We normally do not run editorials from local newspapers here, but perhaps today’s editorial from ‘Daily News’ raises some interesting points which we believe needs further discussion. This reproduction does not mean we agree or disagree with any of the points raised. (Question mark in the tile is added by us) – Ed
A THRIVING DEMOCRACY, Sri Lanka allows free expression of ideas. Protests and strikes have thus become part and parcel of our political landscape.
Unfortunately, they have almost supplanted the other time-honoured way of resolving disputes – negotiations. The latest trend is to go directly for protest campaigns or strikes without taking the negotiations route.
We witnessed a similar scene last week in the heart of Colombo, when Tharuna Aruna graduates took to the streets demanding employment in the State sector. They staged a sit-in protest for nearly two days, blocking a couple of important roads.
This created massive traffic jams which inconvenienced motorists and commuters. Police, implementing a Court order, finally dispersed them on Friday afternoon.
The Government has already announced that more than 2,000 graduates trained under the Tharuna Aruna programme would be granted employment. This news will be welcomed not only by the graduates themselves but also by the public.
The origins of the Tharuna Aruna programme point to the very shortcomings in our education system from Grade One to university level.
The main stumbling block is that the education system is not geared to the needs of the job market. Only around 20,000 of the students who sit the G.C.E. Advanced Level examination can enter the universities.
There is still no proper programme to guide the others towards job opportunities. Moreover, the subjects they learn at school, apart from English and perhaps Mathematics, have little or no relevance to the job market.
Hardly any technical subjects are taught at schools and there are only a limited number of places at technical and vocational colleges. Not everyone can afford to follow courses such as CIMA. Therein lies a huge dilemma for the education authorities.
The picture is not all that rosy for the graduates either. With the exception of medical interns, the State cannot guarantee jobs for all the graduates who pass out of the universities.
One must not forget that the present Government has already provided employment for over 40,000 graduates.
Even in the case of doctors, the possible completion of cadre numbers in the health service will make it hard for the Government to provide more appointments.
The Tharuna Aruna programme was aimed at addressing these problems. Designed and run with private sector help, it seeks to equip graduates for a private sector working environment. Even in a Government sector workplace, employees are now expected to have computer and English skills.
It is virtually impossible for the Government to provide State sector jobs for all graduates. Unfortunately, it is rather hard to change the ingrained attitude that a State sector job is fundamentally ‘better’ than a private sector one even if the salaries are lower in the former.
There have been many cases of graduates leaving well-paid private sector jobs for Government jobs. Perks such as tax-free salaries and the pension seem to play a role here, but the sooner graduates abandon this mindset, the better. The private sector is the engine of growth and gaining qualifications attractive to the private sector is the way forward.
Hopefully, the current education reforms are addressing the mismatch between job market requirements and the education system. Subjects such as Information Technology and foreign languages must be taught from lower grades.
The authorities should grant more opportunities for school leavers to pursue vocational training and similar studies. Only such an integrated approach can solve the unemployment problem.