Colombo Telegraph

Do We Really Enjoy Free Education In Sri Lanka ? 

By Sarath Wijesinghe

Sarath Wijesinghe

Education is a process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values to the other generation. Education is a fundamental Right expected to be enjoyed by every citizen guaranteed in the Sri Lankan Constitution and many parts of the world. Absolute freedom of education is not found anywhere in the world including Sri Lanka. Parents give preference and priority to educate their children as an investment and for the future of their children, family, and the country. Education process in Sri Lanka is aimed and geared at the University education which is a process inherited from the colonial past, replacing the traditional “Pirivana” Education with a history of 2300 years. University Education in many countries has transformed to be the Centre of Excellence in the Nation linking education, employment generation, and development in all sectors. Privinana” education was linked to culture with international links with the Buddhist world, primarily around the village. There were world renewed Universities in India and Sri Lanka thousands of years ago with links with Educational Institutions in Far East and West. Current Education system consists of primary, secondary, tertiary, University, Private, and Fee Levying, education channels including private universities.

Unfortunately the Education system is not given due place in Si Lanka, despite our nation being a country of Agriculture and Technology requires technology and technical education for the prosperity and development. World has changed and fast changing in the education sector except Sri Lanka, still holding on to the colonial traditions and practices. Underemployment and unemployment is rising drastically – especially among the young and the village expecting white collar jobs in the public sector in any capacity to work less and seek more privileges with future/job security, While 10% of the population consist of lazy and inefficient government servants demanding more and more perks and enhanced salaries. Graduate youth including monks demand teaching appointments or any other jobs in the government sector. Arts graduates are in a miserable situation without competency of a foreign language/English and Information Technology which is a passport for employment in the private sector. Sri Lankan Gradates in universities are of the view that it is the duty of the Government to provide them with employment, which never happens anywhere in the world. Students are given free education from the kindergarten and it is their responsibility to find employment or transforms to be independent entrepreneurs, innovators or engaged in business and trade. Recent trend of parents with some means is to educate children in mushroom private schools spared countrywide with no standards and supervision from the Ministry of Education.

Rate of literacy in Sri Lanka is around 94%, and English is spoken could be around 4% with lot of potential and demand from all sectors to learn and practice out of sheer necessity to keep pace with the modern trends in business and trade. General IT literacy is improving with 30% population with the basic knowledge with of mobile phone users exceeding the population increasing the use rapidly despite vat and increases of prices by multimillion mobile companies thriving. A substantial portion of the income of an average family is spent on the mobile phone and tuition despite the increase of prices of food and other general expenditure giving priority mobile/tuition protesting vehemently on the increase of the price of bread by five rupees and keeping Mum on increase of mobile and tuition. International schools though only few are of some standing, helping young to improve English skills helps to find employment in the private sector. Young is not trained and geared to Innovations, novel thinking, and individual and collective planning which a necessity is for a start-up nation. Sri Lanka is the only country in the world providing free education from the kindergarten to the University though not properly utilized by the citizen due to Tuition Culture and lack of confidence on the free education system. India education is not absolutely free. In the United Kingdom from where the Education and social benefit system was inherited, the University Education is funded by Loans to be recovered on employment. In Sri Lanka University students agitate on the street for employment which is not happening anywhere in the world. It is the duty of the graduates to be innovative and find employment for their future and that of their country.

Education – Unemployment – Universities – and Technology in the development process

