|Distance Education in Engineering for Developing Countries - Education Research Paper No. 13 (DFID, 1995, 102 p.)|
|Sri Lanka: A country report|
Report on visit 17-21 October 1994
Sri Lanka has a population of 17.7 million (mid 1993) growing at a rate of 1.0% per annum (compared with 1.8% in 1978). It is a largely agricultural country of 62.3 thousand sq. km. with a quarter of the population in the Western Province, the remainder being fairly equally distributed. The largest city is Colombo - population 650,000.
Composition of the population:
74.0% Sinhalese, 12.6% Sri Lankan Tamils, 5.5% Indian Tamils, 7.1
A very high proportion of the population (>50%) live in poverty, yet there is an impressive literacy rate of 88.6% (of people aged five years and above), one of the highest in Asia.
1.2 Political stability
Sri Lanka is a parliamentary democracy with an elected executive President. There are 225 members of parliament elected by a complicated proportional voting system. The general population of Sri Lanka is an extraordinarily politically aware community.
The present Prime Minister Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Peoples Alliance Party, was elected in July 1994. Her family has formed a political dynasty in Sri Lanka.
The visit coincided with the run-up to the Presidential Elections on 9 November in which the Prime Minister is a candidate from one of the five political parties.(1) She is a clear favourite, committed to ending the on-going ethnic war, eradicating communalism and building a unified country. She is also proposing the abolition of the Executive Presidency. (nb. November 7 saw a resounding victory for Mrs Kumaratunga. The winning margin was by far the biggest there has ever been in a Presidential election and she became Sri Lanka's first woman president).
To call Sri Lanka politics turbulent would be an understatement. The general atmosphere is extremely tense and during the visit the opposition leader and UNP presidential candidate Mr Gamini Disanayake was assassinated in a bombing which also killed over 50 people. (2)
2.0 ECONOMIC BACKGROUND
Sri Lanka is a small, poor, but rapidly growing country with an impressive record of meeting the basic needs of its population. The base of its industry is agriculture. 1993 GNP per head was US$510, placing it near the top of the World Bank's 'low income' category. According to a Central Bank survey, the Sri Lankan economy demonstrated a 'robust' performance in 1993. (3)
2.1 Gross national product
In 1992 GNP stood at US$9.6 billion with a real growth rate of 6.9% in 1993 compared to an average of 4-5% over the previous years.(3)
Over the last ten years unemployment has risen steeply. Presently, there are over one million unemployed (16% of the labour force). Furthermore, the better the level of qualifications obtained the higher the rate of unemployment. Beyond graduate levels, unemployment rates fall again. Girls enjoy equal participation in education as boys, but female unemployment is 2-3 times higher in those groups with qualifications from lower and upper secondary education.(3,4)
As elsewhere in the Third World underemployment is also a major problem. Job-sharing and consequent inefficiency is rife. Arguably, engrained attitudes over job-sharing are more difficult to change and have a greater impact upon the economy.
2.3 The 1994 budget
Despite a warning about the continuous costs of the war in the North and East, the 1994 Budget was optimistic(5). The emphasis was on the promotion of savings and investment, the control of public expenditure and an export-led growth. It was well received by business although with scepticism, especially from workers' organisations about the control of inflation.
3.0 MANOR INDUSTRIAL SECTORS
Traditionally, agriculture dominated the economy and in 1992 contributed 21% of GDP whilst employing 45% of the labour force. It is however now declining in percentage terms against significant growth in the manufacturing and service sectors. The service sector now accounts for 51% of GDP and a third of employment. Industry provides almost 30% of GDP manufacturing 18.5%, construction 6.9%, mining 2.3% and around a quarter of the employment.(3)
In this sector, favourable weather conditions in 1993, alongside new commercial management arrangements, resulted in increased yields in the major crops, tea, rice and rubber, as well as in most of the subsidiary crops. Rice is the largest crop in terms of production value, following equally by tea and coconut, with rubber production fourth. Minor crops include maize, chillies, cocoa, cinnamon, pepper and other spices. Paddy fields in Sri Lanka are higher per hectare than other Asian countries.
