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Education and Knowledge is power

by Sarath Wijesinghe


(August 27,UAE, Sri Lanka Guardian
) Knowledge is power which is derived from Education. Education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability on an individual. In Sri Lanka parents invest on children by educating them. As a result education has become so competitive that there are instances where children attend private tuition classes day and night by making major contributions to “Tuition Culture” created by overenthusiastic misguided parents duped by attractive advisements of errant tuition masters and their agents. Parents spend Rs5.8 billion per year for tuition alone making tuition masters milliners.

Right and freedom to education is guaranteed by the constitution in Sri Lanka and European Convention of Human Rights in addition to the international grantee in Article 13 of the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. Free Education was initiated by o Hon C.W.W. Kannangara with best of intentions to the benefit of the ordinary man. Free Education and “Swabasha” policy certainly paved the way for a large segment of the ordinary man to educate their children. Universal franchise was granted to Sri Lanka in 1931, and initial stages of free education in 1938 mooted by then minister of education Hon C.W.W. Kannangara. University system in Sri Lanka dates back to 1921 when University College affiliated to University of London was established. University Still disparity continued as English Educated and Children from privileged Government/ private schools in Sri Lanka and abroad continued to provide the educated and the upper strata of the educated and powerful society. There fore free education did not mean equality on education as the educated in control of the power was not necessarily form the ordinary masses. There was free education but not freedom of education in a chosen language and a chosen institution of ones choice.


In Sri Lanka only a small fraction of the qualified students will be allowed to proceed to University Education. 131000 AL students pass out of 241000. Only 20% will get a place in a university. 10,000 will go abroad using our much needed foreign exchange to universities which are sub slandered. Even at the end of university education employment prospects are not guaranteed. Drop outs that are nearly qualified find their way to universities abroad by spending billions of foreign exchange. 131000 students pass out from 241000 A/L students out of which only a small fraction is selected to Sri Lanka Universities. Around 7000 students go out of the country for studies and the rest are liabilities as our education is not job oriented. Parent’s mortgage or sell the entire wealth for tuition fees and other expenses and in many occasions they become pray for unregulated and errant immigration consultants and agents of foreign schools. One of the solutions is to equalize the opportunities by giving freedom of education to all by allowing private universities. Currently majority of Universities worldwide has branches in Sri Lanka via their agents and colleges. There is no resistance for equality of education opportunities except from the JVP affiliated misguided student unions for personal reasons and sheer jealousy in the guise of saving free education. How could the free education be affected by private universities? It will enhance free education by eliminating those who could afford in private universities allowing more intake for the less privileged in the government sector.


English is a world language and a mode of power derived from the language ability spoken as well as written. Sometime ago it has been considered a tool of the upper class to be a part of the privileged society. Today the vengeance against “Kadda” (English) has disappeared and there is a craze to learn English. English is an official language and English medium classes are conducted in remote villages with the blessings of parents. Despite incompetent English tutors and so called international schools spread over the island, the need and craze for English is ever growing. It has become a necessary tool for employment higher education in Sri Lanka and abroad. English programmes launched by the Presidential Secretariat and the schools programs at the British Council are commendable and has brought positive results proving English education too is a center for power. The programme English as a lifeline launched by the Presidential Secretariat is timely and effective and should be expanded. English is a fine language easy to learn. If one masters to handle and manage 200 words properly, it is ample to conduct affairs in English.


There is a grave need to improve language education in Sri Lanka considering the economic benefits in the education and employment sector which brings the major income to the nation. Knowledge of Arabic will benefit the Middle East Employees remitting a sizeable part of the main income of the government coffins. Chinese, Japanese French Spanish are other leading languages to learn and we suggest setting up an “International Language Centre” either in one of the universities or the Presidential Secretariat linked to the centre for English as a lifeline.

