Education

In Malay, Orangutans Means ‘People of the Forest’

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The dust has settled at the resorts in Sharm el-Shaikh, Egypt, as delegates of countries and corporations leave the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The only advance made in the final agreement was for the creation of a ‘loss and damage fund’ for ‘vulnerable countries’. However, despite being hailed as a breakthrough, the deal is little more than the financing of the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage agreed upon at the COP25 in 2019. It also remains to be seen whether this new financing will in fact be realised. Under previous agreements, such as the Green Climate Fund established at the COP15 in 2009, developed countries promised to provide developing countries $100 billion per year in financing by 2020, but have failed to meet their stated goals. At the conclusion of COP27, the United Nations expressed ‘serious concern’ that those past pledges have ‘not yet been met’. More importantly, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan notes that a ‘global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least $4–6 trillion a year’ – a commitment that is nowhere in sight. The International Energy Agency said that, in 2022, annual global clean energy investment will remain below $1.5 trillion. This is ‘record clean energy spending’, they announced, and yet, it is far below the amounts that are required for a necessary transition.

‘A fund for loss and damage is essential’, said the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the conclusion of this year’s summit, ‘but it’s not an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map – or turns an entire African country to desert. The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition. … The voices of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis must be heard’.

One of those voices is that of the orangutan, the great ape of the Bornean and Sumatran forests that the Malays call the ‘people of the forest’ (in Malay, orang means ‘person’ and hutan means ‘forest’). According to the International Union for Conversation of Nature’s Red List, the Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli orangutans have experienced sharp population declines and are now categorised as critically endangered – the phase preceding extinction in the wild. There are less than 800 Tapanuli orangutans in existence, with the overall population of orangutans falling by almost half in the last century. They are given no voice in our climate debates.

In 2019, the United Nations released a shocking report that showed the near extinction of one million of the world’s eight million animal and plant species, including the loss of 40% of amphibian species and a third of all marine mammals. As part of its findings on biodiversity and ecosystems, the authors wrote that ‘species that are large, grow slowly, are habitat specialists or are carnivores – such as great apes, tropical hardwood trees, sharks, and big cats – are disappearing from many areas’. The situation is bleak, they warned, ‘unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss’.

What is driving this biodiversity loss? The report includes a long list in which one word comes up over and over again: deforestation. In a landmark publicationThe State of the World’s Forests 2020, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that an astounding 420 million hectares of forest cover had been lost since 1990, although the rate of deforestation has declined from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to a mere 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020. Forests cover about a third of the global land area, over four billion hectares. Half of the forests are relatively intact, while others – notably the rainforests – are in danger of being destroyed.

Just weeks after his re-election, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who will take office as the 39th president of Brazil in January 2023, returned to the global stage at COP27. He arrived along with a number of leaders from Brazil’s indigenous community, including federal deputy for the state of Roraima, Joênia Wapichana, and three newly elected members of Congress: Célia Xakriabá (federal deputy for the state of Minas Gerais), Sônia Guajajara (tipped to head a new Ministry of the Indigenous People), and Marina Silva (Lula’s former environment minister who is likely to resume the position). At the summit, Lula affirmed Brazil’s agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia to set up an ‘OPEC of the rainforests’, made last year at COP26 in Glasgow. More than half of the world’s rainforests are in these three countries, which are rich with resources that have been mined to profit multinational firms at great cost to the environment but have failed to advance the social development goals of their own citizens. ‘It is important for these three countries to strengthen their strategic alliance in order to increase their influence in climate change negotiations at the global level’, said Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (Indonesia has sought to create several cartels, including one with Canada for an OPEC-like body of nickel producers).

The scale and speed at which the global rainforest is being pillaged is alarming. In 2021, the world lost 11.1 million hectares of rainforest cover, roughly the size of the island of Cuba. To put it in football terms with the World Cup underway, the world lost 10 football pitches of rainforest per minute. Brazil, under Jair Bolsonaro, witnessed the greatest devastation of any country last year, with 1.5 million hectares lost. These old forests, dense with vegetation and animals, are now gone. ‘We are going to wage a very strong fight against illegal deforestation’, Lula said at COP27.

Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia are not alone. The Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, chaired by Ghana and the United States and made up of 53 countries, has made bold pledges to end deforestation. Ahead of COP27, Colombia’s minister of environment and sustainable development, Susana Muhamad, announced the creation of an Amazon Bloc made up of the nine countries that share the region’s rainforest (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, and French-occupied Guiana). Norway, meanwhile, has said that after Lula takes office it will resume providing funds to Brazil for rainforest protection, which had been suspended during Bolsonaro’s presidency.

The Brazil-Democratic Republic of Congo-Indonesia approach is designed in the framework of mitigation, adaptation, and investment, not through the empty conversation of the COP. Indonesia’s deputy minister for environment and forestry management, Nani Hendriati, explained how the country would promote ecotourism in the mangrove forests through a ‘blue carbon’ approach to ensure that tourism does not tear up the mangroves, seeking to halt the longstanding and rampant deforestation in the country (for example, 40% of Indonesia’s vast mangrove system was destroyed between 1980 and 2005 alone). New initiatives in the country, for instance, promote crab farming in the mangroves rather than allowing their destruction. In this spirit, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo took world leaders to plant mangrove seeds in the Taman Hutan Raya Ngurah Rai Forest Park during the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, which took place after COP27.

Such photo opportunities are important if they genuinely seek to shine a light on the problem of deforestation. However, no such light was shone on the multinational mining companies who have destroyed tropical rainforests around the world. A recent study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America examined the impact of industrial mining on deforestation in tropical regions. Looking at a selection of 26 countries, the researchers found that industrial mining in Indonesia accounted for a staggering 58.2% of the total deforestation in these countries between 2000 to 2019. However, in a concerning move, Indonesia’s government passed a new mining law in 2020 that allows permits for mining to be extended with little or no environmental regulation. ‘When the mining concessions increase’, said Pius Ginting of the NGO Action for Ecology and Emancipation of the People (AEER), ‘it drives deforestation and results in a loss of biodiversity and fragments the habitat [of animals and people]’. Indonesia revoked about two thousand mining permits this year, but this revocation is mostly due to the regularisation of the permit system, not greater regulation for environmental protection. Pressure from people’s movements in Indonesia as well as from the catastrophic impact of the climate and environmental disasters have put the government on notice about its proximity to and intimacy with multinational mining companies.

Meanwhile, the question of the orangutan remains unanswered. An academic review of the $1 billion spent on orangutan conservation from 2000 to 2019 found that ‘habitat protection, patrolling, and public outreach had the greatest return on investment for maintaining orangutan populations’. However, these funds have not accomplished much. The key issue of ending deforestation – including halting the expansion of palm oil, pulpwood, and logging plantations in Borneo and Sumatra – is off the table. How much attention will be paid to these matters at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is to be held in Montreal (Canada) from 7–19 December? Will anyone listen to the voice of the orangutans?

In October, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, told a townhall of civil society organisations in Washington, DC that the IMF ‘is indeed supporting biodiversity. For instance, we have economists that are able to measure the monetary value of an elephant and the value of a whale’. Georgieva’s comments echo an observation made by Karl Marx in volume one of Capital (1867): ‘In England, women are still occasionally used instead of horses for hauling canal boats, because the labour required to produce horses and machines is an accurately known quantity, while that required to maintain the women of the surplus-population is below all calculation’.

