My dad woke my ass up to take this photo on some University campus. I think they’re demanding decent Internet Access. It’s really hard to colonize and oppress people when they don’t speak English
This post addresses some FAQs about Private Universities, including the white devils, loan possibilities, international examples, etc.
What is the Status Quo?
You got 12 conventional universities, which are public. As of 2003 you had 44,622 students enrolled, excluding the backlog (UGC Analysis of Unit Recurrent Costs). These are 3 year schools, so each batch is like 15,000 people. There are constant strikes by the JVP and student groups (seriously, schools are closed as I write this) which make the average in-out time at least 4 years, usually 5-6. During the time of intense JVP Terrorism, a lot of people didn’t graduate until they were 28.
Getting in is insanely competitive, but it’s free. Of course, you’ll need to pay for tutorial classes to compete against the Colombo 7 kids with private tutors. Somewhere between 62-92% of students pay for tutes, depending on if they’re science or arts or what.
What does it cost?
Students don’t contribute anything. Their education does have a cost, calculated in the UGC study:
Cost Per Student: Rs 96,317 (about $1,000)
Total Cost: Rs 4,480,000,000 (about $45 million)
What is the Quality?
I won’t even get into this. Asia Week has a ranking where University of Colombo is dead last and no one else is on the list. There are very few PhDs teaching and almost no research or publications. There are sources for that, but no time here. Let’s just focus on getting in first.
How Do I Get In?
Let’s say I’m an 18 year old kid from Anuradhapura. I sit in a room with 200,000 other kids to take my A/Levels. I’ve crammed so much that my brain has had to overwrite basic motor skills, so I drool uncontrollably and wear diapers. Me and 100,000 other invalids pass that exam. We should all get in just for the amount of sex and sunlight we missed, but there simply isn’t enough room for more than 15,000 in the Universities we have. The highest Z-scores are chosen and they get in.
It’s like April when I take my exam. The Universities start in about January, but there are strikes and closings all the time that push the date back. Seriously, right now Colombo and Jayawardenepura are closed. I’ll probably wait about a year and be 19 when I get in.
How can I compete?
Aside from abandoning normal lives, most people pay for tuition classes. There was a Gunawardena study which surveyed kids and they said the took the classes for 1) better marks and 2) to be better prepared for exam questions. I read all this stuff in a really interesting UNESCO Publication by Mark Bray. I recommend right-clicking, Save Target As cause the thing blew up my browser. I also recommend searching for the word ‘Lanka’ and reading just those sentences.
In 1990, 1,873 students were surveyed in Years 6, 11 and 13. Proportions receiving tutoring in Years 6 and 11 were 80% and 75%. In Year 13 the proportions were 62% for arts students, 67% for commerce students, and 92% for science students (de Silva et al, UNESCO thing)
There’s also a 1994 study by de Silva which goes over how much time people spend on tutes:
|Grade||Hours per Week|
|Year 13 Arts||4.3|
|Year 13 Commerce||6.1|
|Year 13 Science||11.5|
Keep in mind that you have to take multiple subjects in A/Levels, so people take multiple classes. In the de Silva sample 100% of students took tutes in Pure and Applied Math, 87% for Chem, etc. If the numbers haven’t made you glaze over, these kids are saying they take the tutes to prepare them better for the exam, according to Gunawardena. Unfortunately, with so few spots in Uni, the people who can pay for tutes have an advantage.
So how much do you pay? Private tutors are the best, especially for stuff like Science and Math where you can get stuck and have the class run you over. They cost like 500-2000 Rs per hour. Let’s say 1000 Rs cause I’m crappy at math. Hypothetical me took his A/Levels in Science and took 11.5 hours of tutes per week. If I got the best tutes available, I spent 11,500 ($115) per week. Which is insane. I’ve heard of serious students with seriously rich parents who pay 12,000 ($120) a month for less hours, but spending more doesn’t make sense. I’m sure some people do. It’s ‘spensive, but having a private tutor is useful for learning freaking vectors.
People in rural (and normal urban) areas can’t afford that, so they go to a Tuition Kade for group classes. I can only find reliable data for Bangladesh, but I’d guess that you could take 3 subjects for Rs 3,000 a month (30$). That is a lot a lot of money. For me that means 140 Air-Conditioned Bus Rides and one hamburger. Tuition Kades are, of course, general lower qual teachers. I personally hate group classes for Math and Science cause I miss one thing in the first 5 minutes and then I have no idea what is going on for the rest of class. I am also not the sharpest cookie in the shed and I know people can pile through it. This is in Montreal, not here. I am an elitist bastard trying to colonize you, if you need to know.
