Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The looming crisis in Education - Parents MUST be held responsible for!

I was in conversation with some teachers of State Schools in the Provinces, who made a startling observation about the parents of their charges, and the pressure they place on their children to attend all types of after school tuition classes, which result in their children’s inability to do ANY form of extra-curricular activity.

This means that either Cadeting, Scouting, Athletics, Contact Sports, Cricket Activity teachers have fewer kids following their programs. This goes completely against the grain of building leaders of the future, and well-rounded students who can take on all comers. Which begs the question, that we as a country is becoming further divided into Private Education, arming their charges to face the world as well rounded and consequently, children with many interests and pastimes, where Public Education is directing children further towards by rote education to pass exams, in the mistaken belief of parents that, these extra-curricular activity is OF NO USE for later life.

This together with the spoilt generations, where mothers take their children by scooter to school, or the father by motorbike, means they refuse to walk the 15 minutes to school from villages, if either of them is indisposed, that they resort to ordering the local three wheeler driver to take them instead. This breeds a child who has never walked to school, is NOT used to getting any exercise, as they don’t do any sport activity either, effectively leading to childhood obesity, due to COMPLICITY on the part of parents who don’t seem to understand how seriously their actions, giving into their children’s needs, to say nothing of the smart phone menace that has now embroiled all rural schools, as a fad, is now producing a zombie.

The child does not know the way to their own school if they are taken by car, as the child is engrossed in their phones all the way to school! They cannot find their way to school, they have lost any sense of direction, independence, and assertiveness of doing things on their own, having everything done for them.

If this sounds like how Colombo 7 children, think again. The Colombo children are encouraged on the whole by enlightened parents to follow other pursuits, and parents often get very involved in their children’s activity through active parent teacher groups encouraged by the schools.

In provincial and rural schools, teachers don’t encourage parental involvement, many teach not for the love of teaching but for the appointment at the rural school they receive “as a right of passage” looking for the first opportunity to be transferred! How then can students get a good education?

When pressed for answers from parents in the provinces when I made this accusation direct to them as to why they don’t encourage their kids to be more independent, they gave some very disturbing reasons.

One was that all children follow their peers. They cannot study without going to tuition, because not only are teachers not up to teaching standard, but all their friends also go to tuition, so they insist on it. If asked to go to Cadet, they say that it is NOT safe as the children will be mixing with rough kids of the neighborhood and become part of these school gangs and also get introduced to the drug culture lurking around in schools, when they turn their heads from having their children under their constant gaze!

I found this excuse quite unexpected! The fear of children getting introduced to soft of hard drugs was paramount. They cant even trust peppermint as drugs are infused in such products, and they have to protect their children from them. I don’t know how true this is in reality, but it is definitely a reason given for being overprotective over their kids.

I am at a loss as to what to do in this situation! Does it mean we are bringing up different types of students from different backgrounds and open to all sorts of addictions which were NOT present in our day. They tell me that International Schools are also hives of drug activity, so they don’t see that those children get a better education despite the results overall to the contrary.

I believe that parental involvement of parents is the KEY. Rich or poor, we cannot trust the environment around our children, but we MUST get involved in making every attempt that they get an all-round education that will build character and leadership, being able to stand on their own feet in society, and be empowered to become independent despite close parental supervision in their progress, with or without tuition.

So how do we go about doing this? Parents education of how to manage the pressures of today’s society, with a drug culture that pervades Cities and Villages alike. We may have to explain to them what is needed in society for their children to succeed in a competitive world, not being mollycoddled to an extent of being unable to do anything for themselves.  

So how can we explain the importance of BAHIRA AVABODAYA? Especially as today’s children are stuck in their own world, home, smart phone, selfishness, not sharing with others, or for that matter not even playing with others at home or at school, with at most one best friend with whom they will do all their after school activity. This I believe is an important topic for discussion in developing a broad based education for our youth.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pareto Principle Revisited

The Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) found that 80% of the effects came from 20% of the causes, and that rule has existed thereafter in applying to everyday instances where 20% effort leads to 80% of the results.

What we as practitioners of this rule MUST determine is what 20% of effort to choose to achieve this 80% of the results as otherwise you turn this on its head!