There was an era when foreigners came to Sri Lanka for education as the standard to education was of such a high standard. Today we transmit billions of rupees in other developed and underdeveloped countries for higher education of their children. It is sad to note our students are sent to less developed countries not maintaining standards for higher studies spending enormous sums. This is a crime as we are equally or more competent to conduct our own universities better. Do we really enjoy free in education in Sri Lanka today? The answer is unclear. Parents spend the income and savings for tuition and higher studies investing it on children.


At last it seems that we are in the correct tract. Minister of Education has agreed that English Language should be given priority in education and as a link language and the Minister of higher studies have agreed in principle setting up of private universities which is a long overdue requirement. These decisions should have taken long ago, but it is never too late as the country has tacitly consented and encouraged both moves which are a very encouraging sign on the right direction. Improving the knowledge or a foreign language by no means disrespect or undermining our culture or education. It improves and enhances our cutler and development my intermingling and assimilation of the knowledge of other great languages and cultures.

Private and higher education bill by the Minister of Higher Education is timely and long overdue matter which should be pursued with no delay. Professor Gamini Samaranayaka the Chairman Grants Commission has made a revolutionary statement that it in now necessary and inevitable to set up private universities. Minister Dissanayaka says that at the moment 78 foreign universities is functioning which is substandard and needs regulation and monitoring. The time is running out and the nation needs the drastic changes as a matter of urgency. Amount of national wealth drained out of the country and barriers for the developments in order to achieve the targets of the government and the President should be cleared forthwith. There is hardly any resistance for this process for which the academics, students and parents are awaiting to embrace as main receptions of the innovative and progressive educational reforms keeping pace with the modern trends and the needs of the nation.


In the United Kingdom free education is available up to University level. Thereafter either the students should obtain a bank lone to be settled at later stage in life or seek the help of parents. Others have ample avenues in technical colleges, trade, business and many other vocations. It is well planned and established. Every student is not seeking a place in a university. Education is linked to development. In USA too the system is the same. In USSR and socialist bloc education is well planned with the development. In all the countries mentioned the University education and the research is linked to development, companies, and government institutions linking research development and education. It is sad that our education is geared to produce arts graduates who are suited only for teaching appointments. Their English and IT knowledge is minimal. Those who were given basic education in “International Schools” are able to find employment in the private sector when arts graduates wait years and years in job queues. Education should be linked to development, professional skills, agriculture and industrial developments and advancements. Medical colleges are linked to Hospitals and in the same way agricultural and industrial related faculties should be linked to respective development projects. Japan spends large amounts on research and students in the west in order to acquire knowledge and experience through students and scholars. In Dubai Knowledge Village is open to the world Universities and the students all over the world for higher studies at a price. UAE is focusing on research and is moving steadily increasing the student intake. Dubai knowledge universities are being established as a multi university complex on 2.33mmillian square meters in the heart of academic city in Dubai. “Jebal Ali” Free Zone in UAE has outlets of most leading companies and Universities worldwide. It is easy to set up a company and an outlet in the Free Zone and Knowledge Village for any government or a private body. This is where we too could learn a lot from the 5th richest today a desert full of camels 60 years ago. Heritage village opens out their history as a lesson and gratefulness for the vision of His Highness who brought the UAE to limelight. This writer in the capacity of the Ambassador met His Excellency Humaid AI Qutmai the Minister of education, who holds a master degree in Administration from Western Michigan University and holding various high positions in the government to discuss matters of mutual interest including granting opportunities for Sri Lankan to learn Arabic Language and for the Police officers who cater 250,000 Sri Lankans to learn Sinhala and Tamil and many other projects. His Excellency is one who loves and admires Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans and indicated the intention to visit Sri Lanka for her beauty and natural and historic resources and to help us in various ways.


We have won the unwinnable war that engulfed our nation for three decades in a short span of three years with the determination and vision of His Excellency Mahinda Rapaksa to whom the people of Sri Lanka has given a mandate to make Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia. We need power to achieve this goal through the power of education which is the centre of power. As mentioned at the outset knowledge and education is power and it is time for us to divert all over knowledge education and resources in this direction.

(The writer, Solicitor-Attorney-at-Law and Ambassador of Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates)

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