On University education
Wijesinha MP has raised a number of salient issues with respect
to University education when he took part in the debate on the
Adjournment Motion in Parliament last week.
He was speaking, among other things on resistance to change.
Our Universities are run on an archaic British model that the
latter also has abandoned by now. All attempts to make
progressive changes in the system of education were resisted by
the students. However, it was only a minority that resisted
though the silent majority acquiesced with no resistance. This
is largely due to the monopoly held by a certain political party
among the student population.
Teaching in many disciplines still follow the obsolete method
of delivering lectures and following lecture notes. In the
absence of wide reading on the subjects taught, students rely
much on the lecture note as gospel truth. Education is reduced
to rote learning and in this instance Universities are no better
than high schools. Actually Universities are places where the
basic method of education should be self-learning while teachers
could only assist and guide the students to explore the world.
Individual initiative and group assignments should take the
place of rote learning.
Universities should be centres of academic discourse and
inquiry. The proliferation of Universities, through a salutary
development was associated with a general lowering of standards
and the recruitment of mediocre individuals to tutorial staffs.
To quote Professor Wijesinha MP: "Sadly, as excellence gets
diluted, requirements for promotion are relaxed. Simple long
service leads to chairs and administrative positions that are
then used to perpetuate mediocrity." No wonder our University
rankings have declined over the years.
As the learned Professor and Member of Parliament stressed
education means not only academic learning but also acquiring
professional and vocational skills. This calls for a combination
of work and study. Those who plan education strategies should
take this factor into account.
Our University courses are also rigidly compartmentalized.
There are a few opportunities for inter-disciplinary studies. In
fact it is even discouraged. This is a principal drawback in our
The system of examinations also leaves much to be desired.
More emphasis should be given to individual and group course
work and opportunities should be provided for students to finish
the degree courses on a modular basis. Bright students should be
allowed to complete simultaneously more than one module while
others could be given the option to take their time to complete
the modules if they face any difficulty to devote whole time to
studies on account of employment or economic difficulties. The
objective is not to let more students fail but to give every
student a chance to complete studies successfully. In this
respect best practices in foreign Universities could be emulated
with suitable modifications.
Time wasted on ragging should be done away with. The ugly
phenomenon of ragging should be eliminated through a process of
building cordial teacher- student relations coupled with strict
Since a large number of qualified students (about 80 percent)
are denied University admission those among them that complete
suitable diploma or certificate courses should have an
opportunity to enter Universities and read for a degree. For
example, those with professional or technological qualifications
could be enrolled for special degree programs that would
supplement their practical knowledge with academic theoretical
learning. In other words, a multiple entry system should be
A large number of former parliamentarians, Ministers and
Deputy Ministers are still occupying their former official
residencies. The authorities have, in fact, contemplating legal
action against them.
Perhaps they could try other means to get these politicians
to quit, for un-ceremonial evictions with the assistance of
fiscal officers would be too infra-dig for them. A moot point is
whether anything could be infra-dig for such persons who are
shamelessly clinging on to public property despite the whacking
they got from the voters. The authorities could try other means
such as exorcism, offer bahirava poojas or get Malayali or
Matara experts to perform kodivina or hooniyam.
Whatever the method used they should quit before earning the
wrath of the public.