Education - Page 3

Birthday – Is It A Reason for Celebration or A Cause for Concern?

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People all over the world celebrate their birthday, some people with pomp and show and others in a quieter manner depending upon their position in society and their affordability.  Of course, some people also celebrate religiously.

While this is normal practice, with celebrations being accompanied by cutting a cake, blowing candles and wishes of greetings coming from friends, dear and near ones, in a subconscious mindset, it is inevitable that thought would creep into the mind of the individual celebrating the birthday that he/she is advancing in age, causing a level of anxiety about the longevity of life. Of course, this may happen particularly in the case of senior citizens and perhaps not so much amongst the youngsters who could be thinking that a lot of time is still ahead of them and they need not be unduly concerned about this.

In such circumstances, one wonders whether a birthday should be a matter of celebration or concern about advancing age.  Perhaps, the birthday celebration could satisfy the ego of the individual when others extend wishes and greetings and make him/her feel that he/she has lived well.

Per se, there is really nothing wrong or objectionable about celebrating the birthday of an individual.  However, long-term thinkers would inevitably wonder what is there to be celebrated. When the birthday happens, it is really a calendar event and is nothing beyond that. Days come and nights fall and life goes on in whatever way and whatever day it is, whether a birthday or any other day.

All in all, one may even wonder that Remembrance Day after the individual passes away (even though that would also be a calendar event) is more significant than a birthday celebration. On Remembrance Day, the descendants and others still living would judiciously and carefully evaluate the life content and life process of the person and would pay their respect accordingly in the manner that they deserve.

In the case of birthday wishes, the extent of wishes could largely be dependent on the wealth of the person celebrating or the position held by him/her in business or job.   If and when this would slip away due to superannuation or any other reason, the number of birthday wishes would reduce sharply, which could cause pain for the person celebrating.

However, such a possibility would not be there in the case of Remembrance Day. Finally, can we say that birthday celebration is carried out in a vacuum with no real significance and remembrance day is more meaningful,  being observed with respect and being shown with a greater sense of truthfulness and sincerity?

The Importance of Incorporating Foresight in Tertiary Education Curricula

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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.

China’s Path to Socialist Modernization

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The Communist Party of China (CPC) held its 20th National Congress from October 16 to October 22, 2022. Every five years, the delegates of the CPC’s 96 million members meet to elect its top leaders and to set the future direction for the party. One of the main themes of the congress this year was “rejuvenation” of the country through “a Chinese path to modernization.” In his report to the congress, Xi Jinping, the CPC’s general secretary, sketched out the way forward to build China “into a modern socialist country.”

Most of the Western media commentary about the congress ignored the actual words that were said in Beijing, opting instead to make wild speculations about the deliberations in the party (including about the sudden departure of former Chinese President Hu Jintao from the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of the congress, who left because he was feeling ill). Much could have been gained from listening to what people said during the National Congress instead of putting words in their mouths.

Socialist Modernization

When the Communist Party took power in China in 1949, the country was the 11th poorest country in the world. For the first time since the “century of humiliation” that began with the British wars on China from 1839 onward, China has developed into a major power with the social situation of the Chinese people having greatly improved from their condition in 1949. A short walk away from the Great Hall of the People, where the congress was held, is the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, which reminds people of the immense achievement of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and its impact on Chinese society.

Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the CPC at the 18th National Congress in 2012 and was elected president of the People’s Republic of China in March 2013. Since then, the country has gone through significant changes. Economically, China’s GDP has almost doubled to become the world’s second-largest economy, growing from 58.8 trillion yuan in 2013 to 114.37 trillion yuan in 2021, and its GDP expanded at a rate of 6.6 percent per year during the same period. Meanwhile, the country’s per capita GDP almost doubled between 2013 and 2021, with China approaching the high-income country bracket. In terms of the world economy, China’s GDP was 18.5 percent of the global total in 2021, and the country was responsible for 30 percent of world economic growth from 2013 to 2021. China also manufactured 30 percent of the world’s goods in 2021, up from more than 20 percent in 2012. This adds to the decades of historically unprecedented growth rate of 9.8 percent per year from 1978 to 2014 since the launching of economic reform in China in 1978. These economic achievements are historic and did not come without their set of challenges and consequences.

While delivering the report at the opening of this congress, Xi spoke about the situation that the Chinese people faced a decade ago: “Great achievements had been secured in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization… At the same time, however, a number of prominent issues and problems—some of which had been building for years and others which were just emerging—demanded urgent action.” He went on to talk about the “slide toward weak, hollow, and watered-down party leadership,” pointing out that “money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism” were the deep-seated problems in a development process that was “imbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.” These are significant self-criticisms made by the man who has led the country for the past decade.

Corruption

A decade ago, in his speech at the 18th CPC National Congress, outgoing Secretary General Hu Jintao mentioned the word “corruption” several times. “If we fail to handle this issue well,” he warned, “it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.” Xi Jinping’s first task after taking over as general secretary of the CPC was to tackle this issue. In his inaugural speech as the party head in 2013, Xi said he was committed to “the fighting of tigers and flies at the same time,” referring to the corruption that had spread from the high echelons down to the grassroots level within the party and the government. The party launched “eight-point” rules for its members in December 2012, to limit practices such as inconsequential meetings and extravagant receptions for official visits, and advocated “diligence and thrift.”

