Agriculture for Sustainable Future

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 Sri Lanka boasts of a high literacy rate in the region as well as the world. Sri Lanka is also proud of its free education system, starting from grade one to bachelor’s degree. Yes, it is true that Sri Lanka’s education system produced world-class scholars, scientists, researchers, and professionals during the past century.

However, it is evident that for the past two decades and at present, our education system is weakened and seems to be unproductive. Those who analyse this situation are of the view that the main reasons for this unproductiveness are; owing to our education system not being upgraded in parallel to new knowledge and research and does not produce compatible graduates who are well equipped with practical skills, and do not produce Degrees that match the job market. Also, as the current education system does not provide life skills and practical knowledge and as it is not practical-based, citizens are not provided with essential knowledge and practical skills.

 Education must be a tool. It must be a mode that produces sharp and skilled citizens who can actively contribute to the country’s economic and social development as well as political stability.

Does our prevailing education system do so? Hasn’t it been confined to exams and degrees only? Does it produce people who are ready to lead the country towards a sustainable future and a prosperous economy?

 Doing a quick study on Sri Lanka’s education system, what we can understand is that our education system is less practical-base and less timely. What a conventional and typical education in Sri Lanka does is prepare a child to face a set of exams, some tough entry exams (again based on memorising and not practical knowledge and understanding), and then graduate. After graduation, many seek government jobs or any other office jobs. Then pursue further higher studies. A large number of graduates pass out every year (State and private universities) and end up doing jobs that are not relevant to their field of studies or not following their passions.

Is this a sign of a successful education system?

 Does our education system produce graduates or citizens who think out of the box? Every year a large number of State university graduates demand government jobs and stay unemployed until they are given jobs. During the three or four years at the university, these graduates are provided free education, along with free hostels, and all other facilities free of charge. They are also given a bursary and or a government scholarship. In return, they do not earn or engage in any active economic process that contributes to the country’s economic growth. After graduation they remain unemployed for many years.

There had been recent discussions that the public sector servants are a burden to the country and a massive amount of the country’s income is dedicated to the salary of the extremely large amount of public servants. Last week the prime minister said Sri Lanka has to print money to pay the public sector servants.

 Instead of staying unemployed after graduation and during the time as an undergraduate, why cannot our citizens engage in active economic participation? Why cannot they engage in something productive or indulge in part-time jobs that will improve their individual and family economy and eventually contribute to the country’s economy and social development?

Isn’t there a problem in our education system that won’t improve the attitudes of our citizens? Does our education system provide people with essential life skills?

 At present, experts have predicted a global food crisis and for Sri Lanka, it is believed to be a worse situation, by August. What should we do to prepare ourselves for such a situation? Should we demand the authorities to give us food and sit idle? Or should we also take precautions to be prepared for a food shortage? In many developed countries, the attitude of people is such that they do not sit idle and do not expect that everything will be provided for free. People engage in home gardening, small industries, crafts, and businesses. In developed countries, farmers are rich and sustainable. These are signs of a production economy.

A rich farmer is at the heart of a country’s development. Unfortunately, is this the situation in Sri Lanka? We boast of our rich agrarian legacy, yet we do not take measures to upgrade the lives of our farmers and take forward our agriculture legacy. Our education does not provide citizens with the basic practical knowledge about agriculture. Why cannot citizens make the best use of their lands and grow essential vegetables and fruits for the future? Does our education system educate our citizens with these attitudes and courage?

Instead of expecting and demanding aid, bursary, and free rations, shouldn’t we equip ourselves with life skills, engage in agriculture, and provide ourselves with a self-sufficient economy?

In this process, our education could and should play a vital role. A basic knowledge in agriculture should be covered and made a compulsory subject in school education. In schools, children should be taught about growing crops and this should a highly practical based training. Also, Degrees in Agriculture and practical training should be expanded in universities and farming professionals should be produced.

Our education system should produce rich and skilled farming professionals instead of professionals whose knowledge is confined to books and air-conditioned rooms.

 Education is not about certificates, exams, and degrees. Education is about great positive attitudes, courage, and life skills. Education is about contributing to the development of your country.

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy