Whole country has to be fast-tracked to be digitised: Dr. Tissa Jayaweera

Friday, 9 October 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Veteran business leader and educationist Dr. Tissa Jayaweera says education content and delivery should be based on country requirements and not focused on creating certificate shops. 

Following are excerpts of an interview:

by Cathrine Weerakkody

Q: With many universities going digital to deliver course content. Will digital help to double university intakes?

Digital will help universities to do more and more online education. This will reduce physical

Dr. Tissa Jayaweera 

presence in the number of students attending regular classroom activities. Online courses can be offered cheaper. This system will increase the number of students seeking higher education, thereby increasing revenue and profitability for universities. 

Many courses can be offered for students on demand. Online education can be done for post graduate degrees, a quarter of the course is in class for the tutor to assess student capacity and capability. Balance can be done online. This will save student time spent on travel after work to attend classroom learning, giving time for students to do tutorials. If properly conducted the intake can be more than doubled. 

But there are certain obstacles, and challenges that need attention and have to be overcome. If the intake doubles then the accessibility to computer facilities for all students needs to be considered. A mechanism to regularly update computers need to be in place. Also, all parts of the country are not equally covered with network and data transmission. This fact needs to be taken note of. Further, a top lecturer can deliver to a greater number of students, unlike before.


Q:  Then, the fact that a greater number papers will need correction/marking; how is this requirement going to be facilitated? Where and how will the exams be conducted?  

 The approach to education needs a shift. Does everyone need to go through three or four years of study? For example, as we all know, we use very little of what we study at university in our work. In today’s context, most of what we learn today will be outdated in five years. This trend is going to continue and will lead to rapid changes in relevancy in content and thought very frequently. 

What is important is not to teach a lot of content but teach how to learn in other words, learn to learn and continuously update knowledge with relevant information. The knowledge aspect required to perform most jobs can be acquired within six months for a person who is trained to learn and memorise. 

Required knowledge should be made available digitally. Any person who is being trained to learn can acquire knowledge to perform the job, learning digitally. There are certain specific professions that need specialist training, and this has to be looked at differently. But these professionals will also need to develop knowledge continuously. 

For instance, certain diagnosis activities carried out by a doctor in the past can be done by a layman, provided the layman has the training to learn, computer knowledge and access to facilities. If we are to take full advantage of available technology, professionals need to be trained to communicate digitally with clients in remote locations. When providing training and knowledge country specific requirements are ignored. Creativity is not given high priority. By going digital, there is an opportunity to incorporate these missing factors to build our knowledge base. 


Q:  What are some of the key changes we will see in education post pandemic?

 Education should be based on country requirement not merely certificate shops. The students should have the choice of language to their education. Students must be aware of global trends in education. With globalisation and availability of links for education, students will have a wide choice. 

In countries like Japan, Europe and the USA, an opportunity is available for students to graduate in their choice instead of all being forced by their parents to be accountants, engineers and doctors. There are many professions where education is required, may it be in hospitality, health care, service, beauty, clothing, designing, architecture, etc. There are no courses to graduate as plumbers and welders. 

Students must have the opportunity to select a profession of their choice and not of the choice of their parents or the government. Design is a life requirement. Do students have a choice? Online education can be based on semesters to be completed. Students can follow courses while employed without taxing parents. This type of education model is not being promoted in Sri Lanka. It is still totally classroom-based and straight on to graduation. Education practices of developed countries must be followed by educators in Sri Lanka.


Q:  Organisations are looking to maximise insights as they undergo their digital transformations. What are your thoughts? 

 All companies have to digitise. So do Government departments to minimise travel by the public to respective departments. All Government departments must be linked to a central database to avoid duplication of data. In most of the G7 countries, people hardly visit government departments to get their work done. All happens online. Even telemedicine is available with the doctor online. Doctor presence is required only for surgery. India is a good example. Certain states are completely digitised. Some entrepreneurs have set up shop to assist those who are not computer literate to do form filling for a nominal fee.


Q:  Machine learning and deep learning take AI one step further as they learn and improve from experience and are capable of reasoning and drawing conclusions. Will this replace the human element in many businesses?

 Humans can never be replaced. AI is a must for development of data as well as productivity. AI should have the latest data and be updated daily. Data entry is required as input is by humans. AI is available in numerous forms. Analytical skill is required to obtain the correct AI of choice.


Q:  Have applications across industries such as healthcare, industrial automation, defence, autonomous driving, insurance, retail, agriculture, cyber security and retail become a game changer for business?

 E-health card is a must. GPs must digitise to enable a patient to get advice on specialist consultation where physical examination is required. Most hospital records are maintained on NIC or phone number. NIC is not available until 18 years of age. NIC number should be issued at the time of birth. All records are then traceable. Registrar of Births/Marriage/Death must be digitised. The will save so many trees being cut down to produce paper.


Q:  For business recovery post pandemic what are some of the key changes we need to see in business models?

 Work from home. Reduces corporate cost and increases productivity as no fatigue due to travel stress. Save on office rent by downsizing office space. Promote multi-skilling. The whole country has to be fast-tracked to be digitised.

(The writer is reading for a PhD at the University of Buckingham UK and lectures at the university.)