By Mohammed Jehan Khan –
Education is the gateway to the future and has become an integral part of our society and the global village in total. From Neem tree schools it has expanded to high tech institutes and universities. However the universalisation and capitalisation of education began in the last phase of the 20th century literally ruined the quality of education in total. It has produced a series of nerds that memorise books rather than authentic thinkers and creative people. This sums up why have not produced any Einsteins, Teslas, Avicenas etc in the so called “Advanced 21st Century AD”.
Far from being informal, inexpensive and creative, today education has become highly corrupted by cooperate thieves, politicians, nerds and inappropriate teachers. In most countries including Sri Lanka education has been Nationalised and given free of charge. A set of accepted principles and procedures have come to be accepted while imparting education with science and technology, providing coherence to the subject matter.
Developing, higher middle-income countries like Sri Lanka cannot afford to spend much on education owing to financial constrains. Our expenditure on education is a mere 2% of our GDP of $59 Billion and a GDP per capitol $3500, as against the generally accepted norm of 6% in the western world and we are ranked behind our South Asian counterparts and third world nations — India which spends 2.8% of the $1.85 Trillion for education and has a GDP per capita of $1,488; Bangladesh which spends 2.4% of its $111.88 Billion for education and has a GDP per capita of $ and; Pakistan which spends 2.7% of its $210.88 Billion for education and has a GDP per capita of $1295.
The crucial question then must be posed. What makes Sri Lanka spend less on Education?
Back in 1943 C.W.W Kannangara’s consistent attempt to raise the level of literacy in the country resulted in the introduced a free education system which is effective l to date. This system by Kannangara benefitted thousands of underprivileged students around the country. Despite all these progresses Sri Lanka has one of the lowest rates of students pursuing higher education, which is 0.001% of the entire population (only 20,000 students a year are allowed to pursue higher education in Sri Lanka).
The reason is very clear. With the expansion of education and globalisation and also with the growth of technology and its application in education, the government of Sri Lanka finds it hard to sustain its free education system. What should be done? Abolish the age old Kannangara system and bring a new education referendum? The world changes rapidly while Sri Lanka sleeps to the lullabies of the communist inter-University Students’ Federation which is backed by the radical Marxist groups operating in the country.
Hence there is a role that the private sector needs to play, especially in the higher education system. The West, notably United States and the United Kingdom took a lead in the establishment of semi government education long ago, and we are following suit only by now. The Sri Lanka Institute of Information and Technology is the only semi-government technical and engineering university in the country.
The present education policy only ensures that students memorise the texts and theories; it does not attempt to bring the application of those learnt theories to the practical world thereby fostering innovation and creativity. That’s why Sri Lanka has not produced any Nobel Prize winners, scientists and leaders in its entire post independence history. Along with the defective education policy of the Government, is the poor infrastructure existing in the government run schools and universities. In contrast many semi-government, private schools and Universities offer a stark advancement in the infrastructure facilities.
Many of the government run schools (Maha Vidyalayas, Central Colleges and National Schools) and Universities (notably Wayamba, Rajarata, Jaffna and Eastern) out of Colombo have no buildings, Lab facilities, no extracurricular facilities and at times no teachers and lecturers.
Marxism that plagues the public universities often brings student strikes, student lecturers clashes, ragging, student group clashes and sudden closure of faculties and at times the entire university premises, which results in many students abandoning their courses and many educated professors leaving the country. Wastage, corruption, thugery and abuse are rampant in such universities.
Nevertheless, the private sector (leaving aside the semi government sector) has its own negative side, although compared with the negativity of the present education system of the country, is less hazardous.
One such disadvantage is that it brings for-profit and monetary consideration, thereby widening the disparities between the rich and the poor, to the betterment of the upper class of society. The private sector also appears to be interested in providing engineering and medical education, but their quality of education is questionable (SAITM, ACBIT, ICBT and APIIT). Some of these institutions do not provide quality education to their students even after charging them lakhs of rupees under various pretexts. This defeats the very purpose of higher education.
Privatisation of education has its pros and cons but if not controlled the disadvantage can cripple the entire system of education. Therefore government should intervene in the private sector and establish more effective semi government higher education institutions and Universities in the country. In today’s world it is not possible to keep the private sector outside the purview of education with the government’s peanut funds being totally inadequate for attaining the ideal of universalisation of education and contesting with regional and non regional countries.
In many regions in the country, Tamil and Muslim schools in particular do not have access to even the basic educational facilities. Thus the involvement of the private sector and private funding in education becomes a necessity.
There is need to minimise the ill effects arising out the involvement of the private sector. The private sector should be encouraged to play a vital role in higher education and for this to transpire what we require is a clear and transparent government policy. The policy must provide a level playing for all parties involved in this sphere. Existing bodies like the University Grants Commission (UGC) and Association of Commonwealth Universities should be given a more independent and definite status. Tough and punitive laws must be enacted to penalise the defaulters. After implementing such a healthy mechanism the government should lay emphasis on primary and secondary education where its policies are skewed and ill-conceived. This would make available to the government more resources to invest in the primary and secondary education system, thus benefitting the entire system in the long run.
It is high time for the administrators and authorities in the education sector to realise the sacredness and importance of education, so that the very foundation of the country and its future remains secure.