Friday, January 8, 2016

Gamani Corea Foundation Lecture – A disappointment

The lecture, the second in the series on 7th January 2016 (with a fully detailed book distributed by the foundation), by Dr Harsha Aturupane, on a subject he is an expert on “Enriching and Accelerating Higher Education Development in Sri Lanka” was anything but a discourse on preferred methods of how this very  important need in our Society is to be carried out. It was in fact a discourse of different types of Higher Education models that can be adopted, going through the whole gamut of international Tertiary Institutions, and payment and funding systems.

A significant omission in his work, was to analyze the effect on high fee structure in British Universities on both the intake quality, improvements in services of the students, availability and indebtedness of Student Loans taken to finance education, and the possible benefits to the Economy (or cost) of a better prepared Graduate entering the labor force, more focused in specific careers, immediately entering the labor market in order to divest themselves off debt, instead of as in the past, globe-trotting around the world, prior to employment!

The reason I emphasize the importance of such an analysis that is based on data in the past 5 years, is that this is definitely an alternative Sri Lanka will have to pursue, as a privileged education for a selected few who happen by chance to enter the University system, merely by a mark achieved at A levels, is NOT achieving the desired result for adding productivity to the Country’s rapid development needs.

No fee education IS NOT the best in a country, that does not value something free as compared with something that has a cost attached to it, as is painfully clear, where even at Secondary level, parents are opting to pay significant money to private tutories to ensure that their children are successful at the state exams, as they have NO confidence in the teaching quality of State Education.

It is NOT just the numbers who enter Tertiary education that matter, it is to ensure that ALL those capable of benefitting from Tertiary do so, be it in State, Public / Private or Private Education and for the truly gifted sufficient scholarships are forthcoming in all of the above mentioned institutions, to ensure that Merit is always given priority no matter the students ability to pay.

Mentioning that Stanford a wholly private institution spawned the phenomenal growth in the Silicon Valley Technological Revolution, is a no brainer, but irrelevant. To expect a private institution in SL to do the same is a mirage, which if the state is to substitute, can only be done on a platform of nimbleness and swift decision making, which is impossible when public funds are involved and no one is willing to accept responsibility for such disbursements

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