Meanwhile, a year after the launch of the “mass line campaign” by Xi’s administration in June 2013, official meetings were reduced by 25 percent in comparison to the period before the campaign, 160,000 “phantom staff” were removed from the government payroll, and 2,580 “unnecessary” official building projects were stopped. Over the past decade, from November 2012 to April 2022, nearly 4.4 million cases involving 4.7 million officials were investigated in the fight against corruption. Party members have been investigated. In the first half of this year alone, 24 senior officials were investigated for corruption, and former ministers, provincial governors, and presidents of the biggest state-owned banks have been expelled from the party and given harsh sentences, including life imprisonment.

Hu Jintao’s comments and Xi Jinping’s actions reflected concerns that during the period of high growth after 1978, CPC members grew increasingly detached from the people. During the first months of his presidency, Xi launched the “mass line campaign” to bring the party closer to the grassroots. As part of the “targeted poverty alleviation” campaign launched in 2014, 800,000 party cadres were sent to survey and visit 128,000 villages as part of this project. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China successfully eradicated extreme poverty, contributing to 76 percent of the global reduction in poverty till October 2015.

Beyond the party’s self-correction, Xi’s strong words and actions against the corrupt “flies and tigers” contributed to the Chinese people’s confidence in the government. According to a 2020 research paper by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the overall satisfaction with the government’s performance was 93.1 percent in 2016, seeing the most significant growth in the more underdeveloped regions in the countryside. This rise of confidence in rural areas resulted from increased social services, trust in local officials, and the campaign against poverty.

Right Side of History

At the 20th Congress, Xi Jinping reflected on the history of colonialism—including China’s “century of humiliation”—and the implications this would have for China going forward. “In pursuing modernization,” Xi said, “China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. We will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress.”

Chinese officials routinely tell us that their country is not interested in seeking dominance in the world. What China would like to do is to collaborate with other countries to try and solve humanity’s dilemmas. The Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, was launched in 2013 with the purpose of “win-win” cooperation and development and has thus far built much-needed infrastructure with investment and construction contracts totaling $1 trillion in almost 150 countries. China’s interest in tackling the climate catastrophe is evidenced by its planting of a quarter of the world’s new forests over the past decade and in becoming a world leader in renewable energy investment and electric vehicle production. On the public health side, China adopted a COVID-19 policy that prioritizes lives over profit, donated 325 million doses of vaccines, and saved millions of lives as a result of this. As a result of its initiatives in the public health sector, the average life expectancy of Chinese people was 77.93 years in 2020 and reached 78.2 years in 2021, and for the first time, surpassed life expectancy in the United States—77 years in 2020 and 76.1 in 2021—making this drop “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

China’s communists do not see these events without putting them in the context of the long process undertaken by the government toward achieving and ensuring their social development. In 27 years, China will celebrate the centenary of its revolution. In 1997, then-President of China Jiang Zemin spoke about the two centenary goals—the 100-year markers following the founding of the Communist Party (1921) and the Chinese Revolution (1949)—that “underwrite all China’s long-term economic planning programs and contemporary macroeconomic policy agendas.” At that time, the focus was on growth rates. In 2017, Xi Jinping shifted the emphasis of these goals to the “three tough battles”: to defuse major financial risks, to eradicate poverty, and to control pollution. This new congress has gone beyond those “tough battles” to protect Chinese sovereignty and to expand the dignity of the Chinese people.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Global warming and consumer energy bills

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We are changing when we see our climate change. Climate has changed when our Earth has warmed and cooled over centuries. But in the past century, another force has started to influence climate. That force many believe is the interaction of mankind on our environment. We make it happen more rapidly than past natural events. This does not mean other natural causes don’t exist. It means that the effect of natural causes is too small or they occur too slowly to make an appreciable difference.

Young people the world over, shall we say the developed world, are the forerunner activists of climate change. They have the strongest belief about climate change and they are in need to take action immediately. Recently, we saw two youth trying to galvanise action in their known way of tossing a can of tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting at the National Gallery, London. They were part of the “Just stop oil” demonstration in the UK who want to voice their grievances, their theatrical agitation against fossil fuel extraction.

But as is known climate is an especially difficult issue to mobilise public opinion, especially in the present context of high energy prices in Britain and around the world. Voters it seems, are in no way enthused about climate change at present. There is a big gulf in public perception of the urgency of climate change, when their energy bills, to keep themselves warm during winter, has trebled since 1 October 2022,with Energy Companies in UK increasing prices and the Government having to increase the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) to £2,500 until April 2023.

The main renewables – solar and wind do not produce heat leaving UK households highly dependent on gas boilers. But renewables are helping to limit price rises for electricity, as they reduce the amount of gas needed for electricity generation.

What then would help lower energy bills?

The longer-term solution for energy bills, climate change and geopolitical risks from Russia, according to Paul Massara, ex CEO, Npower, is greater investment in energy efficiency programmes.

With the UK Government’s Bill Support ending in April 2023 all eyes and ears are not on Climate Change, but on the money households and businesses would need to spend on energy. Whilst macroeconomic stability is the new priority of the new Government of PM Rishi Sunak, a precondition to economic growth.

Industrialisation: Did Sri Lanka Miss the Bus for Ever?

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Even before the independence, most Sri Lankan political leaders believed that industrialisation was the solution to stand up as an advanced nation and create gainful employment for its citizens. To this end, the Industrial Corporation Act was passed by the State Council in 1944. Mr J R Jayawardena had moved a motion in the State Council requesting to prepare a Comprehensive Development Plan to industrialise the Country. These initiatives show that Sri Lankan Political leaders had conceived the idea of industrialisation and realised its importance for economic modernisation much before other developing countries. Most Asian countries, including the Indian Sub-Continent, imported a significant share of industrial goods from the West.  As industrialisation was initiated much before other developing countries, Sri Lanka could have replaced the imported goods in this region with “Made in Ceylon.” At that time, Sri Lanka had potential and comparative advantages, such as a solid foreign exchange reserve to import machinery and technology, locational advantages, including the best international seaport, relatively good physical infrastructure, educated labour force, and professionals etc., to industrialise

The Journey Towards Industrialization

The initiative for industrialisation paralleled the independent movement. British planters probably were not interested in diversifying their investment in Sri Lanka due to the uncertainty created by the independent movement. Most Sri Lankan capitalists had invested heavily in the plantation sector, a lucrative and well-secured investment. Also, the local capitalist class did not have much experience or exposure to industrial ventures. However, most members of the state council and the first parliament were from the capitalist class, favouring private sector ownership of properties and business ventures. The left-wing politicians, who were very active in Sri Lankan Politics, had exposure to the industrial economic environment in Europe. But they supported the idea of state ownership or the communal ownership of industries. Under these circumstances, private capital was not readily available for the industrial sector.  Hence, the first-generation industries, such as the Kankasanturai cement factory (1950) and the Valachchanai paper mill (1955), were started under government ownership during the UNP government, though they advocated for private ownership. Whatever the reason, since the inception of industrialisation, the establishment of large-scale enterprises has become the government’s responsibility.

Though industrialisation was on the national economic and political agenda, D. S. Senanayake, the first prime minister’s vision was to revitalise the glory of the golden era of the ancient Sinhala civilisation in the dry zone, based on agriculture, especially paddy cultivation. Therefore, the industrial sector and industry-related infrastructure did not receive much attention. And a significant share of resources was diverted to the Dry zone-colonization program and consumption subsidies. Dudley Senanayake, and Kothalawala, the successors of DS Senanayake, also did not change the above policy and continued along the same line till 1956.

Paradigm shift

In 1956 S W R D Bandaranaike became the prime minister who advocated for a middle path and a mixed economy. He believed in a planned development with the state ownership of major enterprises. Accordingly, a Ten-year Perspective Plan was formulated with the assistance of local experts and world-renowned economists, such as Garner Myrdal and Joan Robinson. Mr Bandaranaike’s Government’s upper echelon was a mixture of different political ideologists; the majority consisted of a breakaway group from the United National Party, who believed in capitalism, Members of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, who believed in communism, and various other patriotic groups. As such, his party had no consensus on many policy matters. Though Bandaranaike advocated for a socialist economic policy, the left-wing parties in the opposition considered him a traitor for trying to weaken the left-wing political movement. They did not cooperate with the government programs. Trade unions backed by left-wing parties were a pain in the neck for him. Due to his patriotic and racialist policies, minorities were also kept away from him. Against this backdrop, he confronted many issues between the groups of the ruling party and the opposition parties.

 Also, after 1957, the plantation sector could not generate adequate foreign exchange, and the trade deficit increased and started depleting the foreign reserves limiting the import capacity, which hindered the implementation of the ten-year plan.  Ethnic tension was also amplified simultaneously. Under these circumstances,10 Year Development plan was not implemented as envisaged. With the assassination of Bandaranaike in 1959, the development plan found its natural death. However, in line with the state ownership concept, the Colombo seaport, airport, and Passenger transport were nationalised.

If not for the problems created by trade unions, left-wing parties, and ethnic conflicts, implementing the 10-year plan and the industrialisation process could have taken off the ground as the local and world economic environment was conducive for that. This seems a significant loss of opportunity in our industrialisation and economic advancement journey. However, it has not been discussed much by politicians and economists.

In July 1960 general election, Mrs Bandaranaike led the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. She secured the required majority in the parliament to form a government without the support of the left-wing and other minor parties. But she also faced numerous issues with the trade union actions supported by left-wing political parties, hampering the performance of state-owned enterprises. As a compromise, in the latter part of her tenure, she formed a coalition government with left-wing parties, but it could not survive for long as the right wing of her party broke away from the government. However, during tenure, some of the activities included in the 10-year plan were carried forward, and Mr Bandaranaike’s’ pro-socialist vision and the policy of nationalising important ventures were continued. The nationalisation of the petroleum industry is one of the challenging activities during this period. Several new industries were also established with the assistance of the USSR and Socialist countries. Sugar, Steel, and tire are a few of them. Nationalised ventures, as well as newly established industries, were brought under state ownership. People’s Bank and Insurance Corporation were also found to fill the significant gap in financing facilities in the local economy. While large-scale industries and financial services were state-owned, assistance was extended to privately owned small and medium enterprises in this industrialisation phase. In 1964, a national-level industrial exhibition was held in Colombo to celebrate and demonstrate the achievements of industrialisation targeting the 1965 general election.