Production in 1993 was reported to have increased by 9% with significant improvements in chemicals, petroleum, rubber, plastics, non-metallic minerals, paper, textiles, garments and leather goods. Manufactured products now account for nearly 75% of the country's export earnings.(5) These are primarily garments.
The industry expanded rapidly two years ago with the creation of 200 new factories each with 500 employees. There are now 300,000 directly employed in the garment industry, totally in the private sector, contributing 40% of total exports. Much of the machinery being used is second-hand and cheap imports mainly from India are making life difficult. Also, the present quota system for production will not last forever and the future for the industry is unclear. What is clear is the total social upheaval that would occur were the industry to collapse.
There is presently a severe shortage of skilled workers including those with managerial skills, a problem which is being addressed by the University of Moratuwa, albeit within limited resources.
The political situation has had a negative effect on tourism. Nevertheless, it is still a key sector, still the second largest foreign exchange earner and currently employing 67,000 people. A boom is predicted if the civil war were to end.(5)
Education is free in Sri Lanka - from primary level through University. The sole exceptions being a few private institutions and the Open University.
The state provides school places to almost the whole population at primary level and there are widely available places at lower and upper secondary levels. Education is compulsory up to lower secondary level and is taught in the pupils' home language - Sinhalese and/or Tamil(6).
The view of education as a fundamental right of everyone is very strongly held in Sri Lanka(7). This is both a demonstration of the high value which educational qualifications carry in the society and, at the same time, an attitude which constrains reform.
Education is the sole means of job access and mobility for most of the population and so important is it viewed that even students in the age range 16-20 who complete their study without passing O or A Level examinations are considered drop-outs. Nevertheless, even though education is so highly prized, employers complain of a negative work ethic amongst students and of inappropriate skills.
The constraints to reform mean that the opportunities to redirect resources may be difficult to achieve in practice(7).
The major educational problem facing Sri Lanka at the present time is the reconciliation of the high demand for education with the need for relevantly trained personnel.
The country has outstandingly high levels of literacy and school participation and some excellent educational establishments. However, there are high levels of unemployment, and furthermore unemployment levels increase with increased levels of education, only reducing again at post-graduate levels(3). Yet employers frequently cannot recruit staff with appropriate skills.
'The existence of substantial numbers of unemployed
with high educational qualifications is not a reason to cut back the capacity of
the education system, but rather to improve the quality, relevance and content
of education and training; if the economy is to develop it will need more rather
than fewer well-educated people.(7)
Demographic trends, notably a reduction in the size of the primary school age group, provides the opportunity to reallocate limited funds into other sectors, specifically vocational training. Resources could also be released through increased efficiency and more cost-effective provision, for instance using distance education methods.
'The country needs education and training
strategies that will provide for the needs of a modern democracy with a
tradition of high standards of social care, for a development effort oriented
towards export-processing and tourism, for the needs of the overseas employment
market, and for traditional economic activities including
In general, students study in their mother tongue - Sinhalese or Tamil, and indeed they complete their 'A' level examinations in their own language. Burgers, Eurasians and Muslims can study in English.
The Government abolished English as a compulsory subject in 1956, with the result that although literacy rates are extremely high, 90% of the 4.3 million children cannot read or speak English(8). Clearly, the legacy of this political decision has severe implications for the future, especially since English is the universal technical language and, in the context of this study, since much distance learning material is in English.
There is now compulsory English from Year 3 in school (age eight) but the quality of the teachers is variable - as a result of the paucity of English teaching over the last 28 years.
The major providers of English Language Teaching in Sri Lanka include the World Bank and the Ministry of Education. The British Council is also a key provider and will have a major part to play in the future. Most of the British Council provision is funded by the ODA.
