I have been personally involved in the currently raging controversy, where the powers who can effect change are unwilling to listen to the grievances of the students who have had their 4 year special degree course reduced to a general three year degree course! It is not as simple as that, but I just want to present an alternative view to the reader who may not have such strong opinions on the matter as the students who are directly involved in the encampment in front of the UGC.
What in essence is the problem? It is put simply the fault of the warped education system that has put these bright kids in this soup. I believe it is ONLY in Sri Lanka that most of the students due to their Z scores take the best!!! option offered to them, which in reality is NOT the best option for them.
To explain, a very good Z score and high district rank, could make you eligible to do Medicine. However a good doctor is the last thing you may turn out to be, but you go through it anyway, as that is what the society chooses for you, and NOT what you choose for yourself. You are doing yourself and your Country a disservice by taking advantage of a Rs9Million investment by the state in your education. There may be others who are or would be better doctors, who never enter Medical school because of the Z score they achieve, not being sufficient for a place in the state sector.
Those who fall into the latter category MAY with money get into either the Private Medical School, or the Sir John Kotelawala Medical school as the entry requirements are different. Some of them may be better than some of the same state medical school products.
In this vein, the those who do NOT get into Med School are then offered the Allied Health Sciences Courses, like Physiotherapy, and similar Health related fields. Are they those who would have preferred to be doctors and could not make it? I don’t know, just ask yourself that if you are one of them.
So these students feel that the 4 year course confers on them a better level of employability than the 3 year one. In fact NO ONE who has graduated from the 4 year course have been offered places in the State Hospitals as there is NO grade for them to enter, and they are still fighting for parity with doctors, when they are now treated like the diploma holders of the same field. So they are fighting for the rights that PRIVATE students who pay and get a degree get, so they are on a par with them, and can compete for the same jobs as them in the Private Sector.
If any of you fall into this category and disagree with my statements, please come out with your own honest interpretation of the story, as I am merely an outsider looking in and may misunderstand your point of view.
I heard one student say that KDA has a 4 year course, but I believe it is not free. Then there is a issue where to do the 4th year one has to have a high GPA. Either way there are very few students in this course in each University that offers the course, something like 40 students to the batch.
There is ALSO the allegation that the GMOA don’t want 4 year degree students competing with them in these fields. I don’t want to get into that argument here, as I believe that the GMOA don’t represent the interests of Sri Lanka and they only represents the interests of the members who belong to them and therefore we must always choose what is best for Sri Lanka, as they have had a lottery of Rs9M to start with that no others enjoy. With the lottery goes with it responsibilities that many of them don’t fulfill to their country nor do few work in rural areas that are desperately short of medical practitioners.
They are now fighting with the nurses over some other silly midwifery thing that they feel will affect them. Wait till the Nurse Practitioner comes into being because the doctors are too self important, and they will fight that tooth and nail, but it is inevitable that in rural areas that are badly served, trained Nurses will be the first person a patient sees who will determine how the case will be handled. Hey doctors you cannot have everything, if you refuse to see patients in rural areas then allow someone else to do your job, by your own inability.
Similarly with the Allied Health Sciences issue, we as a nation MUST decide who we want in our health services sector. Incumbent upon that we must train the people to fill the need NOT the want of the student that MAY NOT BE THE NEED OF SOCIETY. After it is the job of the Government to protect its citizens, and in the health care field it is simply to maximize the benefit of Health Care to the majority of the citizens who cannot afford to go private! If that means we only need 3 year graduates we must take the numbers needed for the services who are desperately short of the staff in these fields.
You choose your country in a 3 year course and fill the vacancies in the Public Health Sector, as currently you don’t fill that void, or you pay and go for the 4 year degree so you can go overseas and work. Isn’t that fair? Why should the state pay Rs1M for your course so you can leave and work overseas where you degree is recognized? I know the doctors do that and that is also wrong.
I know those of you on the course will not agree with what I am writing. I am taking the side of Sri Lanka first. It is not the course length you need, it is GOOD TEACHERS, who you don’t have now. If you have good teachers for a 3 year course, and it is known that you are well trained, then you can get to work a year earlier, as we need you much earlier than at 25 years of age. We want you to start working in hospitals at age 21.
Hospitals MUST give you the grade for your qualification, which must be on a starting income of a minimum of Rs20,000 a month, after proper experience as an intern. We need good physiotherapists in the state sector it is not funny. We need people rehabilitated and back to work as soon as possible without wasting their time in hospitals or at home. That is patients who undergo physiotherapy.
I can tell you how hard it is to find a good physio for my leg, and know how important GOOD TEACHERS are more than the length of the course. So don’t get stuck on a 4 year course, change your demands for GOOD TEACHERS then you will be richer, better trained, and YOU WILL BE IN DEMAND. Just think of the private work you can get if you are GOOD. Even while working in the Govt. sector. You must think outside of the box you have put yourself in.
Sri Lanka is DESPERATE for the skills you will have after your degree, if properly taught. Currently the private sector gets the cream of the teachers, and therefore the students get the cream of the jobs in the private sector.
So here is a check list to ask yourself:
1 Do I really like the course I am doing, and will I really enjoy that field of employment?
2 Can I agitate for the best teachers that the state can afford?
3 Is my syllabus GOOD or can it be improved further?
4 Is the health dept. offering me a post as soon as I graduate at a salary level that is adequate?
5 Will I be able to pursue high education after a period of training to specialize in a chosen area within my field of knowledge, so that I can become an expert, and rise up the ladder either in Sri Lanka or abroad after a period of service in Sri Lanka?
Once you are able to answer these you will look at your agitation in better light, and then make the better choices in your discussions with the UGC. Until then you will not be given the due respect as you are only agitating for selfish reasons.