This is therefore a guide to all of us, to know that in doing anything, we must understand what is the most productive 20% of any action, to reap the maximum reward? This will save time and money on hair-brained schemes that achieve nothing because we are focusing on the wrong agenda or action!

By the way Pareto found that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people, another way of using this 80/20 rule.

So how do we apply this principle to our everyday lives? It is all about prioritizing our lives, to maximize satisfaction!

The attached link is not directly Pareto related, but goes to show that some people even with the wherewithal get bogged down in minutiae that they could very well afford to delegate to paid labor, servants maids, chauffeurs call it what you will so they have a greater sense of enjoyment.

Pareto if he lived today, would tell people to use his principle to determine what is important, prioritize them and then put them in order of importance, and attack the most important one first that will give you the greatest satisfaction and often, only when you list it, will you realize that both cost the same or take the same time, but are immensely different in their personal satisfaction index.

So in my case, though I own only two vehicles, both two wheeled hand tractors that are over 15 years old and would NOT have a resale value of even $100 each,  and do not have a bank account that will enable me to get even the cheapest car one could find, I still have the use of a company car and driver, that enables me to get home at any hour of the night from any event, back to the farm from even a night out in Colombo, not bad for a disabled person who is unable to drive at the moment. In the same vein, I know many who have cars worth Rs40M in their Colombo Garages who tell me that their driver goes home at 5pm so they are NOT able to come unless someone picks them up! 

How absurd is that? Does the car or a night driver give more satisfaction?  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The story of Dinesh – is the story of Sri Lanka – we all have it in us to achieve


What I do often when I interview 20 somethings who are looking for jobs is to open their EYES.

They come to me with their eyes closed, blind for want of a better word, and all I can do, is to try and make them see. No one, yes No one seems to have had the presence of mind to shake our youth from this unreal dream they have, into this world of real opportunity that they know nothing about.

Sometimes we say oh today’s kids just don’t enjoy life like we did when we were young, yes that is true, and it is also true for the generation before that, and before that. That is called life, as each year changes from the year before, nothing remains the same, and its tough, but we just have to accept it and learn to live with it.

Something however has changed with today’s youth who are ZOMBIES, mechanical robots, lifeless ghosts, expressionless statues, ‘you get what I mean!’

So it is extremely heartwarming when a story like Dinesh’s hits the media, see link below which is well worth reading:

Full marks then to this young man, who wins the Gold Medal, and all this in just 8 months. Thanks to Dilmah, that is doing a stirling job finding, plucking and then enabling with their funds, to allow these little gems of our youth who come from the most unfortunate of circumstances, a chance at getting a REAL foothold on life.

I keep saying those born in Sri Lanka are the best of the best on earth, and our systems fail them, our education eats them up and sucks out all the creativity that God has given, and it is now up to us to correct this gross deceit of false promises and expectations and turn it into a productive outcome just like in the case of Dilmah that has enabled this young man Dinesh to take the first step out of poverty and insecurity to help himself and his country as a worthwhile citizen.

It is this can do spirit that must return, as years of entitlement culture spawned by self-serving politicians, who have used government jobs carrot to manipulate the masses into being political hacks merely to expect government largess, which had led to this state of impotence. 

Let’s applaud and emulate Dilmah

Boredom – “a light bulb moment waiting to happen”

The article written today in the BBC website link below, proposes the hypotheses that boredom, may actually be a sign of creativity or may result in a font of new ideas that improve one’s own quality of life, let alone introduce something that benefits the world around us.

Personally I don’t like to use the word bored at all, it is contemplation time that I would rather call it, that now as I age and wake up at 4am each morning have an hours thinking time, and this thinking is what I have put down in my blog here at as most of which is original thought borne out of thinking. Over ten years I have over 1,000 blog entries mostly generated out of this thinking/kalpanakarana welawa, and hence the blog name.