4.2 Complexities of the training sector
Unbelievably, there are 26 Government Ministries all of which have their own training units totalling a staggering 1512 different units. Yet this represents only half of the total number of tertiary and vocational training institutions in the country.(10, 11, 12) The other training units are provided by the private sector and trade associations.
5.0 NATIONAL EDUCATION COMMISSION (NEC)
The NEC was established in July 1992 with a remit to examine all policy issues related to the education and training sector and report directly to the President. The NEC has a staff of 18 and is empowered to make recommendations at all levels from pre-school, through school and University, to adult and continuing education. To date, they have reported upon general education, teachers, management of education and the curriculum. At present they are looking at Higher Education (due to be published before the end of 1994) via a World Bank Project.
5.1 Higher education
The Chairman of the Commission expressed some clear views on higher education in Sri Lanka. Fundamentally, the sector is very conservative, with courses being unchanged over decades. Thus the curriculum will need radical changes to make it much more relevant to the country's needs - this change being market driven and necessitated by changes in the economic structure.
The NEC wish to strengthen the University sector, both in terms of infrastructure and physical plant, and to improve the quality of staff through staff development. They wish to increase the intake from 2% to 4% and eventually to 6%. At present, some 150,000 students sit for 'A' levels each year, with 30,000 achieving the qualifications necessary to enter University, yet only 8,000 places are available. Thus, low unit cost education, typified by distance methods, is essential if a greater number of the qualified school leavers are to be allowed access to higher education.
5.2 Technical education
Technical education has been neglected in the past. There is a crucial need to develop it in order to:
· reach larger numbers of students
· increase the number of courses
· diversify the curriculum to include business and commerce as well as technical subjects
The aim is to quadruple the numbers of students from the present 2,000 to between 7,000 and 10,000.
The present technical colleges are not efficient and the present teaching staff are inadequate. There is a severe shortage of good teaching staff and the National Teacher Training College is ineffective at present and will be required to work to targets in future. It is considered that the mixed mode approach offered by distance learning could have an important role to play.
5.3 Distance education
The Commission believes that distance learning materials could be produced by both adapting existing UK material and by developing their own indigenous materials. The latter could be done either by the existing conventional universities or by the Open University of Sri Lanka. Materials arising from either would need support in the form of laboratory experience (for engineering courses) and tutorial support. Staff involved in providing such support would require training in distance education techniques.
Facilities are less of a problem - three of the Universities teach engineering, there are 25 technical colleges and the Technical Teacher Training College has good laboratories with practical facilities in areas such as automobile engineering, materials science and fluid dynamics.
However, the present school education system does not suit pupils well for resource-based learning or distance education and there will be a need for students to gain these skills.
5.4 Needs of industry
There is a mismatch between what industry needs and what the universities currently provide. This cannot be rectified overnight. The present industrial needs are in areas such as ceramics, textiles, light engineering and tea planting. This mix will inevitably change with time but the educational system must be able to change to suit. Sri Lanka also needs a partnership or link between industry and education.
In terms of provision, having substantially satisfied the need for civil engineers (transport and highways)(13) there is now a need for mechanical engineers. In future there will be greater demand in agriculture and food-related industries and there is some limited potential for electronics.
5.5 Language in higher education
Students at university prefer to learn in English. Decisions in the late 50s to abolish the compulsory teaching of English are now creating difficulties. The major constraint upon future plans to shorten University education from four to three years is the necessity of a four year period in order for students to achieve competence in English.
6.0 HIGHER EDUCATION
Sri Lanka has:
· nine universities (including the Open University)
· seven Affiliated University Colleges (consisting of 10 centres)
· one technical training college
· two private sector institutes of higher education (fee paying)
The high standard of general education has created a demand for places in universities which is largely unfulfilled due to the limited expansion of universities over the last two decades. Of the 30,000 or so students who qualify for places via the 'A' level route only around 8,000 gain places, leaving a substantial number of highly motivated and ambitious yet disappointed students. Distance Learning would provide this group with an opportunity to access higher education.