What is the monetary value of an orangutan, let alone the survival of the planet? The ruling class might be able to calculate those values, but it is clear that they are unwilling to foot the bill to save the planet.

Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research newsletter

End of Ethics

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Ethical progress produces a beneficial form of dogmatism. A normal, healthy society does not debate whether rape and torture are acceptable, because the public “dogmatically” accepts that they are beyond the pale. By the same token, a society whose leaders speak of “legitimate rape” – as a former Republican congressman in the United States once did – or of tolerable torture is exhibiting clear signs of ethical decay, and previously unimaginable acts can quickly become possible.

Consider Russia today. In an unverified video that began circulating this month, a former mercenary from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group is accused of switching sides to “fight against the Russians,” whereupon an unidentified assailant smashes a sledgehammer into the side of the mercenary’s head. When asked to comment on the video – posted under the header “The hammer of revenge” – Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s founder and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, replied that, “A dog receives a dog’s death.” As many have observed, Russia’s behavior is now identical to that of the Islamic State.

Or, consider Russia’s increasingly close ally, Iran, where young girls who have been arrested for protesting the regime are reportedly being married off to prison guards and then raped, on the grounds that a minor cannot legally be executed if she is a virgin.

Or, consider Israel, which proudly presents itself as a liberal democracy, even though it has gradually come to resemble some of the other fundamentalist-religious countries in its neighborhood. The latest evidence of the trend is the news that Itamar Ben-Gvir will be a part of Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government. Before entering politics, Ben-Gvir was known to display a portrait in his living room of the Israeli-American terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounded 125 others in Hebron in 1994.

Netanyahu, who was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister before being ousted in June 2021, is fully implicated in this ethical decay. In 2019, the Times of Israel reports, he called “for a fight against rising Muslim and left-wing anti-Semitism in Europe, hours after the [Israeli] government published a report that said the far-right posed the greatest threat to Jews on the continent.” Why does Netanyahu ignore far-right anti-Semitism? Because he relies on it. The Western new right may be anti-Semitic at home, but it also staunchly supports Israel, which it sees as one of the last remaining barriers against a Muslim invasion.

Unfortunately, all this is just one side of the story. Ethical decay is also increasingly apparent in the “woke” left, which has become increasingly authoritarian and intolerant as it advocates permissiveness for all forms of sexual and ethnic identity – except one. The sociologist Duane Rousselle has characterized the new “cancel culture” as “racism in the time of the many without the One.” Whereas traditional racism vilifies the intruder who poses a threat to the unity of the One (the dominant in-group), the woke left want to do the same to anyone who has not fully abandoned all the One’s old categories of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. All sexual orientations and gender identities are now acceptable unless you are a white man whose gender identity corresponds with your biological sex at birth. Members of this cisgender cohort are enjoined to feel guilty just for what they are – for being “comfortable in their skin” – while all others (even cisgender women) are encouraged to be whatever they feel they are.

This “new woke order” is increasingly discernible in absurd real-world episodes. Just this month, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania planned to sponsor a student-organized event for all those who are “tired of white cis men.” The plan was for attendees to “come paint & write about” their frustrations with “comfortable in skin” white men. Following an outcry and charges of racism, the event has since been postponed.

There is a paradox in how woke non-binary fluidity coincides with intolerance and exclusion. In Paris, the prestigious École Normale Supérieure is now debating a proposal to establish dormitory corridors reserved exclusively for individuals who have chosen mixity/diversity (mixité choisie) as their sexual identity, in order to exclude cisgender men. The proposed rules are strict: anyone not fitting the criteria would be prohibited from even setting foot in these corridors. And, of course, such rules would open a path to even tighter restrictions. For example, if enough individuals define their identity in even narrower terms, they presumably will be able to demand their own corridor.

Three features of this proposal are worth emphasizing: it excludes only cisgender men, not cisgender women; it is not based on any objective criteria of classification, but only on subjective self-designation; and it calls for further classificatory subdivisions. This last point is crucial, because it demonstrates how all the emphasis on plasticity, choice, and diversity ultimately leads to what can only be called a new apartheid – a network of fixed, essentialized identities.

Wokeism thus offers a quintessential study in how permissiveness becomes prohibition: under a woke regime, we never know if and when some of us will be canceled for something we have said or done (the criteria are murky), or for simply being born into the forbidden category.

Far from opposing the new forms of barbarism, as it often claims to be doing, the woke left fully participates in it, promoting and practicing an oppressive discourse without irony. Though it advocates pluralism and promotes difference, its subjective position of enunciation – the place from which it speaks – is ruthlessly authoritarian, brooking no debate in efforts to impose arbitrary exclusions that previously would have been considered beyond the pale in a tolerant, liberal society.

That said, we should bear in mind that this mess is largely confined to the narrow world of academia (and various intellectual professions like journalism), whereas the rest of society is moving more in the opposite direction. In the US, for example, 12 Republican senators voted this month with the Democratic majority to codify the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Cancel culture, with its implicit paranoia, is a desperate and obviously self-defeating attempt to compensate for the very real violence and intolerance that sexual minorities have long suffered. But it is a retreat into a cultural fortress, a pseudo-“safe space” whose discursive fanaticism merely strengthens the majority’s resistance to it.

This piece was originally published in Project Syndicate

Inside Story:  Rogue Academics in Sri Lanka – Part 2

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In his response to our first part of this series, Prof. A. Rameez, Vice Chancellor, Professor in Sociology, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Oluvil, has said the following in an email. “As I was engaged in an official duty over the last two days, I couldn’t write to you. I know that you have published an article referring to my academic integrity in your website yesterday. You could have sought my clarification on the contents of the article before being published in your website. I just wonder who this investigative journalist is. However, many people are in the pursuit of tarnishing the image of University in the public domain due to various reasons. Hence, he may also have some ulterior motives behind his move. Having said that, I am now consulting people to legally approach this matter.”

Editor’s Note: As far as ethical journalism is concerned, it is our responsibility to publish his response in full without any redactions, stressing that the Vice-Chancellor must have known that questioning the author’s details was indecent. However, we as the editorial board wish to emphasize again that Sri Lanka Guardian always welcome responses from the named parties in this part of the series as well.

Rogue Academics’ Behavioral Intension to Recycle Research Fraudulence: A Study of a duplicate publication of plagiarism by Professor A. Rameez, the Vice Chancellor of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka

Less important quote for the sake of looking fancy: “Here he used his talents for deviousness and vitriol in a more socially acceptable way, successfully conducting a major campaign against counterfeiting, even sending several men to their death on the gallows” – Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.

In part one of this series, the readers were presented with some solid evidence for some serious research fraudulences committed by the current Vice Chancellor of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka (SEUSL). Now that we have the audience sufficiently oriented, we will proceed on to gradually expose more and more of the research fraudulences and academic malpractices that are plaguing this institution of higher education, thanks to the likes of intellectual conmen like A. Rameez.

The recent article covered the plagiarism contained in the two publications below by A. Rameez:

  1. Rameez, A., M. Riswan, and N. Lumna. “Ageing and health seeking behaviour: a medical sociological approach to Nintavur divisional secretariat, Sri Lanka.” (2015).
  2. Rameez, A. “Disasters and social capital in Sri Lanka: a conceptual and theoretical analysis.” (2016).