Anyways, if you want to be competitive beyond the class hours, then you’ll need to take tutes. Most people do. If you want to be competitive within tutes you need to pay more. Education is what you make of it, but affording a Private Tutor can really help.
What Else Can I Do?
Retake, retard (sorry to mentally disabled people, you are cool and we need you). That means waiting a year to take the exam, and then another year to actually enter Uni. You’d be 20 when you get in. If you fail twice you can try again, but then you’ll be 21 by the time you enter. Oh, and you’re unmarriageable this whole time, plus your Achichi doesn’t introduce you at parties. If you still don’t get in then you should probably start looking for work. If your English is good then it’ll be OK, but I’ve also seen A/Level grads applying as gardeners. There are other options, but it’s a real hodge-podge.
* *Technical College*: I’m looking thru the Tertiary Education “Prospectus 2005” which I assume is public. There are like 40 Technical Colleges, some good, most bad. Even with the good ones people are kinda ashamed to go there cause it’s not the same prestige. I can’t source that anywhere, so take it for what it is. The courses range from Agriculture to Teacher Training. The shortest course is 65 hours (Rs 2,300) and the longest is 3.5 years (free). I’m just glancing but the average fee looks like 15,000 Rs, and the average term is 1 year. I’ve been told that their employment prospects aren’t good with just that certification, but take that’s not sourced either.
* *CIMA (Management), Certified Accountant, etc*: My cousin got a CIMA, but I forget how much it cost. I’m see a NIBM version (3 months, Rs 13,500) but that doesn’t sound right. I think these courses are longer and cost more. There’s a wide variety here and costs and term varies. I’ll check them out.
* *Law College*: Another cousin went here. I don’t think it’s mad expensive, but it takes time and does cost. Will get some data in the morning.
* *Get The Hell Out Of Dodge*: In Ohio I knew plenty dumbasses that had plenty opportunities, but it’s getting there that’s the problem. For people that ask me how to emigrate to Canada, I have no idea. All I can tell you is to have your parents go there and give birth to you. I know people who went to India, where they have mid-level Technical Schools and stuff. Australia and UK are also good, but all this takes loot and English.
* *Kill Self*: I hear you can get a gun for like Rs 3,000. Pesticide is more common for rural people. I can’t think of anywhere to get any pleasant drugs or gasses. Even this option is better in the West.
* *Work*: Default. Go for it. Problem is that other applicants have some hodge podge certificates on their resumes, but if you can just learn English you’ll be OK. Otherwise you got to compete.
Then, there is of course the hodge-podge of hodge-podges, the Diploma Market. I can’t even get into this cause there are like 500 schools and 5,000 diplomas in everything from Microsoft Word to Tying Your Shoes. It is a buffet, if you will – like Rs 10,000 to Rs 100,000 a pop – ranging in quality from worthless to diamond-in-the-rough. I have yet to see or hear of this diamond, but there must be one.
Why Am I So Angry?
You should be, it’s bullshit. Skip to the end if you’d rather be angry than think of constructive solutions. Otherwise, read on.
This is my summary and I’m a Canadian born, foreign educated CIA Agent trying to colonize Sri Lanka. Do your own research if it bothers you. Or foam at the mouth.
This system is broken. The average, socially balanced kid has nowhere to go – and those are the people the economy needs. There is simply not enough room in the University for the people that pass A/Levels, and even O/Levellers are not getting the opportunities they deserve. You have everyone competing for 15,000 spots, and everyone paying for tuition, so the rural poor get screwed. Every year we have 175,000 kids (including O/Level passers) who have nothing to do except waste money on a disorganized hodge-podge of vaguely certified courses. It’s basically a black market because there aren’t any certified or regulated Private Universities. It’s not a good Status Quo. I don’t like it.
How Can Sri Lanka Educate More, Better Students?
I’ve discussed these options in the post How Do We Educate Sri Lanka? They are basically to Expand Public Universities, Add Private Universities, and Do Nothing.
Expanding the public unis would cost about $270 million USD per year, not including construction costs. Morquendi advocates taking this money from the military budget, but I’d prefer signing a peace agreement first. There’s no way in hell that legislation would pass. It’s honestly not feasible for a poor country like Sri Lanka to expand its budget by that much yearly. Covered in more detail in the post. Doing nothing would be the end result of the protests, and the Private Universities are discussed here.
Private Universities are a workable option because they generate income, respond fast to market (employer) demands, and – most importantly – are the least shitty option available. Notice that I say least shitty. There are plenty of problems, but I can’t think of anything better. Here are some FAQs on Private Unis:
Will Private Universities replace Public Universities?