For many years expansion and change has been strongly resisted by the universities as they attempted to protect the status quo. There is evidence now that this is changing with the National Education Commission's target of doubling the participation rate and the University Grants Council's imperative to require university education to meet social and manpower needs.
The universities sector contains about 26,000 students, only 2% of the relevant age group, which is much lower than that of comparable developing countries, c.f. 8% for the economically advancing nations of Asia. (7) 53% of university students study arts subjects, 15% science, 15% medicine, dentistry and veterinary science and 4% agriculture. Less than 12% of students are enrolled in engineering or technology courses taught in three of the universities - the University of Peradeniya, the University of Moratuwa and the Open University.
Civil unrest and student insurrection in 1987-1989 led to the universities being closed for two years. On re-admitting students, larger numbers than normal were accepted in order to satisfy some of the demand. This has led to an 'excess' of students graduating in 1994 adding to the problem of graduate unemployment.
6.2 The University of Peradeniya
Peradeniya is a large university, based in Kandy, which has been the traditional place to study engineering. It has six faculties, with 20% of its students following engineering or technology, approximately one half studying science, agriculture or medically-related courses and the remainder in social sciences, humanities and the arts.
Geographically remote from Colombo, distance learning techniques could increase choice and access for students.
6.3 The University of Moratuwa
Established in the 1970s, and previously an Institute of Technology, Moratuwa has approximately 1,800 students in two faculties:
· Architecture - including Town & Country Planning and Building Economics
· Engineering - Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical, Electronic, Computer Science, Materials Science, Mineral & Mining, and Textiles
It operates four year undergraduate programmes, the two year National Diploma of Technology, as well as a number of postgraduate courses including construction management and environmental engineering and management.
Enthusiasm for distance learning was restricted to post-graduate courses following the 'laying of a good base in engineering at the undergraduate level'.
6.4 Affiliated University Colleges (AUCs)
The AUCs were established in 1991 to provide two year vocationally oriented courses as an alternative route at post-secondary level. They are affiliated to universities with directors who are members of the university Senates. They have Boards of Management comprising academic staff and local employers and official representatives.
Latest figures (December 1993) show 1,300 enrolments at the AUCs studying subjects such as agriculture and animal science, accountancy and finance, hotel management, travel, tourism and culture, enterprise and small business management and English (14).
The AUCs have suffered from criticisms levelled at the universities responsible for them notably the weakness of the planning and quality assurance functions of the universities and their resistance to change. The establishment of the AUCs outside the technical college system, many of which are reasonably well-equipped and under-utilised, was opposed by College staff and students. Furthermore, their physical location was chosen for reasons of geographical equity rather than educational need and this has created further problems(7).
Consequently, the AUCs have had little impact on the overall problems facing higher education, nor have they encouraged the universities to adapt themselves to the new prevailing circumstances.
7.0 THE OPEN UNIVERSITY
The Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) was established in 1980 and is the only recognised University in the country where students are able to pursue further and higher education by distance learning.
On its establishment, OUSL incorporated two previous distance study institutions, the External Services Agency (ESA) and the Sri Lanka Institute of Distance Education (SLIDE). ESA registered external candidates for courses of the former University of Sri Lanka and simply provided examinations with no instruction. SLIDE has provided part-time study at Certificate and Diploma level in management, mathematics, science and technology. It employed a variety of techniques - written course materials and assignments, face-to-face teaching, short practical periods and use of cassettes, films and slides at regional centres. It also had a system of counselling. When it was absorbed, OUSL inherited 5,000 students on five programmes.
The main objectives of OUSL are:
· to provide continuing education for both those in employment and as a 'second chance'
· to relieve pressure upon conventional universities where demand far exceeds available places
7.2 Course and Admissions
OUSL consists of three faculties - Humanities and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Engineering and Technology.
The main campus is in Colombo. In addition OUSL has a network of four regional centres and sixteen study centres. These centres provide limited facilities for face-to-face teaching, opportunities for reference to text books and distribution of course materials. They are also used for counselling purposes and for conducting examinations.
