This is a headline article of Khaleej Times - one of the most prominent and leading newspapers in the United Arab Emirates. According to the news item 350milion population in the Arab World is in need of 160,000 doctors. In the UAE out of the population 80% are expatriates mainly from South Asia.
The local population is only 20%. South Asians serve their country of birth by remitting large sums and also the country they are temporarily resident by taking part in the development. This news item indicates the potential of employment for the doctors especially in the South Asian sub-continent as most of the expatriates in the Middle East are from the SAARC countries.
Sri Lanka is world renowned for education and the population is highly educated and talented. Sri Lankan professionals have spread worldwide especially as leading professionals, doctors, lawyers , engineers etc. This trend should be continued and Sri Lanka should be made a “Hub of Education”.
In the UAE the “Knowledge Village” is a novel concept and a creation of Free Trade Zone for education. Most of the universities of the world have outlets including Sorbonne, Cambridge and Oxford etc. It has become a hub of education and a place to produce professionals to the world. We are alarmed as expatriates the news to protest the recognition of private universities and medical colleges.
Some medical students spend minimum 50,000 pounds which amounts to Rs. 10,000,000.00 per student per year and this amount has to be spent for a period of 6 years.
There are Sri Lankan medical students studying in Russia, China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan and many other developed and undeveloped countries in the West, East and all over. When they come back their degree is recognized. Amount of money spent is enormous and there could be doubts about the standard of education.
I think it is time we be conscious about the world trends and to keep pace with the current needs aiming to be the wonder of Asia. Our wealth is our environment, beauty , skilled labour and education. Our main income of the nation today is the income from the expatriates. They sweat for the country and their success is based onnthe education back in the country. Most of them use foreign outlets to improve their knowledge and obtain promotions for their employment.
I think it is unfair and irresponsible to campaign against private universities and medical colleges which is an essential ingredient in the present context. In any event already there are a number of international institutions and universities set up branches in Sri Lanka. It is very strange that there is no protest for setting up of foreign universities and outlets in Sri Lanka. Attempts to set up new universities and medical colleges should be complemented and encouraged.
The trend today is to learn English and promote education. This has not been the case before. In 1950, 1960, 1970 the trend was anti-English and anti-kaduwa. Now the trend is for kaduwa that is English which is a vehicle for power.
It has also become a vehicle for success and rise upto power based on the principle “Knowledge is Power”. It is a vehicle and a system to rise upto the successful society through education. Tuition culture has set in to the society where some students start their tuition classes early morning – sometimes the tuition classes start at 4 o’clock in the morning.
That means today parents are investing on education. Therefore they should be given opportunities because the opportunities are limited in the public sector. In the free society parents and the students should be given the opportunity of freedom for education which is different from free education. Free education anyway is opened to everybody.
Therefore freedom to educate themselves is a basic human right and a necessity for the development of the nation. I think we should not make the historical mistakes made again and it is time for the people to rally round the new vision launched for new system of education.
It is a very disturbing to note that the learned doctors who have been benefited from free education have launched a strike not to treat patients contrary to their pledge and for personal ends making the historical mistakes again.
(The writer – LL.M (London) Solicitor – is Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.)