Sri Lanka offers ‘free’ education to all citizens. Though
it appears to be free at face value, a deeper study is required
to assess the national cost as well as the hidden costs associated
with her regional neighbours, Sri Lanka spent a lower 2.2% of its
GDP on education in 2003, whereas the region spent 3.5%. The Sri
Lankan government is under continuous pressure from stakeholders
to increase the budgetary allocations on education to 3.5% levels.
financial terms even at 2.2% it works out to a massive 40 billion
rupees. Has Sri Lanka been able to harness the full potential of
this colossal annual investment of taxpayers’ money? The following
core issues and challenges observed among many positive results,
need to be addressed.
137,057 (42.8%) of 320,164 candidates who appeared for the GCE O/Level
examination in 2003 in five subjects or more, qualified for A/Level
education. Fifty eight percent failed in mathematics and 70% in
English. Out of 213,201 students who appeared for the GCE A/Level
examination in 2003 only 13,040 (6%) entered national universities.
Eighty thousand students who qualified to meet the minimum university
entry criteria could not be admitted due to limited places. Thus,
undecided career aspirants without the right connections grope in
the dark without a clear focus.
with affluent parents spend millions of rupees worth of foreign
exchange in seeking foreign university education as an alternative.
Sri Lanka’s annual national expenditure bill on overseas education
is estimated to be several billion rupees.
training centres in the state sector can cater to only 50% of the
applications received due to limited facilities. As a result, local
skilled labour demand cannot be met in several job categories. Complaining
employers blame the education system and spend chunks of money,
wasting a lot of time to recruit sub-standard new employees. Furthermore,
the university sector has failed to offer degree courses compatible
with their more reputed counterparts in the region.
this explains the extensive confusion that exists among the Sri
Lankan youth who approach the employable age. A recent survey reveals
nearly 70% of unemployed youth exceeding 650,000 are below 25 years
of age. Despite claims made of the highest literacy rates in the
region, Sri Lanka loses billions of rupees by way of returns deprived,
due to unemployable youth including several thousands of local graduates.
limited resources and the existing turbulent environment caused
by student disputes into consideration, the prospects of improving
the standards and the quality of university education in Sri Lanka
project a gloomy picture unless a revolutionary change in attitude
takes place sooner.
several waves of attempted modernisation, the private sector employers
are yet to be satisfied with the quality, knowledge, skills and
attitudes of the products of the present education system. They
find it difficult to find suitable candidates matching their expectations.
As a result, a large number of vacancies in the skilled category
remain vacant. Their complaints are understandable considering the
multifarious challenges they confront in meeting stiff competition
in business from their regional and international counterparts.
Sadly, what we lack is a policy in education, which focuses on meeting
the needs of local and international labour markets.
is ripe for the authorities to take necessary steps to develop and
train our human resources as a tradable export in the international
labour market. This will help the country optimise the receipt of
much needed foreign exchange from expatriate Sri Lankan workers.
the meantime, a look at the globally sensitive career paths reveals
that once popular careers have been overtaken by more lucrative
ones. With changing world trends, life styles and the advent of
IT, various new career opportunities have emerged.
it is possible for a young student between the age of 15-16 years
(after his O/Level examination while awaiting results) to take up
a professional course of study leading to an internationally recognised
professional qualification and be employed in an executive capacity
before he reaches the age of 20.
a person could continue his further studies without burdening his
parents and achieve great heights in life. Conversely a much brighter
student, who achieves better A/Level results entering a local university,
may end up graduating only by the age of 26 and still be incapable
of finding suitable employment immediately.
is an irony that only a few Sri Lankans have access to credible
information leading them to the right opportunities in careers and
higher education. Even when opportunities are afforded, students
and their parents do not show much interest in career and higher
education guidance. Career guidance should not be looked at as an
'overnight' decision. It is a process where one is exposed to different
options over a period of time before making the right decision at
the right time to suit one's interests and abilities.
2005 will showcase the widest possible range of opportunities available
in higher education in universities and university-affiliated colleges,
vocational training centres both locally and overseas. The Ministry
of Vocational Training and Skills Development has endorsed EDEX
exhibition will build upon the success of EDEX 2004 and will have
an expanded scope with the participation of corporate sector employers,
who are gradually realising the need to offer career counselling
and guidance to career aspirants.
several concurrent seminars and lectures planned, they will be exposed
to various lucrative careers as well as generic topics such as 'Interview
Facing Skills,’ 'Building Personal Confidence,’ the
latest techniques of employee selection, etc. EDEX 2005 has chosen
‘direction’ which is lacking among career aspirants
as its theme this year.
special invitation is extended to all leading companies to make
use of this event to educate the large numbers of unemployed youth
on what they expect from their new recruits. Visiting career aspirants
to the exhibition will have the rare opportunity of registering
their bio data with a number of prospective employers who have come
forward to make use of this novel method of recruitment.
large number of foreign universities and affiliated colleges in
the US, UK, Australia, Malaysia, India, Singapore and the European
Union will have their promotional booths at EDEX 2005. In addition
to providing details of degree courses conducted by them they will
process walk-in placements and even offer scholarships.
this nationally important need, the Royal College Union has embarked
on EDEX 2005 Careers and Education Fair to be held from March 4-6,
at the BMICH International Convention Centre. All details pertaining
to EDEX 2005 are available at www.edex2005.com.
Abeysinghe (Royal College Union)