Ups and Downs

 However, the 1965 General Election did not give the required majority to Mrs Bandaranaike to form the government. Mr Dudley Senanayake formed the UNP government with the support of seven minor parties. During the period, ventures such as Ceylon Electricity Board and Sapugaskande Oil Refinery were commenced as state-owned enterprises. By this time, state ownership of large-scale commercial ventures had become an accepted norm and no debate on private vs public ownership. Even the UNP, the party that advocates for the capitalist mode of production, complied with this norm. However, Dudley Senanayake’s government’s highest priority was agriculture, especially paddy farming. In addition to the smallholder farming system, he attempted to bring wealthy individuals and the corporate sector into agriculture by alienating large blocks of land and supporting to import of agricultural machinery. This program was greatly influenced by the international movement of the green revolution. However, his government did not make significant structural changes in the economy and continued the industrialisation process with a low profile. 

With the collision of left-wing parties, Mrs Bandaranaike came into power again in 1970 and introduced a significant and far-reaching shift in the overall economic policy. Her government prepared a 5-year development plan focusing on the agriculture and industry sectors. However, before implementing the 5-year plan, the world price hike of petroleum and staple foods created a foreign exchange crisis. It compelled the introduction of import restrictions, much more than the usual tariff protection. Except for most essentials, all other imports were banned or restricted. It aimed to produce almost everything locally to substitute imports and save foreign exchange. This created a void in the market for essential food items and consumer durables such as electronic items, clothes, building materials, agriculture and industrial tools, toys, communication items, and many more. Although the government had followed the industrialisation policy for over a decade by that time, the country did not have the capital, technology, preparedness, and capacity to shift into a rapid industrialisation phase to keep abreast with the vacuum created by import restrictions. Also, it did not have sufficient foreign exchange to import modern machinery and plants to produce quality goods to fill the void.

 In addition to the global economic crisis, ever-increasing youth unrest also reached its climax in 1971 and revolted against the new government without giving a breathing space. In response, the government hurriedly launched several reforms and high-priority programs. One was the “Divisional Development Council” program to employ youths. Capitalising on the scarcity created by import restriction and tariff protection, this program implemented many small and medium-scale enterprises as cooperative ventures to produce consumer goods based on local raw materials endowments. This program did not benefit from modern technology and produced high-cost inferior goods.

This time, the government’s policy did not encourage private sector investments in large and medium-scale industries or foreign private investment. It may be due to the influence of the left-wing parties of the coalition. Running Hotels and restaurants, importing building materials, textile vehicles, tractors, fibre, yarns, and many more commercial activities came under the government monopoly or ownership.  Most of the Sri Lankan capitalist class were land-owned planters. Under the Land Reform Act, the government took over lands exceeding 50 acres. Very little compensation was paid much later, making them a capital-less class. Also, they feared the nationalisation of businesses. Despite the high demand, the local capitalist class have neither the capital nor the interest to invest in industries. As options were limited for luxurious life and lavish expenditure during that period, landowners could have invested in import substitution if; compensation was paid at market value immediately, a private sector-friendly policy was adopted, and the boundaries of nationalisation were explicit. Under this political and economic environment, the country lost the best opportunity for private sector participation in industrialisation.

Under these circumstances, mushrooming enterprises emerged in every nook and corner of the country as self-employment and small and micro enterprises, but many were unviable. These industries became highly inefficient, leading to low quality, high costs, scarcity and finally, misallocation of resources. These massive sacrifices of the producers and consumers could have been a long-lasting success if profit-motivated private sector participation was enlisted, and doors were opened for the technology transfer. Further, the support, including tariff protection, should have been limited to a specific period to selected industries with comparative advantages enabling them to pass through infancy without external competition. However above industrial policy created a greave dissatisfaction among the people, and the government lost the 1978 general election, rejecting the approach by most of the people.   

Out of Gear- The Trade Liberalization  

As discussed, the journey towards industrialisation in Sri Lanka commenced before independence, becoming a high priority from the 1960s to 1977. It got in top gear during 1970/77 but with poor strategies. Without using the lessons learned from that strenuous journey, the trade was liberalised entirely in 1978, making the three-decades journey into a U-turn.  All investments and sacrifices made by the government and people to become an industrial nation became futile. Some of those industries did not have the scale of economies as they were targeting only the local market. Some industries could not meet the local demand as their scale of operation was too small. The technology was archaic, and the raw materials were of low quality. Therefore, most of those local products could not compete with the imported items in terms of price and appearance. Without killing the entire industrial sector, the government should have supported a few more years to some infant industries with the potential for success in a competitive environment. But in the trade liberalization, the government considered only the political interest, neglecting the interest.

After trade liberalisation, import and trading became prominent and popular economic activities in the country. Consumer preference changed from local products to imported, while investors changed their role from producing to importing and trading. Furthermore, the agriculture and industrial workforce shifted to trade and service-related activities. Small and medium entrepreneurs also moved to service sector activities such as transport, petty trading, restaurant management, personnel service etc. The banking system also changed its focus from industry and agriculture to imports, the service sector, and trade activities, which are less risky and more profitable. The industry and agriculture sectors lost policy support and human and financial resources.

Producing locally involves complicated issues such as trade union problems, land problems, technology issues, approvals, permits, paying bribes to authorities, ransoms to hoodlums etc.  Some large-scale manufacturers converted their factory buildings and other assets into stores and showrooms of imported goods. Even the government-owned large-scale industries, such as tire, steel, textile, condensed milk and powdered milk, sugar, cement, paper, petroleum products, etc., also found it challenging to compete with the cheap, nice-looking imported items. Hasty and overnight import liberalisation killed not only the infant industries but also the traditional cottage industries, such as sleeping mats, mattresses, pottery, blacksmith, toys, handlooms, vehicle repairs, lorry bodybuilding, etc., which were there for many centuries. Those disappeared from the economy as cheaper, attractive alternatives/ substitutes were available.

