Sri Lanka still lacks an ambitious Higher Education Policy to accelerate economic and social development, Higher Education Minister Prof. Wiswa Warnapala said.“Since the establishment of the University of Ceylon in 1942, universities have made a contribution for the development of both intellectual and professional enterprise in the country. Several professions, through the University system, came to be developed in the country and like the Engineering profession, they have made an impact on the economic process and social change”.
The Minister was addressing the Induction, and Graduation Ceremony organised by the Institute of Engineers’.
Higher Education, following the developments in the 21st century, faces unprecedented challenges due to globalisation and importance of knowledge as the principal factor in development. The production and dissemination of knowledge are part of the development process based on an effective Higher Education Policy, the Minister stated.
Education in Sri Lanka, since the introduction of Free Education in 1944, helped the country to move towards greater social equality. Universal access, equality of opportunity and gender equality have been realised, and a strong human resource base has been established.
Differences in income produce differences in family and social environment and such factors tend to reduce considerably the opportunities of socially-disadvantaged children.
Though most of the students, who enter the universities come from rural areas there are still socially-disadvantaged children of backward schools in such areas who cannot enter the Universities.
This had created an imbalance in the system as these children, who are not provided with proper facilities, cannot enter the Higher Education system, he added.
Universities and policy-makers, were compelled to concentrate on undergraduate education at the expense of post-graduate education. More emphasis was laid on humanities and Social Sciences; the expansion of such sectors took place as a part of the enlarged role of the State in Higher Education.
This kind of higher education was not accompanied with a corresponding expansion of professional and technical education.
A number of professional institutions, engaged in higher education came into existence.
For instance, several professional organisations, operate outside the university system, provide opportunities for professional education and some of these organisations are in the public sector, catering primarily to the requirements of the public sector institutions.
More linkages have to be established with the Universities sector so that both sectors could benefit from each other.
Universities should not over concentrate on undergraduate education and move in the direction of both professional and post-graduate education.
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, he remarked.