In this article we focus on some further findings on research fraudulence by A. Rameez, who is serving as a professor in sociology since 2019 and the vice chancellor of SEUSL since 2021.

Evidence in Summary:

  • A. Rameez published in 2016 part of his M.Phil. research conducted until 2010. This 9-page long publication text contained stolen text for three pages.
  • A. Rameez re-published the same 2016 article, a 100% copy, in a different journal with the same stolen content.

A. Rameez, being the sole author, has published in 2019 an article in Volume 7 Issue No. 1 of the print-only journal “Journal ofClassical Thamizh: A Quarterly International Multilateral Thamizh Journal (Arts & Humanities)” (Tamil name: செம்மொழித் தமிழ்: பன்னாட்டுப் பன்முகத் தமிழ் காலாண்டு ஆய்விதழ் (கலை & மனிதவியல்)) (ISSN: 2321-0737). The title of the article, not-so-surprisingly for us at this stage of our understanding on the workings of academically degenerate small-brains, is “Disasters and social capital in Sri Lanka: a conceptual and theoretical analysis”. Interestingly, this 12 pages long article by A. Rameez is the only English-language article in this entire Classical Thamizh journal issue with 278 pages. On a different note, the publisher’s note for authors on their website (link https://rajapublications.wixsite.com/journals/author-centre) requires authors to submit content for 7 pages minimum for each article, yet there exist articles that are only 3 pages long – a possible indication on the compromising nature of the journal itself. This article, or the version-with-zero-changes to be precise, has been published in 2019, about three years after the item 2 covered in our previous article was published. It is worthwhile noting that the content of this article can be considered as a publication of a part of his research conducted for his M.Phil. degree – a degree he was granted after his claims for years-long research study following his defense of a dissertation written based on his research work. It is also interesting to note that A. Rameez published the item 2 covered in our previous article after about 5 years. The relevant timeline is summarized below:

  • 2010: A. Rameez graduates with M.Phil. after defending his dissertation
  • 2016: A. Rameez publishes an article titled “Disasters and social capital in Sri Lanka: a conceptual and theoretical analysis” in KALAM -International Research Journal
  • 2019: A. Rameez publishes an article titled “Disasters and social capital in Sri Lanka: a conceptual and theoretical analysis” in Journal of Classical Thamizh: A Quarterly International Multilateral Thamizh Journal (Arts & Humanities)

We find that the KALAM version of the article on social capital is hosted by the electronic repository of SEUSL libraries – link here (http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/5251*). However, the Classical Tamil version of the same article is not included in the SEUSL e-repository, nor is it to be found in the Google Scholar and ResearchGate profiles of A. Rameez. However, we get to notice it in the Curriculum Vitae posted at the Faculty of Arts and Culture webpage of SEUSL – link here (https://www.seu.ac.lk/fac/staff/academic/fac/rameez/cv.pdf). This publication is listed as “Rameez, A. (2019). Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis, Classical Thamizh, Vol.07(01): 319-330, January-March 2019, Raja Publications, Tamil Nadu, India.” in the CV of A. Rameez.

In conclusion we now have evidence for what’s called ‘self-plagiarism’ in the language employed by UGC to describe various forms of plagiarism; or simply duplicate publication. Of interest is the fact that A. Rameez chose to duplicate-publish an article with three pages of raw plagiarized material! Even more interesting is that he had to publicize his plagiarism when publishing part of his research carried out for his postgraduate degree at two different points in time, once when it was 5 years past his M.Phil. graduation and once again when it was 9 years after his M.Phil. graduation – an evidence for sustained academic bankruptcy and persistent dishonesty of this rogue academic. For those either with a lack of capability to discern such simple mischief or with other forms of inexpressible guilt for similar academic offenses, we feel that there is an explicit need to restate here that the 2019 version of A. Rameez’s publication on Social Capital is a 100% copy of his 2016 version and that both of them contain three-pages-long plagiarized material from one single source (Hazleton & Kennan, 2000) in addition to other plagiarized content.

Is it that A. Rameez had already forgotten that he got his manuscript on social capital already published in the journal KALAM when he thought of publishing his thesis-inspired paper in Classical Thamizh in year 2019? Or was it something else? Perhaps a rush for publications before submitting his application/ self-evaluation-report for professorship in 2019? Or is it that A. Rameez considers that a publication in the Tamilnadu-based print-only journal would be looked at favorably than the version that appeared in the journal run by their own faculty? Rumor has it that A. Rameez got about 07 research articles published in the year 2019 alone by the publishing company of the journal Classical Thamizh, Raja Publications – we can get this count verified if and when SEUSL, a public authority currently headed by A. Rameez with A. Rameez himself functioning as the Designated Officer for Information, gets an opportunity in future to release the information on the list of publications attached along with his application for professorship. One wonders how much it costs to get published in the journal Classical Thamizh, how long it takes to get an article published there, what are the scrutinizing practices – including check for plagiarism – employed by the editors and finally how much of possibly reimbursed public funds had been effectively flushed out of the country as foreign currency in 2019 by A. Rameez!

Acts of self-plagiarizing duplicate publication of articles composed of content stolen from other published scholars can only be done by a Research Fraud who doesn’t have any sort of inhibition for intellectual theft and any sense of fear for losing honor. This leading SEUSL academician in sociology and a self-appointed apostle of research and publication must have well been aware that the Classical Thamizh version of his publication was only going to be available as a printed material and not on the internet (publisher’s website here: http://www.rajapublications.com/) whilst the KALAM version of his publication was to remain in the e-repository of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka (http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/5251), thereby ruling out the possibility for any detection of his act of plagiarism using contemporary software solutions.

The figures below show the 2019 version of the print-only publication by A. Rameez, the content of which once belonged to the copyrighted journal KALAM.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL TEXT OF THIS PART OF THE SERIES

The mismatch between grades and knowledge

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With students heading and parents worrying about impending school exams in a month, it is not a waste of time to delve into why students are in school and why their child may be having some common anxiety among others, such as handwriting difficulties or the understanding of maths concepts. What are some ways how to support them?

One of the things expected of teachers, perhaps of parents too of secondary school students, is fast, fluent, legible and neat handwriting. Teachers require students to be able to take down class notes quickly. Secondary school is ruled by time constraints, class periods, and the need to move from one subject or task to another quickly to cover the curriculum. Not every school has students with laptop computers, or are allowed in class.

Neurodiversity or neurological differences exist not only in society but also among students. They are not to be rejected but respected, just like any other human variation including diversity in race, ethnicity, gender identity, or religion. Human variation exists;

Students no exception. Thus some students have difficulty with Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (the three R’s).

Handwriting

Handwriting is just one part of literacy. When students enter secondary schools there is a noticeable variation in their handwriting skills.

In primary school, when I was a student, there was the Handwriting book, unheard of today.  Thus students may have two styles of taking notes and writing. One is produced quickly, called the rough Note Book, used for note taking and might appear untidy, but still legible to the student, the other is a good quality script, used for more formal purposes.

Teachers reading answers of a poor handwriting student whose writing is illegible, due to handwriting or spelling or both, may have to guess the word(s).

Theories for bad handwriting

Various theories are proposed as the underlying cause of handwriting difficulties. Some focus on the student whereas others locate the problem within the structure of the education system, like inadequate teaching, a failure to provide opportunities to consolidate learning and missed opportunities to practice, especially during COVID-19.

