24 May, 2017

Reading The Real Problem Of SAITM

By Nalin Abeysekera

Dr. Nalin Abeysekera

A variety of topics and headlines surface on the economic and social set up of Sri Lanka from time to time. Learned people and others from different walks of life express their views based on the way such topics are highlighted in the Media. Whatever its final analysis may be, it is an essential feature of democracy. But it is necessary to re-analyse and revisit the particular issue, subject to such discussion in the country, to ascertain whether it is the ‘Real’ problem, which should be focused on. I hope to discuss this ‘Real Problem’ through the issue at hand, namely, the Private Medical College problem, or the SAITM issue. The SAITM issue has come to the forefront in the media, just as much as the Ragama Medical college issue which came under discussion a decades ago. One group expresses its view in its favour, while the other group speaks against it.  It is unfortunate that these speakers focus on the symptoms of the ailment without making an effort to find out the cause.

We find a valuable example of this situation in Buddhist thought, thus:

“Asevanacha balanan

Panditanancha sevana…………..” 

When we examine this saying from a conventional point of view, it interprets as ‘associate the wise and do not associate the unwise or the balaya’. The definition s of ‘Pandita’ and ‘Balaya’ are not clearly understood here, and it leads to much confusion. The philosophical meaning of ‘bala’ are out thoughts which lead to the ten defilements, while ‘pandita’ denotes the wholesome thoughts that arise in our minds. It is the exploration of our own mind. But the conventional interpretation leads to much confusion and conflict.

We can discuss the SAITM issue within this  framework. When we analyse it based on above interpretation, I can be seen  that two factions seem to debate and argue within the conventional framework while remaining insensitive to our educational, social and political problems which form the philosophical aspect of this issue.

As stated earlier, even the Ragama Medical College conflict ended up treating the symptoms and not to ailment(or real problem).  But I think this problem has paved the way for a more philosophical and intellectual dialogue, with a broaden outlook on the economic and social aspects of our country and our nation. 

We see that most problems in our country are looked at with one’s own political mindset. But the SAITM issue needs to be addressed with a more applied approach from a philosophical standpoint.  There should be a proper assessment of the facts of our education and the way for ward of the system of education, woven into the solution of this problem. When 250,000 students seek entry to higher education only 25,000 are admitted to the universities. It is the result of our cultural and economic deformity based on the concept of free education. But there needs to be a broader social debate/dialogue which focuses on the learning methodology and the inability to merge with the needs of the country. We constantly discuss about the developed countries. But it is unfortunate that we have failed, during the past few decades, to link the abilities and skills of our students of the present, with the strengths drawn from the Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa civilizations of our glorious past.

Therefore it is vital for us to identify our problems as one Nation and one Country, without trying to fulfil our individual ambitions through media displays.

Our people are the lifeline of our country. The future lies with the younger generation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those who govern, the learned and the educated, to move our country forward on a purely Sri Lankan Model, befitting today’s world, while drawing from our great civilizations of the past and ridding ourselves from the island mentality. 

Educational reforms at this point, should cater to the educational and social changes that are taking place today. Leadership skills of the innocent third standard student who carries a seven  kilo bag on his back, as well as the university undergraduate need to be developed through an appropriate educational pedagogy. It is the need of the hour.

The SAITM issue sends out strong signals that a change in the education sector of the country by looking at social ,economic factors within the framework of Glocalization (not globalization) in vital.  We need to understand it philosophically (and genuinely) to create a sensitive generation which loves our country. This should be the role and responsibility of all intellectuals and citizens of Sri Lanka.  It needs to be fulfilled without delay as it is positively bound with our country’s future.

*Dr. Nalin Abeysekera (Senior Lecturer and Chartered Marketer) is a Lecturer in strategic management and consultant with over fifteen years’ experience. In 2012 he was Shortlisted as Best Reviewer by International Journal of  Contemporary Management Research (CMR) (ranked as “B “graded Journal by Excellence in Research for Australia)

