Published on: January 7, 2024

Actively Participate in the Nation-Building Development Program – President extends invitation to University Students

  • The cornerstone of country development lies in its Human Resources.
  • Opportunity for University Students to study Treasury Affairs.
  • Focused initiatives to enhance English proficiency among University Students.
  • A Prospective Law mandating the Completion of University Education within a Specified Timeframe in the Future.

In a strategic move to propel the Northern Province into an era of unprecedented growth, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has unveiled a visionary development plan for the Northern Province, placing significant emphasis on the role of universities in driving these initiatives.

Addressing a meeting with Jaffna University students, President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the pivotal role of universities in the nation’s development. The President stressed that these academic institutions would play a crucial part in steering Sri Lanka towards stability and prosperity as well as ensuring the success of the planned development projects in the Northern Province.

President Wickremesinghe passionately called upon Jaffna University students to actively participate in these development transformative endeavours, recognizing their potential contributions to the transformative journey ahead.

The President’s vision revolves around transforming Jaffna into a prosperous hub, with Pooneryn earmarked as the focal point for development creating numerous job opportunities, especially through a two-year agricultural modernization initiative. The ambitious initiative focuses on modern, competitive and export-oriented practices.

President Wickremesinghe emphasized the critical role of universities in these development projects, highlighting Jaffna University as a central hub for the region. The plan envisions universities contributing to various development sectors, including agriculture, tourism and technology.

The President emphasized the establishment of new areas and the expansion of universities, including the creation of government and private universities focusing on cutting-edge technologies. He highlighted the need for technological advancements in areas such as digital technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Stressing job creation and agricultural modernization, the President called for university involvement in these projects and urged Jaffna University students to actively participate.

Furthermore, the President advocated for reorganizing vocational training with the establishment of nine boards for each province to align training with market needs. This initiative aims to align training programs with market needs, bringing various organizations under a unified structure. He encouraged education development in line with national policy, ensuring job opportunities, part-time employment, and government revenue.

President Wickremesinghe’s vision extends beyond the academic realm to economic and logistic hubs. He discussed plans to make Colombo and Trincomalee robust harbors serving South India, further emphasizing regional collaboration. Talks with Indian Prime Minister Modi about a potential land bridge connecting South India to Mannar further underscored the commitment to regional integration.

The President underscored the need for high growth rates, setting targets of 5% growth by 2025 and a gradual increase to 7-8% by 2030. He urged university students to actively engage in shaping the future, emphasizing that the development journey is a collective effort toward a prosperous and developed economy.

In explaining the timeline of 2048, the President mentioned agreements with creditors, allowing a 20-year extension for payment.

In his closing remarks, President Wickremesinghe urged a transition to a new economy, citing examples of nations that achieved success through their own efforts drawing inspiration from the self-sufficiency of nations like China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. He emphasized the need for self-reliance and determination, stating that the citizens themselves are the driving force behind Sri Lanka’s transformation into a developed economy, the responsibility lies with the people. The President concluded by encouraging a shift towards a new economy, achieved through their own efforts.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated the importance of unity for the collective effort towards building a prosperous and developed Sri Lanka. He expressed confidence that university students, too, will dedicate themselves to fulfilling this responsibility.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed questions from students, and below are some of the queries along with his responses.

Question:
Tax revenue is the main factor in a country’s income. We study entrepreneurship ideas and entrepreneurship in our university studies. But Mr. President, it does not work in practice. Therefore, we request you to improve the activities for the inclusion of students’ ideas for entrepreneurial activities.

Response:
You can establish such a circle in your faculty and connect directly with our finance team.

Question:
Mr. President, if this program is encouraged to be implemented in all universities, it should be said that it is more suitable.

Response:
Groups of university students can visit the Treasury for a day or two and study how it works.

Question:
University students are facing a big problem in pursuing their studies through the English medium. On one occasion, a suicide incident was also reported due to having to engage in studies in English at our university. Therefore, is it possible to make necessary arrangements to improve students’ English knowledge from the basic level?

Response:
I think there is no such problem in Colombo University. Such a problem has not arisen in the University of Moratuwa. But all of you should study English. English is an international language. If you work with modern technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), you need English knowledge. Many countries in the world, including America, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, conduct work in English. China will probably follow this path in the future.

As we have planned to introduce a course on AI in the next two years, it is mandatory to develop the English language knowledge of university students. Accordingly, we expect to facilitate it through the University Grants Commission and, if necessary, institutions such as the British Council.

Question:
Mr. President, the duration students spend in a government university to attain academic qualifications for degree completion is considerably longer than the time spend in private universities. Consequently, upon entering the job market, individuals from private universities often have more practical experience than their counterparts from government universities. What suggestions do you have to address this discrepancy?

Response:
I attended a state university, commencing my studies at the age of 18 and completing my degree at 21, subsequently becoming a lawyer at 23.

This pertains to an internal matter within the university. Presently, there are disruptions to university education caused by certain individuals. However, during my time at the university, we reached an understanding with the Vice-Chancellor. We agreed that any strikes or protests would be confined to the last two weeks of the first semester, a compromise that was mutually accepted. I believe it is crucial to establish and adhere to a standardized approach to address such issues.

Additionally, we anticipate proposing legislation in the future stipulating that students, once admitted to universities, should aim to complete their education within a specified timeframe of three or four years, leading to their timely departure from the university. Notably, this proposed regulation does not apply to medical faculties.

Question:
Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Government schools commonly have synchronized start and end dates. Could we not implement a similar approach for state universities?

Response:
The academic year for universities traditionally commences in October and concludes on September 30 of the subsequent year. This timing has been consistent, even during my time in university when the academic year also began in October. It’s worth noting that in numerous countries, the standard university academic year spans from October to September.

Notable attendees included Member of Parliament Mr. Wajira Abeywardena, the Northern Province Governor Ms. P.S.M. Charles, President’s Secretary Mr. Saman Ekanayake, President’s Special Projects Director Mr. Theekshana Abeywardena, President’s Trade Union Director General Mr. Saman Ratnapriya, University Grants Commission Chairman Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Jaffna University Vice-Chancellor Professor S. Sri Srisatkunaraja, Former Vice-Chancellor Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam and a group of university students actively participated in this event.

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