can get the knowledge on almost all engineering stuff on the internet. We can challege on any outdated ideas or misconceptions of other professionals by researching on the internet. I was able to do just that a couple of weeks ago in a foreign country.
    We should teach about the digital technology and computer programming to all engineering students in the universities.
    In future engineering will be mainly about automation using software and hardware. Factory production will be by robotics.
    These students after they passout should not be allowed to become managers only, as it happens in Sri Lanka, instead they should be directed to use their knowledge and inbuilt skills for research work and innovations as they do in Israel. We may have many more people like Tony Weerasinge (the creator of London and many other stock exchange control systems around the world) to macth the the creators of “Facebook”, “WhatsApp” both of whom are jewish.

  3. Nanda Says:

    Aloy,
    I don’t agree we have best universities in the region. Our people excel through personal brilliances due to high competitiveness in A/L . That is all. We lack good teachers and researchers. Without exposure in developed countries, our graduates stagnate and become victims of Paga culture and then join the class of new rich to destroy the country further. As before only a handful of honest people silently do their jobs and do the best for the country.
    I agree with you that joining software market is a good opportunity. But a proper honest government is needed to make most of it. Where is it ?
    Whatever the country earns is wasted through corruption and money and people are being exported to benefit other countries.

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