The University offers a range of programmes for students over the age of 19 at a number of levels: awareness, certificate, foundation, diploma, first degree and postgraduate. Admission to OUSL courses is open to anyone for awareness and certificate courses. Foundation courses have to be completed successfully before admission onto degree courses. Fees are paid by students, which is exceptional compared with other Universities, even so, OUSL are nowhere near full cost.
There are presently 26,000 students studying courses and a total of 1,120 staff (one third being academic staff).
7.3 Facilities and expertise
OUSL uses a traditional combination of media and techniques for its distance learning programmes - texts, videos, audios, face-to-face teaching and practical sessions.
The facilities and equipment available for the production of video and audio material are superb. Funded by the Government of Japan to a total sum of 1,349 million yen, the Media House at OUSL offers high quality studios and truly state-of-the-art facilities. With 40 staff, well-trained technical support, and a resident expert providing technical training, the Media House is able to produce very high quality promotional and teaching programmes.
Its major problem is the dearth of competent producers in the faculties. Clearly there is a need to use subject experts in the production of audio-visual materials, yet such staff are invariably already heavily committed or sometimes not suited to the role of producer. The Media House runs one month workshops to train academics in this skill. It has also recently established a research unit with two staff, one seconded from each of the faculties of Natural Sciences and Humanities to investigate, in particular, student requirements and student feedback.
On the other hand, the quality of text-based material is poor in comparison with other major distance learning providers. It is outside the scope of this report to comment upon subject content, but in terms of educational technology, learning styles, student interaction, design and presentation, there is significant scope for improvement. It is not surprising, since the majority of OUSL academic and support staff have received no training in the philosophy of distance education or in the techniques of production. There is, therefore, a substantial need and considerable scope to offer training workshops in this area. A project proposal presently in preparation, which involves the British Council in Sri Lanka in collaboration with OUSL, proposes to remedy this problem as part of a wide-ranging programme. It also seeks to strengthen the research and evaluation capacity of OUSL in order to improve the educational and operational organisation, of OUSL courses. The approval of this project would contribute significantly to the capacity of OUSL to contribute to the human resource development needs in Sri Lanka.
7.4 Practical sessions
The attendance requirement for face-to-face teaching and practical sessions is greater than for comparable open universities, involving students in long journeys and overnight stays. Practical facilities, for example in computing and engineering, are good in the Colombo Centre. However, in Regional Centres they are much more basic with only some computers, a few video machines, but no equipment for engineering. The substantial face-to-face component of OUSL programmes, which is taught by OUSL academics or support staff, places a heavy demand upon both staff and students.
Considering that 70-80% of OUSL students are in employment, the attendance requirements upon them clearly cause them difficulties leading to potential drop-out.
A major problem for OUSL is that of drop-out. It was difficult to obtain precise figures, although figures of greater than 40%, and greater than 50% for an engineering foundation course of 900 initial students, were mentioned.
Reasons identified by OUSL staff were as follows:
· Mathematical ability - there is a huge variation of ability of students in mathematics and an open entry policy does not allow any kind of screening
· Quality of materials - it was acknowledged that 'lesson materials' need to be improved
· Competence in English - although Levels 1 and 2 are taught in Tamil and Sinhalese as well as English, the prerequisite of English produces problems for students at later stages
Other reasons would doubtless include:
· Lack of time - conflicts between time demands from work and home responsibilities, reducing the time available for study
· Residential requirement - the relatively substantial, and compulsory attendance for face-to-face sessions will cause problems for students
· Lack of trained tutors - some tutors still employ conventional teaching methods rather than adapting to the needs, and philosophy, of distance learning
· Inflexibility of provision - the lack of common systems and approaches between the faculties means that students have difficulty in changing courses and no opportunity to combine elements from different faculties
· Ambition and motivation of students - such is the desire for education and the importance placed upon qualifications in Sri Lanka, that students unadvisedly attempt too much.