Despite the trade liberalisation, the government followed the privatisation policy of state-owned enterprises. Furthermore, the government dismantled some ventures, such as the marketing department, paddy marketing board, paper corporation, steel corporation, Lanka-Loha, etc., which had been established to provide essential services and inputs to support local industries. If not for wilful dismantling, some of those ventures could have been sustained without government support, even after the trade liberalisation. If transparently done, privatisation could have been a good opportunity for the government to eliminate some nonessential enterprises established under the closed economy but could not run on a commercial footing under international competition.

But due to the various malpractices, privatisation became a horrendous exercise. It paved the way for some business cronies to loot public assets. Ownership of these assets was not transferred to genuine industrialists but to the hands of government supporters looking for some fortune to become rich overnight. Most of these factories were looted by new tenants/owners and abandoned. Even though a few became successful entrepreneurs, they acquired those assets without capital outlay or much below the market price. Some got running businesses for a nominal fee or rent and had access to free working capital such as stocks of raw materials and finished products ready for sale. Genuine entrepreneurs who were not fortunate enough to enjoy such free or cheap capital found competing with lucky investors challenging and discouraging.

Privatisation was an emerging concept to reduce the burden on the government budget, improve the efficiency and quality of products and introduce the latest technology and management style of the local and foreign private sectors.  At that time, markets were not saturated for most products but were expanding rapidly due to the open economy. Therefore, the government should have encouraged and supported the private sector to establish new industries instead of haphazard privatisation of existing running businesses or importing cheap substitutes.  Privatisation should have been done carefully and transparently without distorting the investment environment. The privatisation was mishandled so the country couldn’t achieve its expected benefits.

 Ranasinghe Premadasa became the president in 1989 and was interested in poverty alleviation and rural housing. He identified the apparel industry as the most appropriate tool for sustainable (employment generation) poverty alleviation. His government launched the 200-garment factory program with an attractive support package to private sector investors to establish garment factories in rural and backward regions. This facilitated the rural women to be employed in their hometowns without migrating to Western Province. Hence real income increased, and their standard of living improved to a considerable extent. However, due to logistic problems, investors’ cost of production increased, and they lost the convenience and the timeliness of delivering finished goods and raw materials. The cheap labour could have compensated for high overhead costs in rural areas. But the labour regulation and the pressure from trade unions did not permit reaping from the cheap labour. Investors were forced to pay the same wages as in the western province. Further, finding suitably qualified managerial staff was also a constraint compromising productivity and quality.

As many developing countries entered the apparel market during this period, the competition was very high. Therefore, quality assurance and compliance with tight delivery schedules and production at competitive prices became a considerable challenge for manufacturers and exporters, losing the global market share. Some factories established in remote areas have now been closedown and concentrated again in the western province.

Countries like Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia used the apparel industry as a springboard to elevate as newly industrialised countries. They did not rely for many decades on the apparel industry. But even after 45 years, apparel remains Sri Lanka’s main export item because we have failed to use the apparel industry as the springboard to be a newly industrialised country. No other prominent industrial activity has emerged, at least to be on par with the appeal industry. Though many condemned it sarcastically, the dream of Mr Premadasa was for Sri Lanka to become a Newly Industrialised country by 2001. If not for the sudden assassination, he could have made a strenuous effort to achieve this goal.

 Since then, except for the privatisation of state-owned enterprises and support packages for foreign investment, there has been no specific policy support or programs targeting industrialisation. From 1994 to 2004, Mrs Kumaratunga’s government concentrated on poverty alleviation through the Samurdhi Program, peace negotiations with Tamil Militants, booting out state-sponsored terrorism, re-democratise the governance, promoting foreign investment in general without targeting any specific sector or sub-sector, or industry etc. Several state-owned enterprises were privatised during this period to reduce the burden on the national budget. In between this period, Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government, from 2002 to 2004, attempted to make far-reaching structural changes in the economy through its policy outlined in Re-Gaining Sri Lanka. Re-gaining Sri Lanka did not focus specifically on industrialisation but the overall restructuring of the economy and governing institutions, thereby reducing the government’s economic role only to regulate. However, people were not ready to face this shock of structural adjustments. The president dissolved the government at the beginning of 2004, and the Wickremasinghe government could not continue the process.

Immediately after the Tsunami catastrophe, Mahinda Rajapakse’ became the president in 2005. Due to the prolonged civil war, economic growth was slow for many years.  The power crisis was at the climax and road infrastructure was in very poor condition hampering industrialization. His immediate priority was finishing the civil war with LTTE and unifying the country. While fighting with the terrorists, he gave priority to resolving the power crisis and road infrastructure. Norochchoplai and upper Kothmale power plants projects commenced immediately and were commissioned to solve the power crisis.  A comprehensive road program, based on a 10-year plan was implemented. Three major expressways, namely the Southern Expressway, Outer Circular Expressway and Katunayake Expressways were commenced and commissioned. Further, Hambantota Sea Port and Airport were completed. In addition to the provision of infrastructure, the Strategic Investment Act was passed in the parliament to encourage foreign investments in a strategic nature. The Board of Investment was involved actively in promoting foreign investments. However, these physical infrastructures, legal provisions and institutional support have not been adequately used by investors. Capacity utilization of some infrastructure is still at a low level. Those are yet to be stimulants for industrialization. This shows that general support like BOI incentives, tax holidays and physical infrastructure alone can’t stimulate investment and industrialization.  There may be various other non-financial and non-physical constraints concerning the investment. Our position in the Ease of Doing Business index also needs to be improved.

