“It would be better if educational qualifications would be useful and to ascertain the needs of a society and to thereby structure university courses to sharpen and refine the skills for which there was an identified demands,” said Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris.
He made these observations at the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning (ASAIHL) 2013 International Conference on the topic “Education for All: Prospects and Challenges”.
Prof. Peiris spoke on what changes would be required in tertiary education to address many of challenges that were facing students at the present time in Sri Lanka.
The Minister underscored that it was important to ensure that education is relevant to the needs of a society and the need to avoid training students in areas and skills, where there was no demand or relevance and less prospects of jobs available. The Professor noted how there would be a mismatch when highly qualified graduates would find it exceedingly difficult to find employment and then would in turn have some resentment that may be directed towards society.
He underscored this phenomenon by drawing attention to the past experiences of Sri Lanka where unfulfilled expectations by students had lead to youth unrest on two turbulent occasions in Sri Lanka’s history in 1979 and 1988/89.
The Minister highlighted that in Sri Lanka a number of initiatives were being taken in the educational field, noting for example in newer universities where innovative courses such as surveying was being offered, to cater to the increased demand created by the increased construction and building underway in the economic development that was taking place in Sri Lanka. Another example was insurance and others in the fields of arts and science and increasingly on technology.
The Minister also highlighted the positive linkages between businesses and universities, where the curriculum was designed in close partnership with the business community. Similarly students were now getting opportunities to train and become sensitive to business needs early in their academic studies, because companies were approaching students prior to their completing their examinations, that helped students have employment following the end of their studies.
Professor Peiris also highlighted the challenges of gaining admission to universities based on marks, the limited number of university places and the need to ensure more avenues in vocational education as well. There could be more flexible and supplement conventional university education, and the Minister noted that employment demands may be even higher in technical areas rather than traditional areas of education. The Minister also highlighted the increasing high levels of attendance by female student in Sri Lanka and the importance of access to education worldwide for all.