Clearly, wastage rates at these levels are of major concern to OUSL and indeed they have introduced systems and practices aimed at advising students and thereby counteracting dropout. Engineering students now have access to counselling provided by faculty and tutors. In Science, a system of personal tutors, each responsible for 40 students, is in place. Where necessary, students are discouraged from attempting the maximum number of credits and attend orientation programmes on what being a distance learner is about. OUSL is currently considering creating a post of Dean of Student Affairs.
Finally, however, although drop-out is a major problem, any figures should be treated with caution. Drop-out is notoriously difficult to measure, especially on programmes which allow considerable flexibility. Students can remain 'dormant', apparently (but not formally) dropped-out, but then re-emerge in later years. In particular, the system at OUSL predisposes students to drop-out formally during such a planned dormant period to avoid paying fees before reregistering at a later date. The statistics are unable, at present, to recognise these situations.
8.0 TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Since the mid-1950s, government funded Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has been delivered through a plethora of training institutions, created to satisfy a current or immediate national need but with no reference to any kind of coherent or national strategy. Consequently 26 separate Ministries presently control 1,512 different training units often offering similar programmes. As a result there is substantial duplication, expansion without control and limited resources spread thinly. In addition, links with industry are almost non-existent.
The private sector also established its own training institutes bringing the total in Sri Lanka to over 3,000. The private sector either provided training in fields not available in the state sector or in areas where places in state institutions were already filled. Courses are offered in subjects such as motor mechanics, aviation, marine engineering, computing, office skills, hairdressing and hotel and catering.
8.1 Public sector TVET
The 1,512 institutes collectively service 108,000 students, the largest providers being the:
· Ministry of Education and Higher Education (711 institutes, 31,500 students)
· Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (349 institutes, 11,600 students)
· Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (969 institutes, 23,000 students)
· Ministry of Tourism and Rural Industrial Development (221 institutes, 5,500 students)
· Ministry of Policy Planning and Implementation (7 institutes, 6,418 students)
8.2 Ministry of Education and Higher Education
This ministry also is responsible for:
· twenty-five Technical Colleges (of which thirteen are Grade 1 technical colleges)
· five affiliated & Technical Units
· one National Institute of Technical Education (NITE) (previously the National Technical Teacher Training College (NTTTC)).
9.0 TERTIARY AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION COMMISSION
The Government has recognised the needs for a fundamental reform of the tertiary education and training system. In particular it is addressing the need for:
· a comprehensive national policy
· co-ordination and avoidance of duplication
· links between education training and employment
· increased efficiency in the use of training resources
· increased practical experience of staff in training institutions
· a system of national recognised certification
· effective career guidance and counselling
· incentives to improve training capability
· labour market information.
As a result the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) was established in 1990 under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport to 'plan, co-ordinate and develop the training system in keeping with the human resource needs of the economy.'(7)
In addition the Ministry of Industries, Science and Technology has established a Skills Development Fund to 'provide for the establishment of an effective machinery for the financing of training which efficiently meets employment needs, and responding flexibly to priority needs as they emerge.'(7)
9.1 Vocational training reform project
As a result of the Education and Training Sector Strategic Review(7) project, preparation is currently underway on a Technical Assistance Project, funded by the International Development Association, to reform the sector. Under the auspices of TVEC, the project will address the needs listed above, whilst in addition:
· Supporting the full development of the Skills Development Fund
· Assisting the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) to improve the efficiency, quality and relevance of apprenticeship training and retraining
· Expanding enterprise training to improve skills and raise productivity
Distance education is expected to play an important role in improving efficiency, relevance, quality, flexibility and consistency of vocational training.
9.2 Distance education in technical training
Using the often-quoted ratio of 1 professional engineer: 4 technicians: 25 craftsmen, the commission (TVEC) are concerned that 29 out of this group of 30 are generally denied the opportunity for personal up-dating or re-training. Many of these wish to improve their knowledge and upgrade their qualifications but cannot be released from work, and will never go back to the classroom.
