Whither University Education?

The training of the young entrants to the universities seems to be never ending. First they were requested to follow leadership training courses where they underwent training in what one hopes will help them to cope with the unholy situations of ragging and the regular close down of universities due to student clashes. In fact it is seldom that any university is able to have a continuous academic year of education. The universities themselves while outwardly giving appearance of being centres of learning with structured buildings have dormitories and rooms that perhaps have not been cleaned for years, fans are non operative in many rooms and it appears that wardens who in the early days of university education carried out periodic inspection of rooms and other supervisory tasks have now given up attempting to bring any order to the chaos that prevails. The present day university student reminds one of a generation of angry and resentful young men and women who regard the slightest attempt at any type of discipline with angry reactions.

Dissatisfaction seems to be the prevailing ethos in the campuses with the university dons protesting against salary anomalies and refusing to carry out their work till such anomalies are corrected. One wonders whether when and if those anomalies are corrected the rest of the staff especially the minor staff will not also request salary changes and think of taking trade union action! In fact our ailing university system does need drastic changes!

But while that is necessary keeping the new entrants from really starting their courses of study too is delaying the opportunities for the young hopefuls to benefit from their education. Now they are expected to follow an English course based on the online test results, and then will most probably be a computer training course, by the time the new entrants finish these courses it will be time for a new generation of students to be sitting for their University Entrance and Advanced Level Examination. Already over twenty thousand students were qualified to enter the universities on last years AL results and this twenty thousand hopefuls must have been waiting for a chance to start their studies but instead they are been sent for various extraneous training courses which take their time and would be sources of discontent especially to those who are from rural areas.

Furthermore when hopefully the Dons issues are settled the Campuses in the Colombo and perhaps its suburbs and those like Ruhuna may start functioning but those in the other provinces will yet be under going step motherly treatment as has happened so often before with lack of sufficient lecturers and facilities. In addition it appears that the much hyped presentation of computers to the new entrants will  not be given  gratis , the student will have to obtain a loan from one of the most probably state owned Banks and pay for them by installments when they gain employment,when the later is any one’s guess  given the job opportunities available at the moment for youth.

 Often today one sees certain private sector organizations calling for online applications for management trainees, this certainly will allow only English educated computer savvy youth to apply , thus in a way once again denying chances for those rural students who are qualified but lack the required proficiency in English and computer knowledge .

Certainly it is time that the Minister of Higher Education and his team of senior bureaucrats consider the existing realities already affecting the thousands of students in universities  without merely concentrating on training the new entrants who will be passing their years in being trained in courses that should have been provided in the schools if they were a requirement for Higher Education or else another year should be added to the AL student class so that they would get proficient in the skills in English obtain computer knowledge . Now not only are the new entrants being yet unsure of when they are going to start their university careers but those already in eth campuses are deprived of the apparently needed abilities for job requirements. No wonder the present university students are angry young men and women volatile reacting in anger and violence to any real or imagined slight for even the new training of the new entrants is considered not only an insult but a threat to their future prospects.

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