  Conclusion and Recommendations

During the 1970/77 period, the economic crisis and scarcity of goods generated a great enthusiasm to produce many things locally. Small and medium-scale industries emerged as self-employment and small and micro enterprises in every nook and corner of the country. In contrast, though the scarcity created by the 2020/22 economic crisis is much more severe than the above, there is not much attempt by the government or the entrepreneurs to commence industries or invest in the production economy. Consumers are interested in maintaining the same lifestyle as before the economic crisis, thinking it is a temporary issue. The business community is anxiously waiting till improves the foreign exchange situation to resume import business instead of diverting the excess liquidity for local industries. The government is also focusing its strategies on improving the foreign reserves through debt restructuring and controlling inflation by contracting the economy, which may give breathing space to continue with the consumption-oriented economy as usual.

The government’s strategy seems guided by the notion that this is a short-term problem of servicing external loans, which can be resolved by artificial and temporary measures to strengthen foreign reserves.  Those immediate solutions are necessary for a breathing space to lay the foundation for structural adjustments. But it seems all stakeholders are pursuing an elusive path without considering the need for structural changes.  Instead of believing in a single answer, we must adopt multi-faceted strategies to come out of the ramified economic, political, and social situation. The country needs strategies to have a positive trade balance and a balance of payment through export-oriented economic growth and higher purchasing power of the people, for which industrialisation, based on comparative advantages, is a must. Suppose the country does not embark on growth-oriented strategies during the breathing space. In that case, the country’s economy may get settled at a low equilibrium level (low production and productivity, low demand, low income, high degree of unemployment /underemployment, low imports, and exports etc.) It would be challenging to re-energise because the economic base, such as professional and qualified human resources, international business linkages, systems, procedures, and institutional arrangements, could become fragile over a long period.

Considering the limited land resources, Sri Lanka will not be able to produce essential food items such as grains, pulses, and lentils for mass consumption on the world market or agricultural/natural raw materials for large-scale worldwide industries. Therefore, exporting agriculture products and raw materials in large volumes has little prospect for exchange earning and employment generation.  Our strategy should be: (a) gaining a higher value in the export market by adding a high degree of value to the limited supply of local raw materials. (b) Knowledge and skill-based industries. (c) high-value products for market niches. (d) tertiary sector activities targeted local and international markets, (e) Import substitution if the market is large enough to have the scale of economies. Otherwise, attempts to replace all imports with import-substituting industries will lead to high costs and low quality. It will deprive local customers of benefitting from the international comparative advantages and, finally, misallocate scarce resources (f) produce human resources of medium and high-level professionals for the global labour market. (g) Produce for the broader international market using imported agriculture and natural raw materials like the 200 hundred garment factory program.  Four or five strategic industries/ thrust areas shall be identified for this program with due consideration to the following aspects: (1) industrial products with a wider local and foreign market (2) Internationally comparative advantages in terms of access to the market, raw material and other inputs, skills, expertise etc.

 The Backward and forward linkages of selected industries must analyse and identify constraints at each point of linkages and design and implement necessary interventions including incentives, legal support, and tariff protection for a definite period. Perhaps, the electronic industry, leather products, jewellery, vehicle components, and cinnamon and coconut-based products would be good candidates.  Sri Lanka has missed many buses from dawn to evening. However, a well-designed program without ups and downs for political gains would catch a late-night bus.

Sri Lanka And The Man Booker Prize 2022

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“ By cruel hands the sapling drops, in dust dishonour’d laid; so fell the pride of all my hopes, my age’s future shade”. ~ Robert Burns

Denis Nowell Pritt, a British barrister, once called Sri Lanka a beautiful but unhappy land.  It is difficult to disagree with this identifier even now. It is a land where the sad resonance of humanity, subjugated by three successive foreign powers, has sent waves of discontent to the shores of our conscience, forcing us to hide the pride of our heritage in an armour of cynicism.  Sporadically, and from time to time, as if in deliberate remonstrance, we have turned on ourselves. Shehan Karunatilaka writes about such an epoch in his book The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a supernatural satire which has just won for him the coveted Man Booker Prize of 2022, much to the joyous pride and delight of all Sri Lankans, local or diasporic. His 2010 debut novel – Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew – won the Commonwealth Prize, the DSC Prize, and the Gratiaen Prize and was adjudged the second greatest cricket book of all time by Wisden, the independent voice of cricket. All this makes  Shehan a world renowned author and places him in the club of other South Asian Booker Prize winners of distinction such as Rushdie, Ondaatje, Roy and Adigar.

The Man Booker Prize is a literary award for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  The winner is decided by a panel of five comprised of authors, librarians, literary agents, publishers, and booksellers who are appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation and charged with choosing the best out of outstanding nominations submitted for their consideration.  The Chair of the panel explained: “ The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ was the ambition of its scope, and the hilarious audacity of its narrative techniques. This is a metaphysical thriller, an afterlife noir that dissolves the boundaries not just of different genres, but of life and death, body and spirit, east and west. It is an entirely serious philosophical romp that takes the reader to ’the world’s dark heart’ — the murderous horrors of civil war Sri Lanka. And once there, the reader also discovers the tenderness and beauty, the love and loyalty, and the pursuit of an ideal that justify every human life”.

