Before studying abroad

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Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic and political crises have created enormous interest among students to travel and study abroad. While this can be considered a positive trend, the depreciation of the value of the rupee has created difficulties when making direct payments to foreign universities. There have been instances where students’ applications were denied solely due to financial issues and the ongoing crises in the country.

Although there are many government and private universities based locally that provide opportunities for students to study abroad, engage in cultural immersion programmes and complete internationally recognised degrees offered by foreign universities, the growing demand to study abroad pressures educators, governments and other stakeholders in the higher education field to look for alternatives.

Immigration Vs. studying abroad

One of the misconceptions that stakeholders in the field of education need to address is the idea that studying abroad is a gateway to immigrating to a foreign country. Even though this could be a reasonable proposition held by interested parties, it is not technically true. Immigration usually is a lengthy process. It is neither a guarantee nor does it come immediately after completing a degree in a foreign university. Thus, realistic expectations need to be built among students if they wish to immigrate to a foreign country. In most cases, a good education provides better opportunities for students in the long run.

Immigration is a goal that needs to be pursued separately. If students realise this from early on, they will stay focused on their studies and get the best out of their education. While building realistic expectations, in order to help with the financial issue, stakeholders should create partnership programmes with foreign universities that offer scholarships or financial aid of some sort that can ease the financial pressure on students.

How can the lessons from the pandemic help

During the Covid pandemic and in its aftermath, many educators changed their teaching to distance teaching and learning. In some universities, online learning was taken to a new level by introducing asynchronous and synchronous learning promoting the idea that learning happens anywhere and all the time. Most educators began using some sorts of online portals like Blackboard, Canvas and LMS. Many tried to replicate the learning that took place in the physical classroom in the online mode by using Zoom technologies like Breakout Rooms. Online teaching became popular among private tutors as well.

This was a seminal shift in education although it took place due to a pandemic, and the technological skills that students and teachers learned during the pandemic should be put to use. Even before the pandemic, internationally recognised universities used online learning as a method of learning. Thus, the lessons from the pandemic should be taken seriously and should be an advantage for students to take free online courses offered by foreign universities.

How does learning need to be accommodated?

Educators at the present will have to facilitate classrooms where students could easily adapt to changes and become more compassionate to themselves and others. While expert knowledge is needed to excel professionally,  educators need to think seriously about accommodating compassion in the classroom in a non-patronising way that is based on empirical evidence.

Since students will have to study extensively and work smartly in challenging environments, they need to be compassionate in every aspect of their lives. In addition, financial constraints might add to the pressure that could result in an enormous amount of stress. Eventually this might result in self dissatisfaction. This is where compassion can become handy. Once compassion is practiced everyday, it will be useful to overcome these challenges.

By Samantha Wickramasinghe

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