Sunday, July 8, 2012

“6% GDP for Education, Save our Schools and Universities” That is the latest slogan of FUTA. Is that hypocritical or patriotic?

FUTA (correct me if I am wrong) represents the University Academics of the State University system. In short it is a trade union of just one category of public servants. They have been for over a year agitating for better conditions, on a par with others in the state sector with equivalent educational qualifications. So if a Central Banker, with a PhD with 20 years has a package equivalent with pensions of Rs200K they should also be on a part if they are a senior lecturer or professor with equivalent seniority.

One must remember that they have noted that in comparison with Dons in other Universities in South Asia, their remuneration pales in comparison. I beg that they do not use those comparisons, as most University lecturers from Sri Lanka who work overseas reside in countries other than South Asia. We do not know if the South Asia dons had to pay for their education, or a product of a free education environment, so such comparisons should not be made. We must also be careful in commenting about their remuneration and package in western educational institutions as that argument would then hold for all those qualified in SL in the free education system who use that to better themselves in overseas employment, a case in point being doctors.

Given the above we must first work out who FUTA are? Like all trade unions, they merely represent the interests of their membership and it is unreasonable to believe otherwise. How many members to they have? What exactly is their grouse, and what will really happen, other than the strikes, if they do not receive their demands?

In the fog or mist of their demands, the basics are missing. Their demands can be accessed on the net as
The quote on the lead is from the latest petition by FUTA which appears to be the way they expect to win their demands. I presume they decided to bundle all the issues with regard to the failure of our education system into their agitation, as that would be empathetic with a public, which have so far not been very supportive of the academics demands, due to their general lack of understanding of what is and what is not reasonable for these categories of academics. So is it fair to include the kitchen sink? 

Personally I believe they must fight their fight without bringing education policy into it as that is a whole different matter that requires National debate. However it appears that for whatever reason the Govt. does not wish to give into their demands, either because they believe they are not of sufficient power to influence the electorate, or are people who are too educated, so they can see the way the electorate is being hoodwinked. The government in their wisdom may prefer them to be engaged in agitating for their rights, rather than pointing out to their students, a far greater electoral population, the smoke and mirrors that the Govt. is engaged in. Therein lies the reasoning for this extended turf war. 

Students at Universities also do not currently curry favor with the Govt. so as pawns in this game suffering from closure and delay in their studies, seem to be an acceptable price, a lesson for them perhaps from the Govt. for their non compliance!

Finally the 6% figure up top is the GDP per cent they want the Govt. to spend on State education, no matter what the Private sector will spend on education as well on top of that, which will shortly exceed the above 6% rate. Look at the rate new educational establishments from Kindergarten to Post Graduate seem to be taking off in Sri Lanka today. 

It seems to be the fastest growing sector in Sri Lanka, catering to an enormous demand to get educated! I just hope that those finally receiving all this education will achieve their personal ambitions, as otherwise  this whole exercise will turn out to be the con of the century!

It is worthy to note that with a higher standard of living, no matter what the Govt. does or does not do, the amount spent on education will keep on rising. The real question is how productive is it? Does the nation get a reasonable return on this spend? Are there opportunities for the poor or less well off to develop within the sector? What is the Govt. policy with regard to the Private Public mix? 

No comments: