Background & Thought Process
Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has been working tirelessly to uplift the education levels of its citizens. This effort was fully supported by the successive governments and a few years ago the country did achieve 97% youth literacy level (overall 92%). The society is now equipped with the fundamental skillset. As the definition goes, by and large, Sri Lankans are now capable of reading, writing and understanding a simple written sentence.
Having had many ups and downs and a 25-year infamous insurgency/civil-war spell in the past, now Sri Lanka strives hard to march forward to achieve greater socio-economic heights. However, the country is faced with many a hurdle to overcome in this process. Some of the challenges are highly society-centric and it is imperative that Sri Lanka finds solutions and remedies for its woes sooner rather than later, if the country wants to be a winner!
Sri Lanka’s policy makers should understand that the literacy level is not a total panacea for all the country’s challenges or the final goal. But, literacy per se is insufficient to provide the thinking-ability, intelligence and/or wisdom one would need for life. Let us take a simple example. If one read some politically biased, irrational post in the social media, can he/she take the content as Gospel truth? What would one need immediately after reading this sort of post?
We should be able to debate and understand the matter within, well, before reacting, this is a vital part of life. If that is the case, the question: ‘how do we do it’ emerges. This is only one of the areas. Also, there are many other misconceptions that should be identified and rectified.
As we reckon, the school, university and professional education is highly self-centred in Sri Lanka (It could be so in many other countries too). The system is highly geared for competition, more than learning or experiencing, and it is all about cramming and passing examinations with flying colours to get to the top slots of the next level. This process might be curtailing the development of certain brain faculties in the long run as this system could create certain unfavourable restrictions on free thinking.
Lack of time for extracurricular activities, sports and the like could aggravate the effect of these adverse conditions. In the case of school education (upto General Certificate of Education Advanced Level), most parents, unfortunately, are concerned about the subject grades of children rather than their mental health due to the severe competition that prevails. We are a society which has been inculcated from the kindergarten with the idea that the only way up the social ladder for many, (considered as social mobility in the western world) is through education.
Our Society and Culture
Our culture is said to have been influenced by Buddhism chiefly - physical wealth should not be seen in the same way as in a western society, and so is competition. Ideally, our day-to-day decisions should get influenced by religious doctrines. Also we call Sri Lanka a democracy. But, one aspect that affects us largely is the divisions in the society. Social strata is quite visible, be it ethnic, religious, caste or economic.
Bridging the Gap
A wide gap, between, where the country stands at present (in general) and the ideal situation, where it should be, has been identified. Bridging this gap should not be as mammoth a task as one would imagine, but we should embark on a plan somewhere to start this bridging process, and narrow down the gap at least! This would take a lot of effort, considerable amount of time and commitment.
This plan is the “Skill Conference”.