Beating the 'Gohna Hama' at home

Posted on September 1, 2006  /  1 Comments

There is a saying in Sinhala that some people go beat the deer skin or ‘gohna hama’ at home when they can’t catch the real one in the forest

This is exactly what the JVP is trying to do about private higher education.

According to a report in the Lankadeepa of August 27, Friday (p.25), Mr. Susil Preamjayantha, the Minister for Education has assured the JVP MP from Matara that he will rescind the authorization given to Aquinas College to offer degree programs. It is further reported that the minister is considering the gradual disbandment of private institutions.

Yes, beat up the small fellows who are trying to offer degree opportunities at home, when parents, including our own president Rakapakse, are sending their children for education abroad in USA, UK and even Bangladesh. According to Sri Lanka QAAC estimates 1400 students left for UK alone in 2003.

The general attitude of the JVP towards private alternatives to education is inconsistent, indefensible and goes against the behavior of sensible people and sensible governments, locally, regionally and globally. It hurts the people and it hurts the economy.

Take the facts.

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Fact #1. Rajapakse, prudently, has not promised to do away with private alternatives

According to election manifesto of president Rajapaksa:

The right to pursue higher studies by all students who pass [the A/L examination] has to be protected. I am prepared to accept that challenge

-Mahinda Chinthanya-2005, page 75

The presidential manifesto promises opportunities for all, but no where does Mr. Rajapaksa promises to do away with private opportunities.

Fact #2. Private alternatives already outnumber public offerings

According to the Census 2000, 11% of the school leavers are in following higher education, with the private sector at 6% accounting for more than half of all tertiary education and training in the country.

Distribution of College Age (18-24?) Populatio in Education and Training:

Public universities


Public technical colleges


Private institutions


No further education or training


Fact #2. There are three types of private alternatives but local private degree offerings are the most economical for obvious reasons.

  • Local degrees that can be pursued locally (very few opportunities)
  • Foreign degrees that can be pursued locally (in IT alone these types of institutions graduate more degree holders than the public sector institutions)
  • Foreign degrees that need be pursued outside of the country, partially or fully

Need more statistics about all three types.

Fact #3. Private alternatives are already augmenting public initiatives

Austria University of Tourism and Hotel Management and the Southern Provincial Council entered into a BOI partnership to establish a university in Koggala (Sunday Times, p. 11, Aug 27, 2006). NIBM and SLIIT etc. are publicly funded fee-levying institutions.

Fact #4. There is a due process for receiving local degree granting status

There are only a handful of institutions offering local degrees for fee-paying students and Aquinas College is one of them. It is not easy to start a degree program without government support. During the last few years, few brave institutions sought permission to award local degrees. Only a few have received authority to grant local degrees. They have done so after going through due process as outlined in the Higher Education Act.

University Grants Commission or the minister has the authority repeal a registration but due process has to be followed. Recently, in Bangladesh, a nine-member probe committee on private universities, recommended cancellation of registration of eight private universities from among a total of 23 evaluated by the committee.

Fact #5. Other countries in the region are endorsing and support private initiatives not only as alternatives for their own people but as an export of service.

India’s system of private colleges has been there since the inception of public universities. University of Delhi has 61 affiliated colleges that graduate xxx students. These colleges aggressively seek foreign students. The University Grants Commission of India is playing an active role in attracting foreign students to India.

Private education in Malaysia today is recognized is recognized formally by legislation enacted in 1996. Not only does government allow private institutions, but, it tells the world proudly about the higher education system in Malaysia through the government sponsored Web site,

Even Bangladesh has a consistent policy on private universities. The 1992 Private University Act in Bangladesh established guidelines that included regular oversight by Bangladeshi UGC and a provision that at least 5 percent of the student body in private universities receive full tuition waivers. As a result of their progressive education policies, private universities in Malaysia and Bangladesh have become attractive destinations for students from Sri Lanka and elsewhere.


Question 1. Have not succeeding governments violated the fundamental rights of school leavers by actively or passively discouraging private investments in further education?

Question 2 . Have not the succeeding governments in Sri Lanka deprived the country and its businesses the opportunities to exploit the growing global market in education?

Questions 3: Is it not time for a Private universities Act in Sri Lanka


Introduce a Private Universities Act that recognizes the role of the private educational institutions in the human resource development and export of educational services, and aims to create and environment conducive to the functioning of these institutions

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