Different people have different abilities and desires. I gave up a fairly interesting life overseas, in a material sense, having lived there for 33 years. Then, I could indulge in my favorites like smoked salmon and malt whiskey, going to the horse races or driving around the National Parks, or driving my Jaguar on intercontinental road trips, (my car crossed the Atlantic twice) those pleasures I get extremely infrequently these days, and returned to Sri Lanka, thirteen years ago to see what I could do, and also to contribute something to the fabric of this society, at that time engrossed in a brutal civil war.

So this excessive thinking I seem to engage in, as an antidote to depression if I merely consider my circumstances alone! Has led me to expound on hair brained ideas, which in reality appear far more sound and grounded than some of the actual events I read about in Sri Lanka on a daily basis.

What I mean above, is that the reality SOAP OPERA that is played out in the media, documenting what is going on in this country, of the very reporting of the day to day work of our leaders and their henchmen, makes my ideas borne out of boredom/thinking time seem like a walk in the park, staid and mundane.

Contrary to popular myth as evidenced in social media about my life, (remember FB only shows an event when I am out and about) it is quite solitary, and purposeful on mundane activity of living and earning and paying one’s way to survive in this world, when one is relatively parsimonious out of necessity, I fortunately due to my inquisitive nature and enquiring mind and voracious appetite for gaining ideas on some new aspect of thinking, spend all the remaining waking hours day dreaming with a purpose.

What is that purpose? it is simply ways and means on how we in Sri Lanka can improve the quality of life of everyone who lives here, and voila is the result. Thinking about it now, I could have changed the heading of the essay to why I named this blog and how I found an outlet there for sharing these bits of wisdom, some more off the charts than others, but nevertheless a breadth of fresh air.

I suppose I am frustrated that I have not been able to get it to the audience who really would benefit from most of this writing and that is the Sinhala speaking youth, who will find inspiration here for their purpose in life, something I find sadly lacking in them due to their poor education, that has replaced thinking with rote learning.

Anyway, coming back to the topic, I want to suggest to my reader that they set aside time in their day or week for doing nothing, (easier said than done) to explore their thoughts and find their inner self first, to know what makes them tick, and want to get up in the morning, and TRY to do something in life that makes them happier, as all our lives have the happy times and sad time, the good times and bad times, and we must just try to lengthen the good, while minimizing the bad, in order to enhance our happiness.

All this sounds very philosophical, but delve into the long article in the link, read it carefully, as it requires three passes at it before you understand in essence what it is trying to say, even though you think you got it the first time round. These kinds of articles never appear in normal reading, or media, and require some contemplation in applying it to your own circumstances.

Frankly, life is monotonous without the element of creativity, or improvement to a task or function we currently indulge or engage in. This exercise helps you to find a further step up in the satisfaction index, without having to be enslaved in the salvation of religion to rush to in times of crisis, as that does NOT solve your problems, this creative and contemplative time of day dreaming COULD actually be the savior of our mundane lives into something that is far more meaningful and purposeful.

In a crazy world where time is the last thing we have, where we rush around like headless chickens to simply live, we will find ourselves dead before we have time for ourselves; a moment before sleeping or soon after waking, at the silent time of the day to think about improving our lives for the better and with it the lives of others. Then set the day in motion by taking those ideas into the day and act on some aspect of our creativity we get in this eureka moment, for want of a better word. It is inadvisable to merely live an eventful life full of engagements, or fill ones day and dates with activity for oneself or ones children without the 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A worthy critique on the true value of Higher Education – Qualifications!

Today’s Daily Mirror has an excellent article on the value to society of Higher Education. I recommend you read it and I just wish it is published in Sinhala, so that our intelligent students aiming for qualifications realizes that to mean much it is how knowledge is used for the benefit of oneself AND society that matters most.

I was thinking how we in Sri Lanka value qualifications above all, and spend a lifetime to acquire them in the belief that society judges our worth by the number of letters we have after our names and that somehow enables us to be thought off highly by people. Well to an extent it is true in Sri Lanka, as that is how we are programmed like robots to think.

This reminded me of an event I attended recently, where we spent so much time going through the persons achievements, especially the qualifications that person had to somehow bestow an aura that what he or she has to expound due to these qualifications is somehow far more reliable and believable than someone who does not have an iota of qualification, though years of life experience on the subject from which to expound their hypotheses.

