I was having a general chat yesterday with an undergraduate at the Kaleniya Campus, who is studying for an accountancy degree, and at the same time working in an Accountancy firm as an Audit Clerk about what he expects for a future here in the profession and beyond.
I shall note the issues in point form so that any commentators can refer to the different issues separately if they so wish.
1 He did his A levels in Sinhala and had to hang around for over 20 months to get into University, to study, his course and exams being conducted exclusively in English! I asked him, had he known this at age 15 or before, would he have been more keen on making sure his knowledge of English was better than it was when he entered University? To which his answer was an emphatic yes.
What does that mean? The least his school could have done was while in his A level class discuss what they would like to do in University if they got and explained to them that English was a the exclusive medium of study for commerce and medicine and I believe even Engineering. So society and country has let him down there.
2 The time gap between sitting for A levels, say for example the students now sitting for A levels in August 2014 will get their results in April 2015 and enter University possibly in December 2015 if they are lucky, but it could be 2016. What a waste of time for our best and brightest students at the prime and peak performance of their brains to hang around wondering what to do, where they will end up and whether they will get the course and University of their choice, as only a minority will be so satisfied!
3 I then questioned him on the Course work at University, in accountancy and the books available and used for their studies.
Both I am afraid are outdated, in outdated concepts and principles that do not apply in the real world, anymore. I am a UK qualified Chartered Accountant familiar with the current trends and am qualified to make this observation, and he concurred with his limited knowledge as there are International Accounting Standards that our Companies need to comply with now!
4 Then I questioned him on the quality of his academic staff, who tutor and lecture him. As many are tenured and cannot be sacked, they do the minimum to get through the day and are NOT concerned about the learning of their charges. Of course there are a few who are exceptions to the rule. Some good teachers, moonlight in Private Universities, taught to students who are more fluent that pay them handsomely and therefore set aside their most productive time to them, rather than to these Kelaniya students, who may sometimes due to language difficulty, not appreciate the nuances of language and therefore certain concepts cannot be explained easily! The tragedy of our students despite whatever pomposity the FUTA state. Some academics moonlight in other jobs in the private sector including in the highly lucrative tuition industry.
5 Then I reminded him of the goat who has been just appointed as the VC of the Kelaniya University, a world apart from his replacement. This political appointment of Professor Sunanda Madduma Bandara, a political appointment being DG of Media Disinformation is a travesty to the Higher Education sector, unless of course his task is merely to do the bidding the GOSL and ensure students are kept from thinking. He also has a huge issue of an inferiority complex, disguised in a superiority complex that no amount of mental health counselling can change at this stage.
6 As a Chartered Accountancy student, he has to contend with the huge membership fees and other costs of Exams imposed by the Institute, and as I have pointed out in this blog only a tenth of the enrolled students have a chance of passing exams, due to a closed shop that only wants to pass out a certain number a year, instead of passing all those who come up to a passing mark, they change the pass mark to suit their allotment.
This practice is an unforgivable abuse of the fundamental rights of these students as they don’t know how it will affect their particular exam, and the playing field here is NOT level.
7 Once they qualify if they are fortunate, they are still faced with a problem of finding a job, and if they so do are faced with an initial monthly salary of Rs25,000 which at 30 the average age of a newly qualified accountant is a disgrace, when an experienced (of three years) electrician with NO qualifications can expect about Rs50,000 as a minimum.
8 Poor chap I just hope he did not go home and kill himself with this prospect of what we have done to our best and brightest. Killed all hope!
PS: I did remind him that to cap it all as if the above challenges were not enough, they have a student union dominated by the IUSF, an exclusive body, that does not allow competing unions, to promote their JVP leaning bankrupt policies on them. I asked this boy if at least one of the above issues are tackled by them as they are the most important for him, and IUSF does not.
Instead the IUSF is still struggling to STOP private education, and private universities, when 80% of tertiary students use this sector, and there is NOTHING the GOSL or they can do about it, as the GOSL has limited resources, and cannot take on all the tasks of educating all students in the state sector! A totally unrealistic dream.
They MUST concentrate on improving the quality of their product so that the future of their members is assured, as that is their primary responsibility in representing the interests of their members and NOT some political thinking!
NO wonder due to all of the above, the State Education results in unemployable, old, and outdated thinking graduates fooled into believing that the society owes them a living.
It is our duty to explain the facts of life to them so they are under NO illusions.