World University system is connected to productivity, employment, technology, and economy as those in the forward front line with a vision to the nation giving guidance and direction in all aspects. State and the Private sector always looks forward and upon towards the Universities for research and assistance in productivity and development as a practice. Government and the Private sector are directly linked with the universities and educational institutions and the SMEs which is the cradle of economy. USA, USSR, UK, Israel and any other Country University is in the forefront on all aspects of development process. How many Universities in Sri Lanka have links with the State Private sector on technology, experiments, research work and in the development process is a moot issue to be found out? It is to the credit to the “Moratuwa” University to have attempted to initiate links with public, private and international sector in a limited way in research and development, Whilst the Arts Graduates go on procession for government jobs of any capacity, – mainly teaching appointments when “Moratuwa” science graduates are headhunted by the private sector. Arts Gradates should learn English and Information Technology as a life line and skill for their good. Unemployment and underemployment is high in Sri Lanka with less or no productivity in industry, plantation and agriculture. 51% of the population in on “Samurdi” and 1.8 million of the population are in Middle East on unproductive work consisting of large number of ladies needed to look after children families and the villages. Other workforce on trishaw drivers, Security Services, helpers, retired and that in security forces and engaged in unproductive work. University students are the most unproductive and misdirected to fight for any government job. Training centres are not properly organized and interconnected to make use of them for the country. IT and Technology training and teaching is neglected and abandoned. They are not bothered to learn the language and IT skills freely offered by Universities and other groups and organizations. They ridicule “Kaduwa” English Language as unwanted as it is not needed in the government service. There should be complete regeneration of the attitude of the student and working population. It is a sad state of affairs in Sri Lanka when Universities worldwide are considered to be centres of excellence for research, development programs, utilized by the state and private sector.

Tuition culture

Tuition is the fashion encouraged by class teachers in schools is busy with conducting private tuition classes during weekends and evenings. Sometimes tuition classes are conducted by 3.00 early in the morning where students are expected to attend school after the tuition classes. Charges are exorbitant and tuition masters lead a comfortable luxury life with brand new cars and mansions to live at the cost of students. We are told some teachers having worked weekends take a rest and sleep at classrooms on following Monday. Televisions and walls on the road are full of advertisements on tuition. Poor parents compete to find better masters for better results for the child by spending savings and the salary at the cost of other expenses of the family budget. Government is expected to provide mid-day meal, clothes, and education up to the University level and beyond. In the circumstances it is doubtful whether there is infect true free education system available in Sri Lanka. It is high time to control tuition culture which is fast spreading and damaging the discipline and confidence of the student depending on tuition masters on the street.

Medical /Technical/ Technology/ and English Education

These are the areas of priority in the field of education for the development and prosperity. Our Medical practitioners are/ able competent and recognized worldwide. In the United Kingdom many hospitals and public sector is manned by Sri Lankan doctors. We need more and more medical schools and students to serve in Sri Lanka and outside. It is sad that some students and Doctors challenge the private medical College established to cater the needs of the country led by a competent and dedicated doctors and a group of lecturers. Parents spend millions of rupees for medical education in underdeveloped countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and even in the East European countries and easily get official recognition to practice back in Sri Lanka while the medical council is blocking the recognition of Malabe Medical faculty. Recognition of Kotelawala Medical Faculty is a correct decision, but we do not understand why different treatment to Malabe medical faculty maintaining world standards. It is unfair and strange that the Sri Lankan Medical Council is blocking the registration of our students seeking permission to practice in Sri Lanka with the potential for overseas employment. Technical and Technology education is another area that needs complete overhaul. Hardy/German School of technology and Agricultural Schools produced engineering and agriculture experts during a different era but not anymore, despite modern developments on technology and modern equipment. English is taught in the most primitive colonial methods, by teaching grammar instead of English as a life skill with spoken English. Students from International Schools are able to get jobs in Banks and Private sector with English when Arts Graduates in Universities are on the street demanding government jobs –especially teaching appointments and office work.

Way forward

Whether we enjoy free education is a moot issue despite enormous amounts spent on children for tuition and extracurricular activates and education in private institutions in Sri Lanka with branches of many Universities worldwide thriving in Sri Lanka. We need a full transformation and overhaul on the system of education in line with the developments and needs of the country and world trends. Development and prosperity of a country depends on education and how the young generation is taking part in the development process. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka there is no innovative culture or encouragement of directions to new ideas and products for self-development and the development of the country. Israel is what it is today as a result of direct participation of the Human resource with no natural resources including water in short supply. On the contrary what haven’t we got on the earth compared to other countries?. We have not exploited the strategic situation of the country on a main sea route, as an aviation and port hub, beauty of the country with favourable climatic conditions, for tourism, Water in abundance for agriculture, extreme developed infrastructure, and Ancient History and Archaeological monuments, in addition to untapped human resources which is most powerful of all. Our development and prosperity depends on taking education on the correct tract as has been taken by other countries exploiting the most valuable human and other resources available in abundance but untapped resources linked and using education and technology as the roadway to prosperity and development.

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