This is not a review of the Booker Prize winning novel, as regretfully the book is not yet available in North America where I live.  Neither is this about the distinguished author.  It is rather about its interpretation and nuance, experienced through its theme along the lines of what Ann Patchett says – that meaning is made between the reader and the book, not the reader and author. In the book, as I understand,  Malinda Almeida (the eponymous Maali), a war photographer, gambler, and “closet queen” who is killed,  dismembered, and later dumped in a placid lake in Sri Lanka, is supernaturally resurrected and finds himself seemingly in what resembles a celestial visa office.  Having no idea who killed him in a country where revenge is settled by death squads, suicide bombers, and hired goons, Malinda embarks on a quest with the limited time he has – seven moons – to find out who killed him and also to contact the man and woman he loves most –  his lover DD and his best friend Jaki – and lead them to the photos that will bewilder and rock Sri Lanka. The book brings to bear various times in history where humanity inherits the loss brought about by egregious politics and the worse demons of our nature, which are presented in frightening testimony of loss and betrayal and feckless insouciance to human dignity and the value of life.   Some of these horrendous events addressed are “the barbarism of India up north in ’89, the cruelty of Tamils out east in ’87 and the savagery of Sinhalese down south in ’83”.

Karunatilaka’s book stimulates introspection.  Nira Wickramasinghe,  Professor in the Department of History and International Relations in the University of Colombo in her book Sri Lanka in the Modern Age – A History of Contested Identities (2006) says: “ The Sri Lankan post colony seems to have failed, in many spheres, to address its past without reproducing it. This predicament has hindered the adoption of any course that steers too far from its colonial and early postcolonial inheritance and has shaped the contours of post-independence development”.  Dr. Wickramasinghe goes on to say that one reason for this lack of direction is the failure of institutions of a liberal Sri Lanka which have failed to address all needs of the country be it the poor, the unemployed youth and minorities who have been deprived of the protection the State is required to provide under a social contract. Another reason is a lack of self vision and national identity which countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong had.  As far back as 1990 Rohan Guneratne in his book Sri Lanka – a Lost Revolution? The Inside Story f the JVP (1990) partly blames the dystopian inheritance of Sri Lanka’s violence to the failure of Sri Lanka’s academics and intellectuals who failed in two areas: the absence of an attempt to diffuse discord and the ensuing violence and carnage in the country; and the failure to document the tragedy.  He concludes that this weakness of planners and experts led to civil disturbance which went from crisis to crisis. 

Sri Lanka has gone through, in the words of Dickens “ the best of times and the worst of times”. The best times were before the country lost all sense of purpose, direction and dignity.  The country needs to get back to ushering in a different brand of politics devoid of partisan bickering and stultifying division. To bring on a democracy that would solve concrete problems. Children should be able to grow up and receive an education that would lead to career opportunities. In the ultimate analysis, it remains an enduring realization that Sri Lankans have the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, religion, caste, race or ethnic group.

The dark wind that howls through our disillusionment must stop, even to catch its breath and allow the better angels of our nature to step in. Darkness must not keep our secrets hidden and we must let in the light.

Shehan Wickremetilleke drives a wedge of conscience into the reader’s mind and jolts him to reality. However,  it is the song and not the singer who won the prize. But the singer rendered his song melodiously.

Sri Lanka: Shehan wins Booker Prize

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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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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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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”.

Aeronautical Relevance of Unnanounced Missile Launching by North Korea

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We live in a world of guided missiles and misguided men. — Martin Luther King, Jr. 

A grave concern confronting the civil aviation community is that, with the proliferation of military activity will inevitably come the endangerment of air routes.

While the 41st Session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was going on last week, The Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK, which is  a member of ICAO),  launched, without prior notification to the international community, two short-range ballistic missiles 22 minutes apart on a trajectory over its  eastern waters, seemingly in defiance of  the redeployment of an aircraft carrier by the United States near the Korean Peninsula, which had been in response to Pyongyang’s previous launch of a nuclear-capable missile over Japan.

A missile is “a guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor”. Missiles are also known as guided missiles or guided rockets. Missile launching by North Korea has been conducted in recent times with contumacious disregard of sanctions already imposed on the country, prompting some to say that North Korea might be aiming at international recognition of its might as a nuclear State, and coercing the international community to lift sanctions imposed against it. The recent launches were ominous in that they landed between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.  The first missile flew 350 kilometers (217 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and the second flew 800 kilometers (497 miles) on an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles). Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launches “absolutely intolerable”.

The History

This contentious issue has a long history which can be traced back to nearly 24 years. The consequences of the nuclear missile firings of 5 July 2006 by DPRK  brought to bear the hazards and grave dangers such activities pose to civil aviation. In this instance, missiles launched by DPRK crossed several international air routes over the high seas. It was revealed that, when extrapolating the projected paths of some of the missiles, it appeared that they could have interfered with many air routes, both over Japan and the air space of the North Pacific Ocean. This is not the first instance of its kind. A similar incident took place on 31 August 1998 in the same vicinity in which the North Korean missiles were fired in July 2006. An object propelled by rockets was launched by North Korea and a part of the object hit the sea in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Sanriku in north-eastern Japan.

