Are graduates unemployed because the country's economic growth has
been inadequate and does not generate enough employment opportunities
or are graduates of poor quality that they are not employable? The
previous Minister of Higher Education once said that he was saddled
with the twin problems of finding employment for unemployable graduates
and finding more places for producing more graduates.
views characterised the discussion on this issue at the Annual Sessions
of the Sri Lanka Economics Association. Professor Swarna Jayaweera
a senior educationist was of the view that the fault lay largely
with tardy economic growth.
economy was unable to absorb the graduates put out by several universities,
though she stressed the need to improve the quality of education
at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
said theories such as a mismatch between expectations of graduates
and the available job opportunities sidetracked the real issue of
economic stagnation that was the real reason for the inability to
find employment for graduates.
her words "education bashing is a favourite past time in the
context of continuing unemployment." She pointed out that the
major cause of unemployment was the imbalance between demand and
supply owing to the inability to grow adequately to absorb the increases
in the numbers coming into the labour force.
case in point would be the recent experience of the government's
inability to employ medical graduates as interns for quite sometime
after passing the MBBS degree despite a shortage of doctors.
Jayaweera however admitted that " the quality of university
education has deteriorated and universities have lost out to other
institutions as centres of research." Two leading representatives
of the private sector expressed a contrary view at a different session
of the conference. Mahendra Amarasuriya, Chairman of Commercial
Bank pointed out that both at Commercial Bank and at Hayleys they
have made efforts to recruit graduates without much success as the
large number of applicants lack the requisite attributes.
said the universities should reform their curricula to meet the
needed requirements of the private sector. Dr. Anura Ekanayake,
Managing Director of UniLevers, expressed a similar view.
said that as far as Levers was concerned, 95 percent of executives
were graduates and most of them were from Sri Lankan universities.
He disclosed that they are not in a position to recruit sufficient
quality graduates owing to the quality on offer.
university dons challenged the view that universities had not revised
their syllabuses and training to current needs.
Dileni Gunawardena, Senior Lecturer in Economics said that at Peradeniya
there was a process of reform and adaptation of their course contents
to meet emerging needs and that this was a continuous process.
admitted that there were deficiencies, but that to say that the
universities are not making an effort to reform their curricula
was a misrepresentation. She also pointed out that there was a large
output of university graduates as external students and these students
do not come near an inch of a university.
Upali Wickremasinghe of the Sri Jayawardhanapura University described
some of the steps taken to improve the quality of education. Dr.
Lochana Gunewardena said the graduates of the Moratuwa University
had no difficulty in finding employment. Academics pointed out that
many of their graduates are in fact employed abroad and are valued
for their undergraduate education in Sri Lankan universities.
discussion and debate points out the need to really examine the
problem in depth. The differences in views reflect the many faceted
nature of the problem. There may be many biases and prejudices that
prevent a realistic appraisal.
may be wide differences in the quality of education among the universities
as well as among faculties and departments of universities.
employability of graduates is too important a problem to be periodically
solved by the government offering jobs to them and spending public
is important that public funds spent on their education lead to
their ultimate productive employment. Is there a mismatch between
the number of graduates being trained in various fields and the
market driven employment opportunities? Are we talking of the few
or the many in these varying viewpoints?