Then presidential candidate and Present President of Sri Lanka HE Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivered inspiring speech at the Viyathmaga convention on 8th Sep. 2019 at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
We bring you important points he expressed on following areas:
- 0:16 Knowledge based century
- 1:57 Empowering youth with technology
- 3:22 Technology based Innovation
- 4:51 Developing our Human Resources
- 6:07 Strengthening Education
- 6:57 Increasing University Admissions
- 8:41 Industry Linked Education Model
- 12:19 Technical and Industry Training
- 13:04 Education can be a Foreign Exchange Earner
- 14:25 Job specific qualifications
- 15:18 Towards a New Sri Lanka
Watch the video:
The 21st century is recognized as the knowledge centered era. In the future, every economic sector, whether it is agriculture, industries, or the service sector, would be dependent on technology. Due to various factors, we could not reap the benefits of the electronic and computer based development that countries like Japan and South Korea enjoyed after World War II. However, we must make sure that we do not also miss out on the opportunities that are arising from the knowledge-based and modern technological innovations that are the hallmark of the 21st century.
Future growth throughout the world will be led by innovations such as the Internet Of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Big Data, Robotics, 3D Printing and other cutting edge technologies that are still in their infancy. We must strategically 4
invest in such new technologies, infusing them into our education system and introducing them into each economic sphere.
I know that already in our country various enterprises and a large number of youth are already connected with modern technologies and are providing various services from which they are earning an impressive income. I recently met a young man of about 24 years. He is already a very successful entrepreneur providing information technology services to a number of western countries. I asked him what does a government need to do to create many more entrepreneurs like him and his simple answer was to teach English to the young generation and to provide high speed Internet facilities throughout the country.
This is exactly what other countries in the Asian region are doing. For example, China is laying down a fibre optic cable from Pakistan to the Phillippines, and setting up 5G network connectivity for hundreds of millions of people. Sri Lanka too will benefit greatly from 5G data links that will enable high speed broadband access throughout the country.
Most developing countries have realized this reality and are spending a large amount of money on technology centered investments. China, who has invested about USD 16 billion in Israel has established a Sino-Israeli Technology Innovation Fund to help new entrepreneurs. Technion that is in Tel-Aviv in Israel is a research university dedicated to Artificial Intelligence. The Chinese Ali Baba Group is investing USD 600 million in a tech city in the United Emirates for robotic technology based companies. Japan is also investing millions of dollars to take their already sophisticated industries to the next level of technology innovation. Almost every country in the Asian region are creating an interest on foreign investments. We too need both foreign and local investors’ support of this nature to tap into investments that will lead us to benefit from the 21st century developments.
Foreign Direct Investments across Asia is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs annually in electronics, information technology, automation, real estate and business services, adding value across the economy. This has attracted the global private equity industry to Asia, which has already surpassed Europe as the world’s second highest private equity destination after the United States.
However, what is important here are the policies we need to follow when accruing foreign investments. While strategically encouraging Foreign Direct Investment we must also safeguard our sovereignty, local entrepreneurs and businesses. We need an FDI policy that will attract investments which can transfer technologies and knowledge, and increase our productivity. We need to encourage investments into high tech industries such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet Of Things and Big Data, for otherwise it would take a long time if we were to develop our own expertise in these areas. By selectively bringing in foreign investments in such spheres, we will be able to leapfrog old technologies and adapt to new technological trends much faster. This will provide us what has been called by some economists, the “second mover advantage”.
The greatest resource we have with us is our future generation. The development of this human resource is the primary responsibility of a government. To make our future generation productive citizens, we must pay special attention to nourish them with the required knowledge and cultivate their skills and talents. Instead of stranding them in the education field, we must broaden their opportunities to receive a higher education or a technical training.
In 2018 alone, about 280,000 students had failed their Ordinary Level and 99,000 had failed their Advanced Level exams. Universities had not been able to accommodate 170,000 even though they were qualified to receive a tertiary education. We cannot be happy with this situation. For a year, only 35,000 students can be accommodated into the 15 State universities and the five degree awarding non-State institutes. Even then, a majority are not following technical subjects.
If we are to face the 21 century that is centered on technology information, then we must make large investments in both our education system and its facilities. At the tertiary level, countries across South and South East Asia are trying to significantly increase university admissions – at times doubling, tripling or even quadrupling it. Sri Lanka should not fall behind this trend. We must establish the required infrastructural facilities for this purpose in a very short space of time. By utilizing the capacities of the State universities and other State higher education institutions efficiently the number of students admitted to tertiary education can be increased. We must also use modern technology to broaden the educational facilities. Distance learning must be promoted by establishing open universities where degree courses can be followed. In this manner students can easily accrue the knowledge and skills needed to engage in jobs such as information technology, management, service sector administration that are essential to the economy. Our closest neighbor, India is implementing this program very successfully.
India’s private education powerhouse NIIT has scaled onsite and online industry linked skills programmes to reach 500,000 students per year. Training is provided to them on demand, with tailored courses being offered to meet the needs of local and global companies. These companies range from oil rigs to tech parks, with curricular offerings expanding to service, insurance, supply chain management, programming and other sectors. Once students complete one assignment, they can return for others. This reflects NIIT’s motto: “the spirit of lifelong learning, without beginning, without end”. This industry linked education model is one that we should follow.
Furthermore, we need to raise the current diploma awarding institutes to degree courses. To do so, new curriculums need to be introduced with proper training given to the lecturers. In line with this thinking we are planning to advance the curriculums in teacher training and nursing schools to degree awarding levels. The inadequacy of degree qualified, a well trained teacher is a lacuna that is already keenly felt in this field.
Today there is a great demand in the world for nurses. In Germany alone, there is a vacancy for about 200,000 nurses. A well trained and experienced nurse can easily earn more than Rs. 500,000 from most European countries. By advancing the current three-year diploma training our nurses receive to a four-year degree course and by providing them a proficiency in English, new opportunities can be created for 6
them to work in foreign countries according to international standards. From a country’s perspective, providing skilled workers instead of unskilled labor for foreign employment is far better and more dignified, while also providing the country with an avenue to increase its foreign exchange.
To create employment opportunities for students who have completed their education to only either Ordinary or Advanced Level, we must establish technical and industrial colleges. This will uplift the moral of our young adults whilst providing a much needed skilled workforce to the economy.
We should also bear in mind that Education can also be a foreign exchange earner. Instead of sending Sri Lankan students abroad, we should find ways to attract foreign students to Sri Lanka. There are countries that have pursued such a strategy very successfully. For example, nearly 100,000 Chinese students are enrolled in schools across Australia, making education Australia’s third largest export. Malaysia has started following this model in recent years, and has more than 150,000 international students studying in its higher educational institutes. If we can make the necessary educational reforms, we too can attract foreign students.
We have already adopted a similar model at the Kotelawala Defence University. However, it is very important that we rapidly improve the standards of our other Universities to attract more students. All our State universities should strive to enhance their world rankings. Similarly, we should also encourage the private sector educational institutes in our country to gradually enhance their standards. They should introduce job specific educational programs.
It is important here is to understand the demand that exists for job specific qualifications in local and foreign market. Zoho University in India is following a very successful model. This program provides “coding boot camps” for students who had not completed their secondary education so that they can be eligible for programming jobs. This is a model that can be adopted in Sri Lanka too to provide job specific training.
Watch full speech from Viyathmaga website:
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