Say country has to reform the education system including vocational training
By Zahara Zuhair
It was stressed at a recently concluded forum in Colombo that Sri Lanka should standardize and upgrade the skills of its labour force, as the country at present mostly relies on quantity rather than quality.
Former ILO Employer Specialist Gotabaya Dassanayake said that even after having 70 years of free education, the question that still remains is how the country’s human resource can move up the value chain.
“Why do we have to be a nation supplying unskilled labourers to the world? What has happened over the years? If we have to go to the root of the cause, it comes to the education system,” he said.
He noted that as only around 25,000 students are enrolled to State universities, the youth in the rural areas do not have much options to go forward and are not aware of the choices available either.
He suggested that it is important to have career counselling in every rural school and there should be a teacher trained in career guidance.
People Power International Sdn Bhd, Malaysia, Managing Director Dr. Suresh Marcandan said that Sri Lanka needs to establish a ‘holistic system’ which is called ‘creating a competitive identity’ to galvanise the entire country.
He also said it is important to create a conducive environment, in order to regain a trust of Sri Lankans overseas.
As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is determined to engage the diaspora to build the nation, Marcandan said that when looking at the scenario, he feels that what is happening at the moment is a case of the cart before the horse.
“I really feel that in order to attract FDIs or to engage or attract the diaspora, the government has to build an environment that is conducive to building trust,” he said.
“In my opinion, we must win the hearts and minds; try to readdress why people left and try to address those differences. When you create a competitive identity, you are developing a holistic environment within the country that pulls the diaspora and FDIs in,” he said.
Talking about the initiatives, the government has taken towards foreign employment issues, Ministry of Foreign Employment Advisor Padmini Ratnayake said that they were looking forward to standardise and recognise the skills while addressing the skill gaps in the country.
“We are sending most of our workers to Gulf countries, but actually our workers’ skills are not recognised by those countries and that is the main problem. The main thing is to standardise the skills according to the requirements of the Gulf countries,” she said.Accredited Immigration Law Specialist Don Susantha Katugampola said that Sri Lanka needs to bring local skills to international standard, so that the country will be able to supply labour to the world to a higher valuation.
Katugampala, who is also established immigration lawyer in Australia, further said that the Australian government is looking forward to support Sri Lankan skills.
University of Colombo Faculty of Arts Career Guidance Unit Director Dr. Priyanga Dunushinghe said that the main problem Sri Lanka facing is low developments in skills.
“Most of our students both in universities and schools just look for certificates. We have to reform the education system including the vocational training in such a way to develop skills, which can be utilised in the labour market for the world,” he said.