Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is a free education at University a right? Or a Privilege we must be thankful for!

If the previous two blog entries are anything to take a cue from, we must think hard of how many Sri Lanka can educate free at the tertiary level, and what their responsibilities are to the state that gives them that education. Can they fulfill it?

It is best to imagine those who enter a State University in Sri Lanka are akin to those who win a scholarship owing to their marks. (Z score) Provincial barriers are now breaking, so it is time to rethink the District Quota system as it is now open to abuse, as shown in previous blog entries and should be scrapped in favor of merit.

It is therefore ONLY a pipe dream that we in Sri Lanka can educate ALL those who pass their A levels at state expense. That said, let us then conclude that those who get a scholarship to a state university, have a responsibility to the Country that educates them free of charge! How is that debt repaid to society as a whole?

If one uses doctors as the classic example, the best students in terms of A level results of their respective subjects get into the state medical colleges, with an intake now estimated at 1,000 a year, with 750 qualifying, the others dropping out.

They qualify with little or NO debt, unlike doctors anywhere else in the world who are burdened by heavy loans, which in the US amount to around $350,000. 250 doctors per annum, emigrate overseas not to return, who stand to most benefit from this Education. It is unfair, and NOW accepted as such, that the Country pay their education, just so that a host country enjoys the benefit of our Cost. Further successful doctors in Private Practice in Sri Lanka also have a chance of a good income, and even state doctors are permitted to moonlight outside normal hours, (many also do during normal hours, referring patients to their clinics to see them privately, once consulted in the state hospital making use of the catchment!)

Is it fair that they receive a totally free education? I know they say they have sacrificed 7 years to study, and do 5 years of internship in rural areas, maintaining that they give back that way, but is that really enough? Or should market forces prevail where they are charged for at least 50% of the cost of their education. The huge burden on the state in training a doctor, if it only benefits the doctor to earn a high remuneration, is not economically justifiable. I know of doctors who are excellent specialists, who if they had to pay for their education, would not have been able to enter medical school, and therefore will be denied this chance.

It is not easy to select just a few for this privilege, whilst the majority don’t benefit, except if you refer to them as scholars who have won a privileged scholarship.

As a comment in my prior blog entry suggested, a free education distorts market forces in an open economy such as ours where labor is free to offer their services to the highest bidder anywhere in the world, and therefore must be market based, with a few exceptions for scholars, which any country would like to treat specially!   

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