“My ambition is to become a doctor,” I answered a question posed by my teacher in kindergarten and at school when I was five or six years old. Almost everyone in my class wanted to become either doctors or engineers and the rest lawyers. The above is an example to show the mindset created in the Sri Lankan young children who will one day grow up to become a young person and seek to become doctors, engineers or lawyers. Are they the only professions in Sri Lanka? The answer is “yes” for the people who are stuck in the cultural frame of jobs and the answer is “no” for the others who try to go beyond that. The ultimate result is that when the youth do not think out of the box they are unemployed and they feel that they are worthless according to the Sri Lankan way of thinking. The main reason for this is the flaws in the Sri Lankan education system which has made the students think like robots and the backward attitudes of the parents who think traditionally.

When a child is four or five years, the parents draw a picture of a doctor, engineer or a lawyer in the mind of the child. If either of the parents is from the above professions, that picture is hard to be erased, hence, discouraging the child to think and choose independently for himself. Parents and teachers at the very beginning of the thirteen-year school life set goals for the children or they create a hierarchy of success in the minds of the children. It goes as this; first pass the Grade five scholarship examination at the age of ten with flying colours; when you are sixteen pass the Ordinary Level Examination with 9 Distinction passes; next at the age of nineteen which is the final year of the school life, pass the Advanced Level Examination (hereinafter referred to as A/L examination) with 3 Distinction passes and enter a state university and after you pass out from the university a government job awaits you!

The sad truth is many are unable to follow up this procedure and because of the fear of being cast away by the parents and by the society, there have been instances, young people have committed suicide after receiving their A/L Examination results if the result is not enough to enter a state university. According to the Sri Lankan way of thinking, A/L Examination is the yardstick of the future of a young individual because they are selected to the state universities based on the results of it. A/L Examination is a test of memory as the 19-year-old students are required to answer a question paper within 3-5 hours based on a syllabus they studied for nearly 2 ½ years. The examination itself is flawed and ironically they say that they select “the spirit” to state universities but the select the best memorizers. I am also an undergraduate of a state university and I admit that I am one of the best memorizers.

The subject streams in A/L stream are biological sciences, physical sciences, commerce, arts and technical studies. These streams are mainly based on academic studies rather than practical studies and at the exam they are given a written paper in most of the subjects. If a student studies in the Biology stream his main objective is to enter the medical faculty to become a doctor. If he fails once, he can try another two times. This shows the young people are afraid to search for new opportunities in the world apart from becoming a doctor studying in the Bio stream. Many of them want to have “the jobs” but if they look around they would see ample opportunities await them. They could study in a private university, they could engage in professional studies or they could start a business of their own and become entrepreneurs. The reasons why the youth do not see these opportunities are that they are trained to think like robots and they wait until the instructions are given. Free thinking has been discouraged and areas such as entrepreneurship are being cast away as they think working under the dominion of another person is “the job”. They are blind towards the other side; that their boss is an entrepreneur and because of him only they have got jobs. Furthermore, the A/L subject streams do not focus on moulding a child with a strong personality and leadership qualities. If a child is raised with the above qualities, he would not think that entering state university is his only option after his thirteen-year school life.

Government schools take thirteen years to create memorizers without the practical knowledge and the universities take another three or four years to pass-out the graduates. More than half the years of the young lives are being wasted on memorizing. Very few young people engage in different tasks such as doing a job while studying in the university and starting their own business. When the young graduates pass-out from the universities, many are unemployed because the real life is different from the academic studies; different from the life they spent becoming bookworms. The education system is not job-oriented and practical and only a few can find a career and adapt to the fast changing world. Now only they begin to see the real world, without instructions from the others. Then only they begin to understand that the hierarchy of success is just a sham because real life situations are not tested in the question papers. Many go out to protest asking for jobs from the government which is wastage of time. If they are really “the spirit” they would have been able to create jobs for themselves and start their own business even that is not the subject they studied because one need not have a degree to become a successful businessman. The problem is, most of the Sri Lankan youth wait until somebody gives them the instructions to do this and that and they have become blind to the opportunities around them. Having a degree and having academic qualifications do not mean that you will definitely get a job; one should have knowledge, skills and attitude. But in contrast, many young people are encouraged only to have knowledge which is a consequence of the education they received.

There is a competition to enter the universities and follow the hierarchy. After passing-out the young people without their knowledge become like slaves to earn money. They forget that they are the brainchildren of free education which is paid for by the public. Their ultimate aim should be to serve the public which is a far-fetched aim for them. This attitude problem in the youth is not a fault of them alone, but the adults who implanted the hierarchy in the children, because children are used to thinking from the very beginning some way or other to follow the necessary procedure, without thinking about the others; they are trained to be selfish. It is very difficult to get rid of an idea in your mind which has been there for a long time and an idea which grew up with you. In the book “The Street Lawyer” by Johan Grisham, the protagonist says, in the first year of the law college, his colleagues and he wanted to serve humanity, but with the passage of time all of them became money-minded and forgot that there are poor people out there who expect the help of them. Same goes with the Sri Lankan society, not only with the lawyers but also with the other professions. If a child has been trained to think beyond the traditional frame, he would have developed independent and creative thinking; he could have got self-satisfaction by serving the humanity apart from engaging in a highly pressurized job with a busy schedule.

Robots are not needed to make Sri Lanka a developed country, but we need young people with innovative ideas who look beyond the traditional frame. Youth should be able to create job for themselves other than waiting until the government provides them with jobs. The mindset of the young children at the age of four and five should be changed to imply that there are more opportunities such as entrepreneurship, other than aiming for the professions such as doctors, engineers and lawyers. The attitude of the society, that those are “the jobs” will take a long time to change and so does the education system because the traditional Sri Lankan society does not like to let go of the old things but to cling on to them. However, if we change at least the attitude of the young people to a certain extent, we can change this country and create a better future.


Written by

Nirmani Rathugama

I write stuff when I'm bored studying law.

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