If “Foreign Unis will stop JVP hanky-panky”(news head line in Lakbima), is the reason why the Minister of Higher Education Mr. S.B.Dissanayake wants to set up International Universities in Sri Lanka, it has to be emphasised that it is not at all a wise decision .
The boycotting of lectures, going on strikes, and factional fist fights announce a sad depreciation of the system of university education in Sri Lanka.
From an interview the Minister of Higher Education Mr.S.B.Dissanayake gave to the Lakbima, one gathers very little about his idea of foreign universities he intends to establish in Sri Lanka . He himself seems to be confused on the issue.
He says that he does not like the term private universities, and speaks of 78 private universities that have already been opened, which are profit making concerns. Without speaking of what he intends to do with the 78 private universities grabbing money from students, he says he will set up international universities launching about 10 of them to begin with.
The whole idea of setting up international universities does not go with the present independent development programme envisaged by the Government of Sri Lanka. If the idea is to teach a lesson to the Inter University Students’ Federation and students influenced by the JVP , embroiled in constant strikes and most intolerable behaviour not expected of undergraduate of any respectability, the move to establish international universities is not the solution to the problem.
The Minister himself does not seem to be sure of what he means by setting up International Universities. To a question the interviewer from the Lakbima asked, “ What are the laws to be enacted for bringing the foreign universities into Sri Lanka?” The Minister answered, “ There are two ways to establish a university. If anyone has the capacity, for instance, we can give him a chance to establish a university”.
If that is the idea, it will only be creating problems as those we had with the NGOs and INGOs that invaded Sri Lanka after tsunami and interfered into internal affairs of the country. The government had a greater difficulty in getting rid of them. Does the Minister wants to create another such mess ?
If it is to invite established National Universities of foreign Countries like Oxford or Cambridge Universities of UK, Sorbonne or Bordeaux Universities of France , Berlin or Freiburg Universities of Germany , or Harvard or Stanford Universities of America, to set up Branch universities in Sri Lanka , the Minister’s proposal is acceptable, but definitely not if it is to invite any foreigner who has the capacity to establish a university, to set up a university in Sri Lanka. The latter would be changing pillows to cure a headache, and the worst of it would be if the wrong people posing as having the capacity were to set up Universities.
The leading National universities of foreign countries will not agree to set up branches here thought they may agree to open offices to register students for admission to their Universities.
The Minister of Higher Education has got the wrong end of the stick with his idea of setting up international universities. Instead on precipitating action on such a dangerous move, he should first take action to close down the 78 private universities that he says are degree selling institutions.
There is really nothing wrong with our universities accept that the politicians like Lal Kantha of JVP had been allowed to manipulate the university students far too long resulting in the chronic indiscipline that has infected the universities in Sri Lanka. Destroying the future of young graduates by involving them in manifestations and strikes to fulfil political ends should be condemned and it should be treated as a criminal offence and the perpetrators should be arrested and taken to courts.
Democracy is good as long as it is used for the welfare of the people and progress of the country. But when any one oversteps the bounds of liberty offered by democracy, that person should be taken to task. Sri Lanka is a fast developing country and every body should be able to make sacrifices and put their shoulder to the wheel of development. Strikes for increase of salaries , or better conditions of work should be put off until Sri Lanka has risen above its present development stage.
The university students of today are the tomorrows capital on which Sri Lanka depends for its vigorous development plans. They are the “brain” of the nation and they should not allow themselves to be manipulated by Lal Kantha or JVP or any other person or group. Their future lies in the future development of Sri Lanka therefore , they should prepare themselves with that prospect in mind.
Our Universities have the potential to reach Western university standards. An example is the University of Moratuwa- a leading University recognised the world over. It is therefore important to take corrective steps to improve discipline, and make the students understand that the University is an institution for the development of the intellectual capacity of young Sri Lankans to compete with the intellectuals of the world at large, and not to follow nincompoops like Lal Kantha to end up as casualties of the JVP’s political ambition.
The Minister of Higher Education instead of giving chances to foreign individuals “with capacity” to establish Universities, should make do with the existing National Universities to first, rank them according to their importance and improve their teaching standards, by recruiting instructors of quality, even “foreigners” to impart adequate knowledge to the undergraduates to prepare them for the competitive world beyond universities.
The language of instruction is no problem. No one should down grade instructions in Sinhala, or Tamil. Sri Lankans should be proud of their mother tongue, and should not be made to feel inferior because they have not received an English education. The Ministers contention that “……. Our students are mentally backward as they lack English language skills….” is wrong .
The French, Italian , German, Russian, Chinese, Spanish Universities provide university instructions in their respective languages. They provide facilities for students to study foreign languages. Why should it be different in Sri Lanka ?
English is a foreign language, therefore, these students of Sri Lanka should not be disparaged for their lack of English knowledge. But instead they should be provided with modern methods of learning foreign languages to make them proficient in English. Why not even in Chinese ?
English should be taught as a second language to all university entrants, so that they will have access to literature, modern science and technology .
But an important aspect of the University education the Minister should look into is the admission of Buddhist monks to universities.
The greatest disrespect and damage caused to the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka was the scrapping of the Privena System of education to Buddhist Monks, and admitting them to Universities. If some one can at least now rectify this great unpardonable error committed against the Buddha Sasana it would be another step towards the modernising of the Education system, and at the same time giving to Buddhism its rightful place of sanctity.
When an ordinary layman is ordained as a monk he adheres to 227 rules of Patimokkha. He gives up connection to lay life. But what has happened with the scrapping of Pirivena System and admitting Buddhist Bikkhus to Universities is that they have gone back on their vows of monkhood adhering to the patimokkha rules, and turned back to become laymen in yellow robes.
A monk has to live the life of a monk- a mendicant living on alms, not become an Administrator, Director of a Corporation, a teacher, Parliamentarian, a drivers, or a motor cyclists.
Therefore the Minister of Higher Education has to reform the existing Universities without setting up international universities, and above all he should separate the Sangha and the laity.
And while reorganising the universities for lay students, he should set up a separate university for Buddhist Monks, without allowing them to mix with the lay men and women. Buddha’s teachings including the disciplinary rules, cannot be changed to go with the modern way of living, or modern science and technological developments, because the teachings of the Buddha is timeless (akaliko)
The most disgusting sight we often see in manifestations in Sri Lanka university students, is the monks who take the forefront shouting slogans, with their robes in disarray, faces ugly with anger , disorderly, and for the most part unshaven and disgusting .
There should be a separate university exclusively for Buddhist monks. They should be instructed in Buddha Dhamma. But teaching foreign languages may enable them to spread the word of the Buddha.