Instead of a proper National Education Policy outlining the structures for all groups of Students, the typical adhoc silliness continues, with the latest salvo from the Minister of Higher Education, proposing that the University Entrance age be brought down to 16. (Does that mean due to the 2 year delay in starting, the student finishes his studies at 14?)
So let us take this and try and make sense of what brought about this dream or nightmare!!
1 Bringing down the age of entry will reduce classes nos, from 13 to 11. This will enable classes to be cut, and more resources to reduce the current 42 to a class. and give more specialist trained teachers to schools.
2 Revamp systems to ensure that those sitting for A levels will enter University within 6 months max if sitting for their A levels from the current up to 2 year waste of youth!
3 Graduating at 20+ with a 4 year degree will help students compete with Overseas qualified students of the same age, instead of now competing with much younger and more qualified and experienced graduates.
4 Demographics of Sri Lanka being such, with aging population, youth will be required to begin work earlier and work for longer to support a larger dependent population, and this will make this a necessary step anyway.
5 New technology has shown people peaking in their careers at an earlier age, and therefore the MOST PRODUCTIVE ages of youth must be exploited to the nation’s advantage, not keeping them lost in academies trying to get an education and more unneeded qualifications.
6 More vocation specific lines of study will be the order of the day leading to employment opportunities immediately upon qualification, unlike the huge waste of unemployable graduates waiting in vain for jobs at present.
7 I graduated a month after my 21st birthday with an honors degree in Economics from the University of Bristol, in England and this meant that I was able to qualify as a Chartered Accountant in England by the age of 24 after my degree.
Today’s graduate Chartered Accountants in Sri Lanka are past 30. By the age of 32 I had left the profession after 11 years of work, the final year was as a Manager at the London Office of an International firm of accountants with audit clients that are well known names in the UK and around the world.
Therefore I can speak from experience that it is a good thing to cut down on school years, as it permits a longer working life for people. Sri Lanka a country where until recently 55 was considered retirement age, did not permit sufficient years of work for a person’s lifetime, a complete waste of a human being, a human resource and to society at large. I invite comments for and against this idea. Let us begin the discourse.
One must understand that it costs parents to put kids through school and a reduction in the number of years will reduce their already huge burden despite the free education system theoretically prevalent in Sri Lanka today.
One big problem I foresee in early University Education is the reluctance of parents to release their young daughters into a University context, a fear that is less in Western Countries where women have more rights, and are able to protect themselves from abuse, and male-centric environment as exists in SL today.
Any parent who has a young daughter in University will vouch for the fact that they are petrified of the safety of their offspring, something they are not in sending their daughters overseas. That is why girls have to be in their halls by 8pm and not permitted guests, whilst there are no time restrictions for males.
This severely restricted movement of women in Universities is to protect them, and they then suffer the indignity of being able to be in the Library till 11pm closing time etc. or from attending other university or private functions after these hours.
The maturity of students of 16 in Sri Lanka is also an issue, as they have to be a little more independent than they presently are, not being used to more freedoms and rights that they have in overseas countries where they are able to be more independent of their parents at an earlier age.
In conclusion there are many factors that need to be taken into account with regards to University entrance, and I have mentioned some of them above. I will appreciate comments on your views in the matter.