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  • 5
    1
    Everyone admits and publicly speaks (mostly the “Pandithas) of the numbers of 250,000 students seeking admission to Universities; but only 25,000 are found accommodation. Now who proposes a solution to the 125,000 eligible students who are not enrolled for higher studies? Now let us call a spade a spade. Is SAITM type “The Solution” for that 125,000? The latest divide in this dialogue is another group self proclaimed as “Freedom for Education”. That group need and campaign for “Freedom for Education” at whatever the “expense” or “cost”. That group’s demand could only be met by many more SAITM type Institutions. What is the composition of this 125,000 left out from the State’s Universities who could afford to enroll in many more SAITMs? Certainly that number cannot be all of those 125,000. What is the residue (that could be a large number who cannot afford the huge financial commitment) of those enrolling in SAITM types going to do and who or what organization prepared to look after them? Looking at the whole picture SAITM type is only a “Class Catered” and an “Elite” type creation of a “Social Divide” that could only lead to a much bigger problem that this country could handle in the future. I suppose the good DR. who wrote this article can come up with a SOLUTION. Let us see what he is going to propose. I say this because of his very correct assertion “Pandithanancha Sevana”. I await your advice. Thank you.
    • 11
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      Two professional trade unions have ruined this country. GMOA and CEB engineers Union. Health sector held to ransom by doctors and electricity service ruined by the engineers. Two ways to neutralize the impact of these two unions. Ban GMOA doctors from doing private practice. The union will be in shambles. Break up CEB into three units namely generation, transmission and distribution and bring in competition to reduce tariffs. 2017 CEB loss would be Rs 50 billion!
      • 6
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        Excellent ideas. That’s why they will never see the light of day.
      • 0
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        @Jagath, Make you said it. For once, I 100% agree with someone.
    • 3
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      Reading The Real Problem Of SAITM “Our people are the lifeline of our country. The future lies with the younger generation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those who govern, the learned and the educated, to move our country forward on a purely Sri Lankan Model, befitting today’s world, while drawing from our great civilizations of the past and ridding” 1. Sri Lanka very badly requires private higher education, there is no doubt about 2. Private Higher Education has to be streamlined and monitored to the benefit to the people of the nation by all respect related to that education, including service that would be born out by such education. 3 Who is going to monitor what, EXACTLY NOT WHOM, THAT IS THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM IN HAND NOW/. According to above 1. SAITM cannot be compromised or rather discontinued…… As SAITM is trying to satisfy the quantity in demand, but It cannot compromise the above 2 and 3, again for the major population of the Nation.
      • 0
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        Correction Please Reading The Real Problem Of SAITM “Our people are the lifeline of our country. The future lies with the younger generation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those who govern, the learned and the educated, to move our country forward on a purely Sri Lankan Model, befitting today’s world, while drawing from our great civilizations of the past and ridding” 1. Sri Lanka very badly requires private higher education, there is no doubt about 2. Private Higher Education has to be streamlined and monitored to the benefit to the people of the nation by all respect related to that education, including service that would be born out by such education. 3 Who is going to monitor what, EXACTLY NOT WHOM, THAT IS THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM IN HAND NOW/. According to above 1. SAITM cannot be compromised or rather discontinued…… As SAITM is trying to satisfy the quantity in demand, but It cannot compromise the above 2 and 3, again for the BENEFIT of the major population of the Nation Thank you
    • 6
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      Dr. Nalin Abeysekera RE: Reading The Real Problem Of SAITM (297 words) 1. :”One group expresses its view in its favour, while the other group speaks against it. It is unfortunate that these speakers focus on the symptoms of the ailment without making an effort to find out the cause.” 2. “We can discuss the SAITM issue within this framework. When we analyse it based on above interpretation, I can be seen that two factions seem to debate and argue within the conventional framework while remaining insensitive to our educational, social and political problems which form the philosophical aspect of this issue.” 3. “As stated earlier, even the Ragama Medical College conflict ended up treating the symptoms and not to ailment(or real problem). But I think this problem has paved the way for a more philosophical and intellectual dialogue, with a broaden outlook on the economic and social aspects of our country and our nation” Thanks for your thoughts.. Cause and Effect: Symptoms. 4. “There should be a proper assessment of the facts of our education and the way for ward of the system of education, woven into the solution of this problem. When 250,000 students seek entry to higher education only 25,000 are admitted to the universities. It is the result of our cultural and economic deformity based on the concept of free education. But there needs to be a broader social debate/dialogue which focuses on the learning methodology and the inability to merge with the needs of the country. ” This is the self-interest of those who are entrenched in their cast-ism and hegemony vs, the needs of the country and the populace. For SAITIM, it is the cast-ism,and hegemony of GMOA and SLMC, the Mafioso, while the diabetes rate in the country is exploding.
    • 7
