I refer to your report of the speech by Prof. Wisva Warnapala,
Minister of Higher Education published on August 7. I am particularly
commenting on the following statement by the Minister:
‘Education planners in the last several decades, overlooked the
necessity to re-orient policies from the point of employability. The
university curricula have not been modernised in the last several
decades in such a way, so as to see that they get linked to the
availability of employment.
The courses, both in content and relevance, do not relate to the
employment market, and this mismatch between education and training
provided by the State and the demand of the market place has created a
major crisis in the minds of the educated, primarily the youth who tend
to get frustrated as a result of the absence of immediate employment’.
If this is the case, the question is what steps are being taken by
the Ministry of Higher Education and the University Grants Commission to
correct the situation?
They should be pro-active and come up with proposals to introduce
changes in the degree programmes and university curricula, particularly
in the case of social science and humanities programmes, to make the
offerings more oriented toward employability.
The Ministry can come up with specific policy changes that the
universities should follow, and necessary guidance and resources
provided to the universities to implement changes to the programmes.
Not by way of imposing changes but in collaboration with the
Universities to introduce changes. A project team can be instituted in
the UGC and the Ministry to monitor the changes.
An example from Australian Universities can be useful in this
endeavour. In the past, as in Sri Lanka, here also there were degree
programmes such as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Sciences,
Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Economics or Nursing.
Realising the ill-effects of this compartmentalisation of disciplines
and subjects, university leaders came up with the idea of combined
degrees whereby the undergraduates can take a programme in arts and
education, arts and law, economics and arts and so on.
Such combined degrees are highly popular here as they provide two
avenues for future careers for the undergraduates. If they only followed
a degree programme in arts, or social sciences you can imagine how
limited their employment opportunities would be?
As an academic who used to teach at the University of Peradeniya
until the mid 1980s, I am aware of the fact that Sri Lankan universities
also had the concept of combined degrees.
Where the Australian and Sri Lankan degree programmes under this
label differs is in the fact that the Australian programmes include a
social science/humanities component and a professional component.
While the former provides a generic knowledge and analytical basis
for the students, the latter provides a professionally oriented
‘recognised’ skills basis. Thus one can be employed as a law
professional, teacher, nurse, economist, scientist or whatever depending
on the nature of the combined degree chosen.
While the universities in Sri Lanka enjoy a high degree of freedom in
matters to do with curricula, my suggestion is for the Ministry of
Higher Education and the University Grants Commission identify
significant resources to be provided to universities that will agree to
introduce changes to their combined degree programmes, if they already
exist or introduce such programmes, if they do not exist in their
A time frame such as two years should be given to develop and
introduce such programmes or to make changes.
Co-ordinating teams and their leaders should be identified in each
university for this purpose from the relevant faculties. Once
implemented, such programmes can enhance the potential of graduates to
be employed in the public or private sector.
As in any other organisational sector, there can be various kinds of
resistance to such a proposal. However, the Ministry and the UGC have to
be firm in their approach to getting the Universities implement such
changes and improvements to their programmes.
The days of learning for the sake of learning are over. Children who
enter universities should have the option of studying for a recognised
combined degree that will provide them with an avenue for employment in
a professional or para professional field.
In the past combined degrees were looked at by undergraduates and
some academic staff also as second class degrees compared to Bachelor of
However, given the mamoth changes in society and the world that have
taken place as a result of globalisation etc, such attitudes cannot
University leaders, higher education bureaucrats and the Minister
need to look for creative synergies that can be developed in teaching
programmes, and necessary legal, resource and intellectual support are
to be provided with a clear target in mind.
The days of mere criticism of the past or existing programmes and
their weaknesses should be replaced with clear policy and programme
changes introduced from the Ministry, supported and monitored with
necessary resources and project implementation teams perhaps in each
It was reported that over seventy visitors, a majority of them school
children climbing the Sigiriya Rock were admitted to nearby hospitals
following a severe attack by wasps (bambaru).
The time has come to get rid of these dangerous wasps as humanely as
possible to make the site secure for the visitors. Very soon a fatal
wasp attack might lead to loss of life.
Cultural triangle officials blame the schoolchildren for disturbing
the wasps but there is no room for both the wasps and the visitors at
All the visitors pay to enter the premises and the foreign tourists
pay a hefty entrance fee. It is the duty of the officials to protect the
visitors. Any fatality might lead up to very expensive and damaging
litigation and the demand of financial compensation.
There is some confusion in understanding the short essay I wrote on
1. Animals are subject to less variables than humans. Animals and
humans who lack intact senses - dumb, deaf, blind etc. are of course
subject to still less. It does not mean that they are therefore ‘better
They are in fact ‘worse off’ because they cannot experience all
feelings, perceptions, intentions as they actually are. That is, they
cannot fully comprehend Dhamma of variation (i.e. consciousness). Else,
a maggot would be an arahat!
2. The seeming dispassion of a buffalo is a metaphor. Dispassion (viraga)
is more than stoical indifference to the vicissitudes of life or
dispassion in diversity.
I referred to non-delight (anabhirata), serenity (samadhi) and
equanimity (upekkha) but did not expand.
Briefly, as laymen, we cannot get to and beyond dispassion in unity.
It is a complicated subject. See the Fire Sermon.
3. Vinnana is not knowledge. Vinnana sometimes means mind (citta).
Knowledge is nana.
In Dhamma, perception comes before knowledge; and perception leads to
description. The difference between perception (sanna) and knowledge is
in kind, not in degree as mistaken in the Visuddhimagga. There is some
elasticity in the use of words in Dhamma.