Research shows us handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed. An average secondary student produces legible handwriting in Year 11 at 16 words per minute, whereas a Year 7 student does it in 13.8 wpm.

We need to discount other factors including underlying learning difficulties, fatigue, whether English is the second language and whether students know what they want or need to write. Besides, in Secondary Schools, they don’t have the time to teach handwriting in other curriculum contexts.

Hand-eye coordination is required to develop fluent writing, besides letter formation and organisation. This condition is called “dyslexia” which can also cause difficulty reading numbers and following word problems. 

Possible intervention to prevent bad writing

  1. Visual focus
  2. Letter Formation
  3. Organisation
  4. Technology

Poor in Maths

There are a number of reasons why a child/student may be having problems with Mathematics at school. These vary from low motivation caused by Maths anxiety to a poor understanding of how to apply and perform mathematical operations.

But sometimes, the root cause of underperformance is something quite different, like motor skills difficulty. The medical term is “dyscalculia”, which some individuals struggle with performing basic calculations and having trouble manipulating numbers. This condition can cause to “re-order digits” when solving problems correctly, but recording the answer in the wrong way. They may even skip a step or struggle to focus and be unable to re-check their work when they have finished a problem. The real reason is that they become distracted by number formation that they make careless errors or get the steps in an equation in the wrong order.

Maths is poorly understood by children in Schools

Maths is mostly poorly understood because pre-school maths, is about practical problem solving, noticing patterns, recognising shapes and learning to count, mentally. While Secondary School Maths instruction becomes abstract. It often focuses on rote learning and solving equations, “think arithmetic and times tables”.

Many students complain that Maths is boring. They do not see the point in learning Algebra, or Geometry or they may not be able to do basic Arithmetic when answers can be found using a calculator or a computer.

Number crunch is all around us today. Being able to work with them quickly and efficiently is a skill. Calculations in Arithmetic is a usual or normal in many professions, especially in carpentry to retail jobs. But Mathematics is much more than Arithmetic. It is identifying the problem and selecting an appropriate approach to solving it, but following the proper order of operations.

Students are marked not only for getting the calculation right but to show how they arrived at their answer. There are children who leap to the correct answer intuitively but cannot analyse how they got them.

The main cause of disillusionment with Maths

Anxiety is the main cause of why students “freeze” in Maths exams. They can have difficulty finding a way to “visualise a problem”, leading to anxiety, sometimes “over anxiety,” thus making careless mistakes due to stress.

Many students have a very short “attention span”. Maths requires concentration. Attention difficulties can affect Maths skills. If a student drifts in and out of attention, they might find it difficult, if not challenging, to follow a teacher’s demonstration. Maintaining focus without distraction is a problem for certain types of learners, hardly explained by teachers.

Thus it is to these students that teachers should devote their attention. Students in turn should find a way to form an interest.

Why is education a mismatch between grades and knowledge?

The skills that students possess with grades and market requirements are at variance. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (3 R’s) are very basic for today’s world. The lack of effective communication, strategic thinking, abstraction and research skills are the main causes of today’s educational mismatch. The educational system is an effective vehicle for producing the skills required to maintain growth in the economy and productivity. There is either a vertical mismatch when the level of education required for the job is more than that necessary. There is a horizontal mismatch when the field of study and the job is at variance. The lack of coherence between required and offered education levels causes the disparity.

Inside Story: Rogue Academics in Sri Lanka

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8 mins read

This investigative report is open for response as the accused have been named by the reporter-editors

As funny, stupid and pseudo-intellectual as it may sound, the above title of this article is not what I initially intended to give it. The originally intended title is along the lines of “A Case of Serial Plagiarism…” or something like When the Vice Chancellor is a Plagiarist – more on this in the later parts. Now welcome to some enlightenment.

Presented below is a summary of findings we had the misfortune to make after having a compelling urge to study the academic profile of this intellectual from South Eastern Sri Lanka: Professor Aboobacker Rameez. A. Rameez is currently the Vice Chancellor of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka since 2021 and a professor in sociology at this higher education institution since 2019. Some readers would also be familiar with the name from many op-ed articles he has authored for Colombo Telegraph, references to which can also be found at his Google Scholar profile page and Research Gate profile – maintained for a delicate balance between keeping it clean and being still stocked with stuff, reportedly due to Webometrics ranking requirements. Some of his newspaper-published scholarly works being listed in these research database profile pages were published by the online Tamil news website jaffnamuslim.com.      

While lacking the necessary tools and this being a pastime activity triggered initially by personal pursuits, and despite the attempts of the university administration headed by A. Rameez himself to repeatedly deny information on his publications he used for his promotion as a professor by merit in response to right-to-information requests, we were still able to find to our own shock and surprise the fact that serious acts of plagiarism and academic-mafia-like practices had been freely allowed in the most carefree ways.

Evidence in summary:

  • A. Rameez stole nearly 80% of the abstract of a published journal article covering actual research conducted in Nigeria and he published it as an abstract of his own work carried out in Sri Lanka
  • A. Rameez stole written content from another published, properly peer-reviewed Scopus-indexed journal article and composed about 3-pages long content, without a single modification, for his own article submitted to the journal run by his own faculty

A formal complaint regarding this matter has been made to the Council of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka via the Registrar of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. All the council members of SEUSL have been presented with evidences of these offenses, which are termed Research Fraud in the language employed by UGC for describing offenses of this nature.

An extended summary of our findings is presented below for the amusement of the general public who are contributing financially and in various other ways directly or indirectly for the proliferation of activities of the sort that is being reported here.

  1. A. Rameez plagiarized nearly 80% of the abstract of O. Odaman et al. (2014)

A. Rameez, being the primary and corresponding author has published an abstract in the South Eastern University Arts Research Session 2015. The title of the Abstract is “Ageing and Health Seeking Behaviour: A Medical Sociological Approach to Nintavur Divisional Secretariat, Sri Lanka”. The following table shows a side-by side comparison of passages extracted from the abstract submitted by A. Rameez for publication against the abstract of a research article that had already been published.

Rameez et al. (2015)Odaman et al. (2014)
It focused on the most common health related problems of elderly: revealed where the elderly goes to seek medical care when sick, and those financially responsible for his/her medical needs.It focused on the most common health related problems of the elderly; revealed where the elderly goes to seek medical care when sick; and those financially responsible for his/her medical needs.
The findings show that, the majority of the elderly persons had age associated physical illnesses such as blood pressure, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer and tuberculosis that take a long time to heal.Majority of the elderly persons (62.7%) had age associated illnesses such as blood pressure, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer and tuberculosis that take a long time to heal.
More elderly males than female counterparts were found to have patronized traditional healers, resorted to self medication using local herbs or visit chemists’ shops whenever they were sick.More elderly males than their female counterparts were found to have patronized traditional healers, resorted to self medication using local herbs or visited chemists’ shops whenever they were sick.
This research suggested that, the government should puts in place programmes that would ensure good health behaviour and elderly people should be provided free, accessible and comprehensive health care in hospitals and other health care centres.It is recommended that elderly people should be provided free, accessible and comprehensive health care in hospitals and health centers because they would utilize the health services when available, accessible and affordable.