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      Dr. Nalin Abeysekera RE: Douglas Comment “Now who proposes a solution to the 125,000 eligible students who are not enrolled for higher studies? ” “The SAITM issue sends out strong signals that a change in the education sector of the country by looking at social ,economic factors within the framework of Glocalization (not globalization) in vital. We need to understand it philosophically (and genuinely) to create a sensitive generation which loves our country. This should be the role and responsibility of all intellectuals and citizens of Sri Lanka. It needs to be fulfilled without delay as it is positively bound with our country’s future.” Look at other counties. How are they handling it. What can we lean from them.How did they handle GMOA, SLMC Cast-ism , Tribalism, Hegemony objections? Private institutions will have an advantage in that they have flexibility, even though may not be perfect, but market forces and competition will make them strive to be better or go out of business Therefore there should be SAITIM# 2,, just like international schools, private hospitals and even many state universities and medical schools.
  • 9
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    Recently I checked Management faculty Professors and Lecturers list in public Universities. I was shocked to see that none has PhD from AACSB accredited University or world top 100- 300 university list or any single publications in ISI and SCOPUS indexed journals. Then how can we get quality guarantee about these undergraduates and PG products they produced. They are just giving piece of papers as a degree without proper training. Many professors even do not know what are ISI and SCOPUS indexed journals and Google Scholar, citations etc. Sri Lankan citizens never accept Professor Title given by the so called local Universities based on outdoor connections. Before you say professor to anybody first check they have PhD from the recognized world class University and ISI/SCOPUS publication list (minimum 15) with Google scholar citation and research gate data page. I guess under the Right to Information Act now citizens have right to ask credentials of public sector Universities academics because it runs through poor tax payers money. If you carefully check you will see all the problems with public University system not with SAITEM. See how they give PhDs in local Universities. Today the most important thing not your PhD but where it comes matter. The countries they (University teachers) go to do higher studies, no person is going to studies: China, Malaysia and India. Now you see SAITEM is 100% better than local Universities.
    • 3
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      I agree totally. The education system, from primary to tertiary needs to be overhauled & brought up to the 21st century. The average SL has a tendency for selfishness, as demonstrated by trade unions like the GMOA & some University students, who condone sadistic treatment in the name of ragging. These are the people who end up in or already hold important positions of the state & the resulting sad state of affairs is plain to see. Free education, although good on paper, has not been the answer. Anything that is free is not appreciated. Even in developed & rich countries, particularly, University education, is not free but it does not mean the poor are left behind. For example, every University student in UK is eligible for a student loan, so that they need not depend on personal savings or contributions from parents to see them through University. The loan is only payable in installments when they start earning more than £20,000 a year & there is a ‘means tested’ grant for student from poor backgrounds which need not be repaid at all. The statistical Z score system for University entry in SL should be scrapped & the standards of all schools have to be improved instead. There will always be rich students who will have an advantage over less privileged students but private education will take the strain off public education. What matters is standards, whether it is state schools or private, & it is up to the appropriate Professional bodies & the Ministries of Education & Higher Education to ensure standards are maintained instead of penalizing unfortunate students. In the particular case of SAITEM, it is callous of GMC to now say standards were low. They should have put pressure on the State bodies responsible for approving this institution to maintain the required standards. It all boils down to petty mindness of those who are in powerful positions & their own personal agenda.
    • 1
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      Waasantha.. I can give you many examples?
  • 2
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    Too verbose for average SL readers. State some practical steps people can take, rather than philosophy flooding and saturating their already clouded minds
  • 4
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    Nalin, I agree with you that there is a need for re-evaluation of the situation of our education. I feel sorry for both SAITM students who have lost the opportunity to get a quality education due to poor standards and the state uni students who are on strike cutting their classes. Both are our youth. Students at SAITM and their majority of non-medical parents are not aware of their pathetic situation as they never had a chance to see what good quality medical education in another setting, state or private. They are kept in dark and the the massive PR mechanism which is used by SAITM owners is doing it so well; they will be in dark till they see the light, when actually confronted with patients (if at all to treat). That is why many of the students were taken out by their medical parents and sent to medical colleges in other countries. The senior students at SAITM are aware of this but are prevented from looking at the issue independently and assessing their situation as the management go to great extent in applying principles of the subject that you have expertise (marketing) to this issue primarily targeting their own students and parents. They still have the opportunity of asking for quality education for which they’d paid millions of rupees. Its a matter of requesting the management to improve the facilities to match a reasonable standard. Let them have at least the minimal standards and learn. Otherwise the students who’d done well in their A/L s got into SAITM are at a greater disadvantage. They or their parents do not understand it as they themselves are kept in dark. Jye