The impact area of the object was in the vicinity of the international airway A590 which is known as composing NOPAC Composite Route System, a trunk route connecting Asia and North America where some 180 flights of various countries fly every day. The member States of ICAO at the 32nd Session of the Assembly (Montreal 22 September–2 October 1998) adopted Resolution A32-6 (Safety of Navigation) which considered that, on August 31, 1998, an object propelled by rockets was launched by a certain Contracting State and a part of the object hit the sea in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Sanriku in North-eastern Japan and that the impact area of the object was in the vicinity of the international airway A590 which was known as composing NOPAC Composite Route System, a trunk route connecting Asia and North America where some 180 flights of various countries fly every day and concluded that the launching of such an object vehicle was done in a way not compatible with the fundamental principles, standards and recommended practices of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) and noted that it was necessary that international aviation should be developed in a safe and orderly manner, and that the Member States of ICAO will take appropriate measures to enhance further the safety of international civil aviation.

The ICAO Response

ICAO’s response at the currently ongoing Assembly – which concludes on 7 October of this year – was to consider a draft resolution titled Unannounced missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea anchored on earlier United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 (2006), 2087 (2013), 2270 which demanded that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology and strongly condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea when doing so, in violation and flagrant disregard of the Security Council’s Resolutions.  In adopting these resolutions, the United Nations Security Council cited Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter which  sets out the UN Security Council ‘s powers to maintain peace. It allows the Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to take military and nonmilitary action to “restore international peace and security”.

The ICAO Assembly recalled that on an earlier occasion the ICAO Council had, on 6 October 2017, expressed its strong condemnation of the continued launching of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea over or near international routes without advance notification, which seriously threatens the safety of international civil aviation and represents a serious risk to international civil aviation,  affirmed that the ICAO Secretariat should avoid all technical activities with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, of a direct or indirect nature  The Assembly also noted that the ICAO Council, on 1 June 2022, had condemned in the strongest possible terms the recent spate of unannounced missile launches and urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to act in accordance with and respect for the Chicago Convention , and to comply with applicable ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.

Aeronautical Consequences

Mention of the Chicago  Convention brings to bear many facts.  The ICAO Assembly noted the matter of unannounced missile launches had been brought to its attention by the Council of ICAO under Article 54 k) of the Chicago Convention, which provides that the Council had a mandatory duty to  Report to the Assembly any infraction of the Convention where a contracting State has failed to take appropriate action within a reasonable time after notice of the infraction.  

From an aeronautical perspective, Annex 11 (Air Traffic Services) to the Chicago Convention, which deals with the subject of air traffic services, lays down requirements for coordination of activities that are potentially hazardous to civil aircraft. Annex 2 to the Convention (on rules of the air)  contain provisions for co-ordination between military authorities and air traffic services and co-ordination of activities potentially hazardous to civil aircraft. These provisions specify that air traffic services authorities must establish and maintain close co-operation with military authorities responsible for activities that may affect flights of civil aircraft. The provisions also prescribe that the arrangements for activities potentially hazardous to civil aircraft must be coordinated with the appropriate air traffic services authorities and that the objective of this co-ordination must be to achieve the best arrangements which will avoid hazards to civil aircraft and minimize interference with the normal operations of such aircraft.

Annex 2 also stipulates those arrangements for activities potentially hazardous to civil aircraft, whether over the territory of a State or over the high seas, must be coordinated with the appropriate air traffic services authorities, such coordination to be effected early enough to permit timely promulgation of information regarding the activities in accordance with the provisions of Annex 15 to the Chicago Convention. Standard Annex 11 explains that the objective of the coordination referred to in the earlier provision must be to achieve the best arrangements that are calculated to avoid hazards to civil aircraft and minimize interference with the normal operations of aircraft.

Conclusion

ICAO has no jurisdiction over military activities per se in the context of a State’s decision on its military activities. What is discussed above pertains solely to dangers posed to civil aviation by uncoordinated military activities in the air.  In this context what is relevant is coordination between civil and military activities.  Article 3 c) of the Chicago Convention states that no state aircraft of a contracting State must fly over the territory of another State or land thereon without authorization by special agreement or otherwise, and in accordance with the terms thereof.  Of course, this applies to military aircraft and not to guided missiles which are by definition guided military weapons  that are stabilized in altitude either by remote control or by a mechanism within themselves.

Although ICAO Resolutions are nothing more than the outcome of political compromises and no legal legitimacy can be ascribed to them, it must be admitted that the Resolution of the 41st Session of ICAO’s Assembly is at least a condemnation of the missile launching by North Korea.  What is needed in addition is a concentrated effort by the members of the United Nations (which are also ICAO member States) to enter into a concrete and effective agreement that would protect civil air transport from pernicious military activities in the air. 

On October 2009 ICAO took a proactive step by convening, in collaboration  inter alia with NATO and EUROCONTROL (European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation),  The Global Air Traffic Management Forum On Civil/Military Cooperation which discussed subjects such as understanding common requirements and diverse operating needs; the need to move toward a more interoperable and seamless Global Air Navigation System; security and sovereignty considerations; Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Needs and challenges; and regional and national airspace planning. 

It might be worthwhile to expand this event at a global level with the military authorities of ICAO member States.