Notice that the work allowed to be published by the editorial committee of the Book of Abstracts of South Eastern University Arts Research Session (2015) makes the suggestion, as an outcome of the supposed research findings, that the elderly people should be provided free healthcare in Sri Lanka! We believe that it’s needless to say that unlike in the case of Nigeria, the Governments of Sri Lanka have been providing free healthcare for all of its citizens in all of Sri Lanka not only at the time this abstract was being presented and was being issued in print, possibly out of public funds, but since long before that until now and far into the future for sure.

If word counts are to be used as a crude estimate to indicate the severity of the rogue academic conduct with such a shallow level of sophistication in carefree plagiarism, we observe that of the 185 words that have been originally used for composing the abstract of Odaman et al., the abstract of Rameez et al. employs more than 80 percent of the words (149 out of 185) to compose itself.

The abstract published by Rameez et al. can be found in the Book of Abstracts published by SEUSL on 22nd December 2015.

This abstract can also be found at http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/1532

The figure below portrays A. Rameez in the act, with hijacked text highlighted in yellow:

The work published by Odaman et al. can be found here. The article has been published in Vol. 7, No. 1 (2014), pp. 201-210 of International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities (ISSN 2248-9010 (Online), ISSN 2250-0715 (Print)).

The figure below shows how A. Rameez et al. did a stealth-mode robbery of the intellectual effort of Odaman et al., with the stolen text highlighted in yellow:

Anyone serious enough to access and look at the actual content of Odaman et al. would appreciate the true effort the original authors have put into their work despite what the title and abstract look like. And those familiar with social sciences will admit that often text itself is the very embodiment of ideas.

  1. A. Rameez published a journal article with 3 pages long content stolen straight from a journal article by Hazleton & Kennan (2000)

A. Rameez, being the sole author has published an article in KALAM -International Research Journal, Faculty of Arts and Culture, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Volume X Issue 1, 2016. The title of the Article is “Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis”.

A. Rameez’s Publication is available at http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/5251  (available at SEUSL e-repository).

The figure below of the article by A. Rameez, with the stolen content highlighted in yellow, should indicate the proportionality of the content discovered to have been stolen word-for-word from just one single source (other stolen content not indicated):

A. Rameez has plagiarized for his publication from here (Scopus entry: Here )

A. Rameez’s publication (Page numbers 05 to 08 highlighted in Yellow) has copied the above mentioned publication by Vincent Hazleton and William Kennan (Social capital: reconceptualizing the bottom line; Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 2 . 2000. pp. 81-86) word for word from page numbers 82-84.

The figure below shows the proportionality of the content stolen word-for-word from the work of Hazleton & Kennan, with the portions in yellow being the stolen content.

Of about nine pages of writing contributed by A. Rameez for this journal issue, about three pages come straight from the composition of Hazleton and Kennan verbatim, even with citations as they appear in the work of the original authors, but without being listed in the list of references of the publication by A. Rameez! For example, we see the original article of Hazleton from year 2000 referring to articles by themselves from 1993, 1998 and 1999; but the article by A. Rameez only has the one by Hazleton from 2000 in his list of references, meaning that the readers (and obviously the reviewers of this SEUSL journal) would have no idea what those articles of Hazleton from 1993, 1998 and 1999 actually were/ are. Other examples include such questions of curious readership of Rameez on where they can actually locate the original works referred to as Monge (1987), Garfinkel (1967) etc., all of which, interestingly are properly listed at the end of the original, genuine work of Hazleton and Kennan (2000). Apart from this 3 pages long direct stealing of written scholarly work by Hazleton and Kennan that I have brought to light here, there are various other curiosity-provoking pointers to other possibly interesting findings that are possible from a thorough investigation on the rest of the 6 pages of this publication by A. Rameez; one such pointer for example is the curious question of what exactly Portes published along with Landolt in year 1996.

These two items above bring to light the evident lack of academic honesty & integrity on the part of Prof. A. Rameez and the evident lack of scrutiny and review practices of any level of rigor concerning the two publications above. It is interesting to note that we don’t see A. Rameez having published any work on healthcare seeking behaviour of the elderly other than the single abstract above plagiarizing the work of Odaman et al. It is also interesting to note that A. Rameez obtained his M.Phil. degree in 2010 by writing a dissertation titled “The Role of Social Capital in Disaster Management: A Study of a Tsunami Affected Coastal Village in Eastern Sri Lanka”, a work possibly very similar in theme to his publication in item 2 above (Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis); yet we find him after five years with the necessity to plagiarize to produce 3-pages long content for a journal article on a related topic.

Under these circumstances, it is evident that the intellectual con artist who produced the two fraudulent publications above is guilty of one of the gravest academic offenses: Plagiarism. Being non-hesitant, uninhibited and not-insightful about copying the published, reviewed works of other academics and scholars is a major evidence of academic bankruptcy of the person in concern. With such a history of Research Fraudulence, Professor A. Rameez being a Vice Chancellor of a Higher Education Institution, and thereby being the head/ chairperson/ overseeing authority/ supervising authority on almost all of its academic, academic-administrative and academic-disciplinary matters, can severely affect the academic and administrative integrity of the institution in question. This can lead to demolition of high standard academic culture, accountability and transparency in research and dissemination and the quality of the academic programs offered at the University.

Questions for the readers are below:

  1. What are the roles played by editors and reviewers (if any) of books of abstracts and journals published by the Faculty of Arts and Culture of SEUSL?
  2. What are the impacts on the undergraduate education and examination processes in this Sri Lankan state university
  3. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  4. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  5. When an academic in general belonging a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  6. What are the impacts on the postgraduate education, postgraduate research programmes and examination processes in this Sri Lankan state university
  7. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  8. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  9. When an academic in general belonging a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  10. What are the impacts on the academic administration processes including recruitment of BEST OF THE BEST academic staff and appointment of directors & heads of various divisions & departments at this Sri Lankan state university
  11. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  12. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  13. What are the impacts on the disciplinary processes in academic matters at this Sri Lankan state university
  14. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  15. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?

The Importance of Incorporating Foresight in Tertiary Education Curricula

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5 mins read

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision…Helen Keller

Ever since the dawn of this century, we have had unprecedented upheavals in geo-politics, public health, warfare, rapid technological advancement, the threat of nuclear destruction, all of which heralded a portentous unpredictability.  When one considers that all this happened within a span of 22 years, our natural reaction should be that we are living, as the ancient curse goes, “in interesting times”.  The snag is that although interesting, these times can turn disastrous with ineptitude or mismanagement.  Global governance is no longer governance but global administration that requires preparation for the unexpected with which we can face the growing complexity and critical uncertainty that lie ahead. Already, there are signs of things to come as many challenges we currently face show ominous prospects of worsening.

Weaponizing Education

Our tertiary educational curricula – be it in the fields of medicine, engineering, architecture and urban planning, international politics and economics, and business management – which prepare the thinkers of the future, need to be “weaponized” with a discipline that inculcates a strategic mindset in our current and future generations. What is required is familiarization of the young with foresight which is a compelling strategic requirement that could effectively preclude the disasters that we have endured over the past two decades from returning, and enable us to counter the high degree of uncertainty surrounding changes to the future context. From both a pedagogic and practical sense, “foresight” is a generic and overarching word comprising what the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) calls “a range of methodologies, such as scanning the horizon for emerging changes, analyzing megatrends and developing multiple scenarios, to reveal and discuss useful ideas about the future…foresight is about combining methods of future work with those of strategic management. It is about understanding upcoming external changes in relation to internal capabilities and drivers”.