Sri Lanka has dismally failed in everything we do, because though we have the most qualified accountants, there are more double and triple accountants in Sri Lanka than anywhere else in the world, however we have the LEAST BUSINESS savvy accountants in the world too, who don’t understand how a business is truly run, and the new methodology of adaptability each second to changes in the environment in which a particular business operates.

I as a farmer can with my hand in my heart say, that the SL farmer is the most attuned to constant changing environments. He even has to deal with changes to his prices many times a day. If you go to a Pola, and you see the farmers bringing their produce to sell, you will see them JUDGE the lay of the land, look at the competition, and set the price and change that price during the course of the day to match supply with demand, and leave with ALL the produce they brought sold, as otherwise they will just have to throw the perishables away.

So UBER you guys are not the first to have a changing price model, the farmers of Sri Lanka beat you to it, and you SIMPLY ADAPTED it to the vehicle hire business to match supply and demand on a moving continuum, using new technology to enable you to more efficiently manage this model for your benefit. Where in our Universities is this kind of lateral thinking adopted?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Wholescale employment of girls under 18 mainly in retail shops – whose fault is it?

Samanmalee Gunasinghe who is the Co-President of the Women for Rights Movement (JVP affiliated hell raising mouthpiece with NO rational vision) made a statement yesterday, at a press conference to the effect that women are being exploited by the retail trade, against the law of the land, in that those under 18 are being employed for long hours as long as from 8am to 12 midnight!

Is this an allegation AGAINST the Government? Against unscrupulous retailers? Or against women themselves for allowing themselves to be exploited in this way?

Frankly she has missed the BOAT. She must direct her IRE at the JVP itself which associates with every TRAITOROUS intention in our society, which prides itself on taking our country in reverse, which does not have an overall vision of progress for the individual, the very same person that they supposedly are fighting for, and against the establishment. Simply put it is the JVP that allows exploitation of all due to the causes they espouse, befriending the INDEFENSIBLE.

To be on point here, why are youth as young as 14 employed in shops? You look at almost every shop window, for example in Maharagama, an area I frequent, and you see vacancy boards for shop assistants. The shop keepers wish to open hours to provide a service to their customers, and business for themselves, but they SIMPLY CANNOT FIND employees to do those jobs. They have to battle between being competitive, sell all their stock, open all hours for customer convenience, offer a good service to attract repeat customers, MOST OF ALL FIND THE STAFF TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE!

Why are there so many vacancies? IN fact Sri Lanka has a Million Vacancies and we have over a Million people working in jobs that add to why this Country is going in reverse instead of providing a quality of life for its citizens.

In short JVP unions that protect its people, in obtaining a salary for unproductive work. There is NO worker exploitation in a country that has ONE MILLION VACANCIES as people have the option of leaving and joining a company that they feel works for them. So UNIONS merely protect their membership from competition, and threat to their gravy train of ignoble earnings. Be they the GMOA, be they THE PORT WORKERS UNION, be they IUSF students or be they UNEMPLOYED GRADUATES ORGANIZATION, they are merely trying to get something for nothing!

UNEMPLOYED GRADUATES, when no one in their right minds should be sitting at home NOT working when there are so many available jobs. Even more so for these graduates, traitors of our country, for sitting at home, when there is so much work to do to build this Country to a successful state from a failed nation status. These unemployed graduates, have the common sense surely to see that they can contribute to society, RATHER THAN wait for a job they are NOT capable of doing effectively and often being a burden on the State.

How can you justify someone who has been sitting at home for 4 years waiting for a teaching appointment that they believe is DUE TO THEM? At least that person should have spent that time while waiting for so long, to improve his skills if he had the wherewithal, or at least keep him or herself occupied in some constructive manner, hopefully also earning a living, so they get some idea of what living is all about, independence, managing with what they have got, and perhaps even finding their niche in life, discovering that the job they were originally waiting for is really not one that will give them the security and sense of satisfaction they originally believed they would get.