In the view of TVEC distance education is:
'without doubt the best (and perhaps only) way for
future technical updating.'
Furthermore, a great advantage is that distance education can be work-related and under the Reform Project enterprise-based training will be a priority. TVEC:
'cannot imagine enterprise-training without
It will improve contact with industry, improve work-based learning opportunities and thus satisfy the criticisms of industry that the present training system creates theoretical training institutions instead of skilled people. It would also take advantage of the large numbers of 'trainers' currently working in industry.
9.3 Models for Development
TVEC proposes two alternative, perhaps complementary, models for development of distance education in technical areas, which are presently under consideration:
· In collaboration with the Open University of Sri Lanka, the training of currently around 20,000 engineering-related apprentices managed by NAITA (the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority)
· The establishment of a distance learning system for industry at NITE (the National Institute of Technical Education) following its restructuring
9.4 Other Opportunities
The private sector is concerned more and more about human resource development and Chambers of Commerce and Industry require up-grading and refresher courses for their members. Distance education does not require employees to be released from the workplace for training purposes and hence is considered very favourably by the private sector.
Before distance education can take advantage of this opportunity TVEC consider that the distance education must be:
· well designed
· available to the majority of the population
· heavily subsidised
The Skills Development Funds might cover some of the fees since large and medium companies are likely to provide only low-level support of around 500R (circa £7) per person per month.
However, TVEC do not consider that funding will be a problem as there are many available donors.
The concept of distance education will also need to be 'sold' to the population and to industry in order to satisfy people's 'lifelong craving for knowledge'. In particular:
· distance learning must be distinguished from correspondence courses
· the benefits need to be stressed including its employment-orientation and the advantage of not requiring release from work.
10.0 INSTITUTION OF ENGINEERS
The Institution of Engineers of Sri Lanka provides professional up-dating for engineers in all engineering disciplines - civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, marine and agriculture. It has around 5000 members, of whom half are corporate members entitled to use the designation C. Eng. In addition, there are around 1000 Associate members and 1000 Student members (15) Civil Engineering is the largest group.
The Institution of Engineers provides an extensive programme of lectures preparing candidates for the Part I and Part II examinations (16) The courses are run outside working time and students attend nearly every weekend and on most public holidays in order to complete the programme. As an example, Part I contains eight subjects each of which consist of 40 x 2 hour lectures. This commitment to study is an indication of the importance of qualifications to Sri Lankans. The majority of the lecturing staff come from the engineering faculties of the Universities. There are around 100 students following Part I and a similar number on Part II courses. There is not a large enough industrial base to contain all the facilities for practical training in one single company, so staff will move to other companies for essential experience. CPD courses are also run: 'Management Development for Engineers' being the most popular. This is a 12-day Saturday course costing 4000R (circa £50).
10.2 Supply and demand
The University sector will produce around 1000 engineering graduates in 1994, which is excess of the need in all areas except for electronic and electrical where supply and demand are balanced. Recognised engineering qualifications are seen as vitally important. The public sector organisations e.g. government, Departments of Irrigation, Railways etc. insist on them. Private sector organisations prefer to appoint technician engineers (i.e. those qualified with a National Diploma in Technology) because of their more practical orientation.
10.3 Distance education courses
The Institution already recognises the Diploma in Engineering offered by the Open University of Sri Lanka. It is presently looking at accrediting the BTech course, which if recognised will entitle Open University graduates to apply for Corporate membership after a further four years (two years training and two years relevant experience).
10.4 Opportunities for Distance Education
The Institution is concerned that the pass rate for its Part I examinations is only 25%. They identify the problem as the lecturers being different people from the examiners (and hence not teaching an agreed syllabus). They see an advantage in using distance education in that they could be absolutely sure that it covered the correct and full syllabus. There are, however, other ways to achieve that end. Another reason for the low pass rate is likely to be the inflexibility of the Institution lecture series and the consequent severe attendance requirement upon students. Distance education methods, if used flexibly, could alleviate this and improve the completion and pass rate.