All the fields mentioned above are usually encapsulated in composite entities whether they be instrumentalities of State or corporate entities. Within this incorporation are two prominent categories of foresight that should be introduced in a progressive education system – market foresight and strategic foresight.  Panu Kause, writing to Aalto University states: “market foresight is about the consideration of possible and probable futures in the organization’s relevant business environment, and about identifying new opportunities in that space. I prefer Market Foresight as a phrase over an earlier concept of Industry Foresight. This is simply because thinking across current industry boundaries is today an important source of innovation.

Strategic Foresight is a concept I deem synonymous with Corporate Foresight. It is about mirroring the possible and potential futures against the understanding of organization-specific capabilities, and those of one’s competitors. Ultimately, Strategic Foresight is about the strategic choices you make based on this combination of external and internal insight”. 

The main focus of foresight should be on building the future of the entity one serves.  However, it does not necessarily involve the seeking of definitive norms or answers that can be applied to the future with precision, as the future is neither predestined nor fully disclosed.  It is only partially observable through instinctive intelligence.  Therefore, no one can get the future exactly right, but one could certainly expand the horizon of plausible measures and developments that could be considered with scenario planning.  One of the corollaries to market foresight and strategic foresight is strategic planning, although foresight per se would not constitute the only measure to be taken in the formulation of a strategic plan.  Foresight merely paves the way to an effective strategic plan by bringing to bear multiple alternative futures and their implications. For these multiple alternatives to emerge there need to be key questions asked that relate to the not-so-obvious factors on the horizon that need to be unmasked so as to reveal and challenge potentially fatal assumptions and expectations built into current policies and plans.

Foresight Deconstructed

When deconstructed into an educational plan for universities and other institutions of higher learning, the first subject that comes to mind is horizon planning, which involves looking for and researching the factors of change that are already signalled with a view to developing methodologies that could counter their potential future impacts.  The second area involves drivers of change which would enable the professional and the academic to identify the most significant and unexpected potential changes.  The third is the development of plausible pictures or stories of what the future will bring or how the future will look like with a view to studying, exploring, and learning from the scenarios that are developed.  This is called scenario planning.

The fourth area is looking at opportunities and challenges within and outside the box as well as without a box.  The fifth requires a perspicacious look at what action could be taken to forge ahead with effective policymaking.  This is followed by extrapolations (evaluations with available facts and data); interpolations (estimates made without data or facts); forecasting and predictions. While forecasting involves the development of linear projections or estimations of future events whose outcomes are uncertain, predicting is undertaken with the use of precise estimations. The sixth area of discipline in the foresight process would comprise engagement in what are called “war game simulations” which are simulations of competitive engagement and settings (in the corporate sense) and simulations of different military operations (in the military sense).

The seventh area is “backcasting” which involves defining a plausible future at the outset and working one’s way backwards from that point with a view to connecting the future with the present. The eighth is the use of roadmaps which could track milestones of progress in advance.  The eighth area is the process of looking for low-probability high-impact events which are called “black swans” by some.  Conversely, high probability low-impact events should also be taken into consideration. These two categories are also called weak signals and wild cards. Finally, there is the important factor of collecting information with a view to identifying patterns and connecting the dots.

There is also The Delphi Method which is “ a structured and interactive forecasting activity that relies on a panel of experts. The experts answer questionnaires and argue different positions. This is usually done over a few rounds. During this process, the range of answers narrows down. This is based on the reassessment of given arguments and consensus-building. In the final round, the group of experts converges toward a final, “correct” answer about the future”.

Conclusion

It would be interesting to try the aforesaid deconstructed elements in toto, if only as a pilot project in an institute of higher learning on current crises and what they portend –  on how the invasion of Ukraine by Russia would affect future trends of invasion elsewhere in the world; how the COVID-19 pandemic (and the spread of other contagious pathogens that have already caused epidemics in the 21st century) would affect future public health and medical issues; how another 9/11 attack could be thwarted; how the financial crash of 2008 could be relegated to the dustbin of history, never to come back; and how to run the world more effectively in the future.

Arguably, the greatest disaster we face is the climate crisis where foresight has worked and outcomes have been both forecasts and predicted. However, the lack of political will and other intervening factors such as economic and labour considerations have thwarted the way forward towards mitigating the problem.  At the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held last year countries were asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets that align with reaching net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. In order to achieve this goal countries will need to: accelerate the phase-out of coal; curtail deforestation; speed up the switch to electric vehicles; and encourage investment in renewables. In many countries exactly the opposite seems to be happening.

Of the big polluters, only Britain and Australia have presented new climate targets. The United States and China have not submitted anything, while the European Union is working on a redefinition of the National Voluntary Contributions to reflect the additional cuts that will result from plans against the energy crisis and to release Russia’s gas.

So much for foresight.

International Day of the Air Traffic Controller

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6 mins read

The International Day of the Air Traffic Controller is celebrated on October 20th each year.  This day marks the anniversary of IFATCA (International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations), which was founded on the 20th October 1961.

The air navigation system comprises the aggregate of organizations, people, infrastructure, equipment, procedures, rules, and information used to provide the airspace users with air navigation services including air traffic services. “Air traffic service” is a generic term meaning variously, flight information service, alerting service, air traffic advisory service, and air traffic control service. Air traffic control services comprise three services: area control service, which provides air traffic control services for controlled flights; approach control service which guides aircraft approaching a State’s territory and aerodrome control service, which relates to the provision of air traffic control services for aerodrome traffic

In the earliest days of aviation, so few aircraft were in the skies that there was little need for ground-based control of aircraft. In Europe, though, aircraft were often flown in different countries, and it soon became apparent that some kind of standard rules were needed. In 1919, the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN) was created to develop “General Rules for Air Traffic.” Its rules and procedures were applied in most countries where aircraft operated.

Air Traffic Controller’s Duties

To many of those uninitiated to this valuable and critically important profession, it sounds as though anyone can direct a plane.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  It is both an arduous and precision-oriented job which cannot be done just by anyone. It requires specially trained professionals who have to be alert every minute during which they are on duty at the control tower. Globally, air traffic control services offer information relayed by people by means of radio communication involving extremely short time periods and using a standard set of terminology in the English language, even in regions of the world where English is not the first language.

The Global  Air Navigation Plan of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says: “ “The air traffic controller’s job consists of complex tasks demanding a high degree of skill and active application of unique cognitive abilities such as spatial perception, information processing, reasoning and decision making. The controller must know where all the aircraft under his/her responsibility are and determine how and when to take action to ensure that they remain separated from each other, while also seeing to their requests and needs for descent, climb, take off, departure etc”.

There are no international rules governing the liability of the air traffic controller. However, there are various international guidelines that would give individual States both an impetus and direction to enact their own internal laws in this regard. Article 28 of the Chicago Convention provides an overarching requirement that obligates contracting States to provide in their territories airports, radio services, meteorological services and other air navigation facilities to facilitate international air navigation, in accordance with the standards and practices established from time to time pursuant to the Convention. The “other air navigation facilities” referred to in article 28 of the Chicago Convention include Air Traffic Services, which is a combination of services provided to support the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic.