  • 3
    1
    Jye, There are flaws in State as well as SAITM. As a parent I have thoroughly checked about SAITM. While Clinical training is an issue, SAITM has taken the necessary steps to overcome whatever the short comings (even with disruptive actions of GMOA) in this regard. Some of the foreign Medical colleges are not up to the SAITM standard even but the SLMC has registered them. What you have to understand is that the Agents of the foreign Unis too are doing a huge PR campaign. Why not the Sri Lankan Government give an incentive to bring in foerign students to Sri Lankan universities. This will help both State and Private universities. But all have to be regulated by the Government authorities. Nabe
  • 4
    0
    Nalin Where are your suggestions to solve our education problems?? You are writing everything we already know!
  • 1
    2
    Dr. Nalin Abeysekera: Having read your “Academic Status” and inviting you to propose a “Solution”, I thought of placing before you a few of the matters to be considered. Everyone talks of “Free Education” in this country. I say that is a fallacy. Look at the Primary and Secondary education provided by the Government which is supposed to be and boasted about as “Free Education”. The “Dissolution” of that Free Education starts with the preparation for the Grade 5 Scholarship examination and continues till the G.C.E (A)Level. Ask any parent with children what percentage of their household income is spent on providing education by way of hoarding their school going kids to “Tuition Kade” from the 5th Grade to the A Level. That income disbursement varies with the number of children in a family. These “Tuition Kades” are spread through out all cities, villages and in private homes. It has now become an “Accepted Fact” by all parents that children would not be able to jump the hurdles in various stages of education unless they are guided through “Private Fee Levy” “Tuition Class”. Then on the other hand, we have come to establish and live with the “International Schools” operating in all major cities of the country; that again provided at very “High Cost”. Now, we have started another stage of this “Dissolution” of that fallacy of “Free Education” through BOI scheme. All these institutions would be “clothed” as coming under “Freedom Of Education”. So in summary, the whole of “Tuition Kades” from Grade 5 to A Level; International Schools (all privately owned and fee levy) and to BOI Projects have proved the expenditure by the Government on Education a huge burden on the tax payers. All those “Tuition Kades”; International Schools and BOI Projects are “SAITM TYPES”. So why bother and make a hue and cry only on ONE of this SAITM, when in fact all of those “FEE LEVY” educational “Kades” I have mentioned above are SAITMs.? It is nothing but “Kopi Kade” (Coffee Shop) talk that keeps the Politicians, Professionals, Intellectuals and not forgetting the “Pandithayas” occupied and engaged in boasting of their self achievements to get our common and garden folks to venerate them. Where are we and where are we heading? Please address these issues as well. Thank you.
  • 4
    0
    Tragedy of the Nation is that Board of Investment is being part of “Education for Fee” as well! That is How 94 without O/L among 225 would decide about the need of the Nation!
  • 0
    0
    I wonder whether there is a similar uproar about places like German Tech, NIBM, SLIIT and the like ?? If not, Why Not ? Can any informed soul let me know ?
  • 1
    0
    I totally agree with you that our failed education policies should be blamed for this status of SL education today ….Today Sri Lanka needs radical change in education …… A lot of changes needed …but policy makers are sleeping or under control of.politicians… What is the way out for this problem? Privatisation or improvement of government institutions? Both do not take place
  • 1
    0
    Thanks for your comments and observations on this article. Douglas,I am in the process of drafting one piece with some tentative solutions (a sort of action plan ).This is something we should have .No need for reinventing the wheel as it is all about benchmarking(with success stories in global education) along with some adaptations by looking at Sri Lankan context. Anyway all stakeholders(Government , Trade Unions ,Private institutions ,General public and other interested parties) need to address this matter seriously without getting any political mileage.
    • 2
      0
      Cant’t you find some solution to improve low quality public University system rather putting your hands to private University case.
  • 1
    0
    No government can provide higher education to all eligible students without involving the private sector to some degree. Examples from other countries such as Japan show this. Entry into medical profession is an interesting one as parents in Sri Lanka have added an extra premium to turn their children to be doctors. With free education,many rural students have become doctors. So,how to become a doctor,including Via SAITM,Russia,Nepal,Bangaldesh,India is one issue, Once youths become doctors,what happen to them is another issue. Both are equally important and should be subject to critical scrutiny. Many leave for overseas after a stint in private practice. Countries like Australia allow doctors and other medical professionals to come in under temporary work permits. I know one hospital in Sydney that recruits Sri Lanka doctors twice a year. So as the world picks our free educated professionals like this, we are arguing how to curtail the number of doctors trained in the country? This is a first degree joke. Australia has a shortage of doctors in rural areas as many doctors prefer to work in cities. Thus the government funded several rural medicine faculties a few years ago. Those who get scholarships are bound to work in a rural hospital for five years I think. If there is a shortage of doctors in the country,government needs to come up with innovative plans. Not keep producing them while they are being drained by more developed countries. I feel for SAITM students .

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