IT IS THE JVP who seem determined to prevent scholarship, prevent new avenues of hope, and prevent the enterprising from bettering themselves. Lets be clear, I agree there should be rules to prevent slave labor, exploitation, and abuse, I have campaigned for all that. However when a girl, who believes rightly or wrongly that she can earn some money working in a shop, while at the same time pursuing her studies, there is nothing wrong with that. We may wish to limit the hours a girl of 16 can work in a shop, just like in other Countries, but to prevent them from working to help them on their way in life’s ladder, by taking the first steps is abhorrent. DO they want people like the unemployed graduates at 38 still sitting at home, or a 16 year old contributing fully to the service sector of the land? The 16 year old is contributing to boosting the GNP while the 38 year old has leached on the state for all of the 38 years! With full backing of the JVP!

I would ask this Samanmalee to concentrate on making sure that women are protected from exploitation by ensuring there is a night bus service so these girls can go home, safely and cheaply, instead of being exploited by the three wheeler driver who belongs to their JVP affiliated association to protect their rights, so they can turn that girl into a LADY OF THE NIGHT! By offering her a sweetener belittling her retail job over one of pleasuring a punter or a JOHN!

There are many things that an organization representing women’s rights should DO. Please prioritize women’s rights. It should be harassment on transport, and a cry for safe public transport for them to get to work, NOT concentrating on areas, where women are further prevented from working/ earning a living!  

Should we surely not be grateful for living in a Country where there are employment opportunities galore, with the only bar being our unsuitability for what we are aspiring to! We should therefore change our aspirations or train so we are suitable for that position. NO ONE OWES US A LIVING

PS Those who feel they can better themselves overseas, while availing a free education provided by their motherland don't have to repay that cost to the state either, how fortunate that is! 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

National Trust Lecture on the SINHALA ATTITUDE TO KNOWLEDGE by Dr G Uswatte Arachchi @ HNB Towers on 29th June at 6.30pm.

Dr Uswatte Arachchi, is a former Central Banker, CEO of Marga Institute, UN Civil Servent, Economist who did his doctorate at Cambridge etc etc.

I was confused about the topic, as to what it meant. Despite, Dr G U A being quite feeble and old now, he was not well enough to stand to deliver the lecture, so he read out his lecture seated with instructions to the operator to change the slides on his command.

In some cases one had to concentrate a lot to be able to appreciate the nuances and stanzas and changes of dialect to explain what he was on about! His accent and the slight LISHP he had added to that difficulty. I wish the lecture notes were available on line to read afterwards to better grasp these concepts.

I am afraid the Colombo OLDY types who attend these (the National Trust Membership) other than the likes of Professor Gananath Obeysekere who too is feeble, but attended, fail to understand the intellectual gravitas of his speech. It is even more important TODAY to understand why we Sinhala are hidebound from understanding concepts and new technology because of the language and ITS INABILITY to intellectualize the words they use for the new concepts that are part of colloquial English today, that have not dispersed into the Sinhala usage due to the lack of meaningful words being created!

TO be honest it is that much more difficult therefore to write and so in answering exam questions especially in new technology, IN SINHALA, the student is AT A DISADVANTAGE when compared to that of the one who is fluent in English and is able to communicate in English.

That is what this attitude to knowledge really means! There is little appreciation of new knowledge concepts by those whose job it is to devise the words needed!
He mentioned Kumaratunga Munidasa and why he was not sufficiently well recognized in his endeavors and others like Martin Wickremasinghe, and the Anagarika Dharmapala were also referred to.

Sadly there is a huge dearth of real talent even in the Sinhala Language despite the large numbers of people studying Sinhala at A level, due to the lack of alternative subjects at their schools. Sinhala scholars with absolute knowledge today are few and far between, who are sufficiently eminent and conversant of the problem that the Dr Uswatte Atachchi referred to, and this results in a distinct lack of intellectual debate on how Sinhala words change with the times. The likes of Gunadasa Malalasekera still hold forth due to the lack of examples.

The synopsis above is by someone who is NO academic or with no credentials to talk, except to express a personal opinion on what I believe is a problem that persists and needs to be solved, so that we are able like the Japanese and the Germans, to only use their languages in scholarly writings for people using their vernacular can follow, at a better level of understanding than merely be relegated to FB Sinhala that serves NO useful purpose in the overall scheme of academic discourse.