ICAO has established Standards and Recommended Practices for licensing of air traffic controllers. Part of this licensing process recognizes that there are prescribed ICAO language proficiency requirements based on a proficiency rating scale identifying Holistic Descriptors. These descriptors in turn require the air traffic controller, as a proficient speaker, to communicate effectively in voice only (telephone/radiotelephone) and in face to face situations; communicate on common, concrete and work related topics with accuracy and clarity; use appropriate communicative strategies to exchange messages and to recognize and resolve misunderstandings in a general and work related context; handle successfully and with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine work situation or communicative task with which the air traffic controller is otherwise familiar; and use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the aeronautical community.

Responsibility and Liability

The provision of air traffic control services is the responsibility of the State, but it can delegate this responsibility to private entities.  which does not derogate the accountability of the State for damage caused by such entities.

In August 2006, a Swiss court indicted eight employees of the Swiss air traffic control authority, Skyguide, for their involvement in the plane crash which occurred in 2002 in Ueberlingen.. The Skyguide staff were charged with negligent manslaughter for their role in the air crash in which 71 people died when two jets collided over Swiss-controlled airspace in southern Germany. The defendants were accused of organizational shortcomings that led to a single air traffic controller being left in charge of the area where the crash occurred on July 1, 2002, and with providing insufficient information to him about technical work in progress that decisively affected the communications and radar systems. In their report, German investigators stated that Skyguide’s main control tower radar had been switched off and the main telephone line was down.

In a parallel development, a German court ruled that Germany wrongly subcontracted its airspace control to Skyguide and was partly liable for the damage caused. The ruling was in response to a civil lawsuit filed by the Russian airline company that owned the passenger jet. However,  common law courts, particularly in the United States, have not strictly adhered to this overarching concept. In a world of congested airways, the additional problem of faulty communication between the players involved, particularly the air traffic controller and the technical crew of an aircraft in flight, does not help.

Liability issues of an air traffic controller are intrinsically linked to the controller’s relationship with the pilot with whom the former communicates. This relationship, between the controller and the pilot, has been called the “continuum of dependence”. It has been generally recognized that the fundamental principle of liability is based on whether the pilot was flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) which gives the pilot absolute freedom to manoeuvre his aircraft, or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) when visibility could be nil. In the former instance, the air traffic controller would not be generally held liable for a midair collision as the pilot has full visibility. This is based on the pilot’s responsibility to “see and be seen”.

There is no doubt that liability of the air traffic controller is an expanding concept and the continuum of dependence is no longer an absolute concept. Courts are showing a greater willingness to ascribe to the controller liability for negligent performance of duty, irrespective of whether such duty is incorporated or inscribed in the Air Traffic Control Procedures Manual and the extent to which the pilot is required to adhere to instructions therein. In the 1975 US case of Baker v. United States, the Court held that the manual cannot be considered as “the Bible” of air traffic control or a set of regulations having the force of law.

Air traffic controllers cannot shift liability to the State on the basis of State responsibility to provide air traffic services, which is a responsibility recognized by the Chicago Convention. A case in point, was in Eastern Airlines v. Union Trust Co. which established the rule that air traffic controllers had no discretion to be negligent in their work and that they could not shelter themselves behind the fact that they worked for an instrumentality of State in matters pertaining to their individual liability which clearly established liability criteria regarding the provision of air navigation services in the United States

Conclusion

ICAO has called on States to make improvements to the air traffic management system through supporting software that could assist the controller with conflict prediction, detection, advisory and resolution.1ICAO’s focus of concentration is on a unified strategy which establishes a mechanism integrating the efforts to increase transparency and disclosure of safety related information. Although the unified strategy extends to encompass all areas of safety of flight including airworthiness, it is incontrovertible that the overall philosophy of the strategy will apply to the provision of air navigation services as well.

One of the most fundamental aims of ICAO is to ensure the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation. To this end, and as part of its unified strategy, ICAO suggested the establishment of regional safety oversight organizations along the lines of European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) of Europe. Responsibility of the State to ensure the provision of air navigation services is immutable, and as stated earlier, there is no legal impediment to a State handing over the physical task of provision of services to a private entity while retaining its oversight role. Within the overarching umbrella of State responsibility, there are various models of air navigation service providers.

Accordingly, in the present context, it is common to see a State largely in a supervisory role retaining its ownership of air space, drafting national legislation; determining governance over air navigation service providers; continuing to hold responsibility for certification and designation of service providers a well as setting regulations, while the service provider provides a public function in managing airspace with the broad spectrum of safety and efficiency.

Sri Lanka: Shehan wins Booker Prize

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1 min read

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka has won the Booker prize for fiction, according to the Guardian London. The judges praised the “ambition of its scope, and the hilarious audacity of its narrative techniques”.

Karunatilaka’s second novel, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida comes more than a decade after his debut, Chinaman, which was published in 2011. The Booker-winning novel tells the story of the photographer of its title, who in 1990 wakes up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. With no idea who killed him, Maali has seven moons to contact the people he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos of civil war atrocities that will rock Sri Lanka.

Neil MacGregor, chair of the judges for this year’s prize, said the novel was chosen because “it’s a book that takes the reader on a rollercoaster journey through life and death right to what the author describes as the dark heart of the world”.

“And there the reader finds, to their surprise, joy, tenderness, love and loyalty,” he added.

MacGregor was joined on the judging panel by academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari; historian Helen Castor; novelist and critic M John Harrison; and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou. The judges were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to Karunatilaka, according to the chair.

Click here to read the report originally published in Guardian UK

Sri Lanka: University Dons Flag Against Ragging

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3 mins read

The Committee of the Vice Chancellors and Directors (CVCD) notes with concern the recent spate of incidents of ragging and student indiscipline that have occurred with the resumption of on-site academic activities in the state universities. The CVCD categorically condemns all forms of ragging in educational institutions of Sri Lanka. None of the Vice-Chancellors condone or support ragging, or act to protect perpetrators.

However, the CVCD believes that ragging is a complex issue that needs many interventions for it to be eliminated from Sri Lankan Universities. It must be recognized that it is carried out in a novel, sophisticated manner, using technology, with the collective power of the student groups backed by certain political elements. It uses a network of individuals and starts even before the students enter the universities and continues for a long period thereafter.

The CVCD has also noted the introduction of cyber ragging, in addition to physical, mental, or sexual forms. These complexities require a comprehensive strategy planned by Universities, law enforcement authorities, political parties, and media with the support of civil society for its prevention and elimination. There needs to be a strong movement against ragging in civil society to encourage the new entrants to universities, and their parents, to stand up to organized groups of student perpetrators motivated by political intentions.

The universities are faced with multiple issues in their efforts to eliminate ragging. These include the lack of legitimate complaints with evidence or clues for identification of perpetrators; lack of a robust system for protection of victims and witnesses; inaction of law enforcement authorities to fully implement the provisions of the Act No 20 of 1998 on prevention of ragging, and slowness of the judicial and disciplinary procedures. In many instances, dissemination of one-sided information obtained from highly vocal student movements opposes the university administration in taking action against the student perpetrators of ragging. It is common for protests to be stage-managed in front of University Grants Commission or the Ministry of Education to pressurize authorities to withdraw or mitigate punishments that have been handed to perpetrators after due process.

In the past, there have been instances where instead of supporting the VCs and University authorities in taking stern actions against ragging and other acts of student indiscipline and violence, undue influences have been made by external forces to the legal and disciplinary processes. This aims to protect perpetrators with scant regard to the rights of the victims and the harm caused to them. The CVCD views with grave concern the fact that perpetrators abuse provisions in the legal system and exploit the facility of taking their complaints to the Human Rights Commission. This occasionally escalates to severe harassment of VCs and university authorities.

The CVCD requests the civil society to understand that ragging has been in existence in Sri Lankan universities for 70 years, with damaging consequences. The CVCD notes that the recent reduction or near-elimination of ragging as has occurred in some universities, was the result of active intervention by university authorities led by the VCs, who risked their lives and positions.

Hence, the CVCD reiterates its commitment to fight ragging in the Universities and to eliminate it. In this endeavour, it wishes to seek the support of the media, civil society, and the Government of Sri Lanka without which, this will be impossible to achieve.

  1. Prof. Nilanthi de Silva (Chairperson), Vice Chancellor/University of Kelaniya
  2. Prof. H.D.Karunaratne, Vice Chancellor/University of Colombo
  3. Prof. M.D.Lamawansa, Vice Chancellor/University of Peradeniya
  4. Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Vice Chancellor/University of Sri Jayewardenepura
  5. Prof. N.D. Gunawardena, Vice Chancellor/University of Moratuwa
  6. Prof. Sujeewa Amarasena, Vice Chancellor/University of Ruhuna
  7. Prof. S. Srisatkunarajah, Vice Chancellor/University of Jaffna
  8. Prof. P.M.C. Thilakerathne, Vice Chancellor/Open University of Sri Lanka
  9. Prof G.A.S Ginigaddara, Vice Chancellor/Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
  10. Prof. J.L. Ratnasekera, Vice Chancellor/Uva Wellassa University
  11. Prof. V.Kanagasingam, Vice Chancellor/Eastern University, Sri Lanka
  12. Prof. A. Rameez, Vice Chancellor/South Eastern University of Sri Lanka
  13. Prof. Udaya Rathnayake, Vice Chancellor/Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka
  14. Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe, Vice Chancellor/Wayamba University of Sri Lanka
  15. Prof. Ranjana W. Seneviratne, Vice Chancellor/Gampaha Wickramarachchi University of Indigenous Medicine.
  16. Prof. T. Mangaleswaran, Vice Chancellor/University of Vavuniya
  17. Prof. Rohana P. Mahaliyanaarachchi, Vice Chancellor/University of the Visual & Performing Arts
  18. Ven. Prof. Neluwe Sumanawansa Thero, Ven. Vice Chancellor/Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka
  19. Ven. Prof. Kanattegoda Saddarathana Nayaka Thero, Ven. Vice Chancellor/Bhiksu University of Sri Lanka
  20. Major General Milinda Peiris, Vice Chancellor/General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University
  21. Prof. Ranjith Premalal de Silva, Vice Chancellor/University of Vocational Technology
  22. Prof. Wasantha Rathnayaka, Vice Chancellor/Ocean University of Sri Lanka
  23. Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa, Rector/Sri Palee Campus, University of Colombo
  24. Prof. Chandravathany G. Devadason, Rector / Trincomalee Campus
  25. Major General Robin Jayasuriya, Rector/Southern Campus, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University

Why is education in Sri Lanka not meeting future challenges?

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3 mins read

You have heard it said that our education system is broken, it is in a perilous state. For that matter, we read in social media stories of political appointments to Government schools, tinkering with education? Parents are feeling desperate where their children are going to end up, not only in social status, but facing life in the future. The educational system “as is” may not be able at present to think for future needs, for a “future ready society”.

When I was growing up, we imported educators from abroad to train our teachers, to raise our standards of education “to compete in the world.”

We saw the arrival of the American and other religious missionaries to our schools.  Examples were Rev. Robert Stopford, an Anglican missionary principal of Trinity College, Kandy, a Cambridge educated principal, Rev. Fr.T.M.F.Long at St. Patrick’s College, Rev. S.K. Bunker at Jaffna College and many others. The view at that time was learning from the experience of educators from abroad, was essential. In turn our own educators, were sent abroad to get the best qualification in teaching.

I for instance, was not good in Tamil, but that did not put me off. I devoted much of my life, to what I was good at and benefitted.

Today, none of it is possible, without the political will, the long term planning and the continually evolving, change in line with economic growth and future demands of society.

No forward thinking education?

We are warned to think for the future, “a future ready society”. We need to rethink our ideas how our learning systems are currently organised, resourced and supported.

We need to think and teach higher level thinking skills and develop key competencies using technology to prepare students for the 21st century. We need a personalised approach in the classroom, where students can take control of their own learning.

I call this “Personalised Learning”. It means students understand “how they learn, what they learn and what drives their learning”.

Students now have to learn their learning needs, their interests, and their capability to determine the pace of learning. In this environment, the advantage of technology is that students can use the content and be the experts in their subjects of interest, which society demands for a worthwhile career, assisted by their teachers. They can create content they need for the future with the resources that have not traditionally been thought of as part of the schooling system. Education must be able to provide how to think like a mathematician, like a historian, like an environmentalist.

Education for the future?

We face unprecedented challenges – social, economic, environmental – driven by war, accelerated social integration, women not being allowed an education, globalisation and a faster rate of technological development.

These challenges are at the same time providing new opportunities for advancement. 

Change is the only constant in our present lives. The future seems uncertain. Schools of the future should be able provide the skills, attitudes and values to thrive students to shape their world.

There is no forward thinking in education at present in our education system. There is no ability driven education. The days are gone when specialisation in career education was required. Today, students must be given a challenge to find out for themselves how humanity will address the problems of the future, including those linked with sustainability, globalisation, non-globalisation, citizenship and enterprise.

We in Sri Lanka do not allow our students to think about their future lives, the interests they have ingrained, and the challenges they have to meet head on.

Let us go back in time to education among Sinhalese and Tamils some 50 odd years ago, why, that far, say some 30 years ago. Most Sinhala students were generally very good in spoken English and literature; Tamils were predominantly scientifically minded, excelled in Maths and Science, and had an aptitude for theories. Both wanted to be Engineers, Doctors, and Accountants. Today, it seems students are all satisfied with ordinary jobs.

Have our students within a generation or two, “lost their brains”? Have they “lost their ambition”? Has society forced them to be complacent? Has our recent history made us indolent, not enterprising?

What kind of people do we hope our students will become by the time they leave school in 2030? What kind of career jobs will be open to them when they leave school? Will they have to create their own jobs, or fit into the market niche?

These are some of the serious questions that educators in our land have to address themselves. We know each of our students have hidden talents, which need to be explored and teachers must be able to be talent scouts.

We need to explore the advantage of expertise in technology. To navigate through such uncertainty, students of today first need discipline, they need curiosity, imagination, and resilience. They will need to cope with failure and rejection. They need to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will be more than getting a good job, a high income.

Challenges are not new. Sri Lankans had many hurdles to overcome. Sinhalese students went abroad to advance their professional skills. Tamils who were uprooted and went as refugees abroad, were forced to learn a new language, German, French and or spoken English, to survive.

Today, all students needed to think of their new environment, either in the land of tomorrow in Sri Lanka, or abroad, how they are going to cope with “climate change,” with new types of disease, with sustainable living. They need to shape their own lives and contribute to the lives of others, to make life meaningful.

The risks and rewards of education in today’s world are many. Educators in Sri Lanka have a duty to think well ahead into the future and provide an education for a “future ready society”.