No. Private Universities are a supplement to the existing University system, as they are in almost every country with Universities.
Are Private Universities Elitist?
No. Elitist is 15,000 people out of 200,000 getting educated. Private Universities tend to go for the mass market and end up closer to Technical Colleges than Universities (cause that’s where the money is). They charge market rates to stay afloat, and poor to middle class take loans and go. The courses are oriented towards immediate work, so it’s an investment that pays off pretty soon. The Elite is me, and I probably wouldn’t go to a Private University here, I’d go overseas.
Will People Buy Degrees Without Earning Them?
No. James Tooley did an International Finance study of about 12 countries which had some interesting real-life observations. Despite being a white devil his argument makes sense, especially the Brazilian example:
I was particularly surprised to find the importance of brand name – which many education companies were very keen to promote on billboards and in newspaper, radio and television advertising. From the study, brand name seemed to be particularly important because it helps parents and students overcome the ‘information’ problem. How do parents know whether they can trust the local entrepreneur who has set up school? Because he or she is the franchisee for an established educational brand name whose quality control procedures are known and respected throughout the country. In Brazil, for example, there are seven or eight large chains of private schools – several of which also run universities, and also educational television stations. The largest, Objetivo, based in São Paulo, has about 500,000 students across Brazil. Each of the chains is convinced that in order to stay ahead of its competitors, it has to invest in quality improvements and innovation in the classroom.
If they simply give away degrees then the degrees have no value and they can’t charge money for them. In the US and Canada Private Universities are often harder to get into, though in developing countries they are generally oriented more mass-market. They have to establish a brand name that communicates quality to employers and parents, so they have to maintain standards.
Can The Poor Pay For Private Universities?
Yes. What they can do is take loans and pay them off with the greater income they receive as trained employees. Do those loans exist? Yes. Here is an example from India:
NIIT has also linked up with Citibank to give the opportunity for all iGNIIT students to take out a seven-year study loan towards repayment of the programme fees. The Citibank study loan covers up to 90 per cent of the course fee. The student can then repay the loan over the next sixty months. Significantly, the loan does not require any collateral – so it is open to students from any socio-economic background, provided that they can pass the entrance test… the NIIT/Citibank loan scheme turns out to be far from unique. I found a dozen other schemes in India, all offered by commercial banks for students in a variety of courses. Increasingly it seems that commercial banks are recognising that student loan schemes are a viable market to develop.
In Sri Lanka the goverment can provide soft-loans, and Sarvodaya SEEDs – as the largest micro-credit lender in Sri Lanka – can lend some of its expertise. They operate at the village level, in banks which I’ve seen as just another house in the village. They give farmers and small (as in tiny) business men loans – which they pay back. They are already involved in training programs, and that can be expanded.
In order to promote human development that is truly grassroots centred, SEEDS has empowered a little over 3,000 Sarvodaya Shramadana Societies island wide, to play a more meaningful role. The annual savings balances of Society Members as at year end, totalled Rs. 435 million to reach Rs. 1,405 million. SEEDS’ annual loan disbursement of Rs. 1,064.33 million was spread over a client base of 45,457 individual loan clients, with current loans outstanding amounting to Rs. 1,292 million.
You may ask if loans suck, and they do. I also don’t like paying for the bus, but that’s how it is. I know a lot of Americans whose parent’s make like $80,000 a year total. They owe like $120,000 in student loans. You get a good job and pay them off. Even people in wealthy countries have to sacrifice. It’s not easy and poor people have to work twice as hard as the rich, but at least they have a chance. This is not about an ideal solution, it is about the slow and painful process towards a more and better educated Sri Lanka.
Is The World Bank Colonizing Us?
No. They’re a bank. They lend money. They won’t loan us money to flush down the toilet, so they recommend a private solution. They make this recommendation cause Private Uni’s are self-financing, hence we won’t keep come back asking for another fix like crackheads. If we go for a full public solution it’ll cost at least $270 million USD a year, and the World Bank wants us to grow up and move out of the house. In short, there is nothing they want less than to colonize us. If we don’t take their money we can buy all the crack we want, on our own tab.
There is also a sizable body of local and foreign economists and people recommending a sustainable, self-financing system to educate some of the people that deserve it. There are also hundreds of case studies on Private Universities in tens of developing countries. I’ve been reading some from the World Bank itself and Google in general. If the JVP’s done any research I’d love to read it.
Are Private Universities an Ideal Solution?
No. It would be great if we could all get free, quality education. It would be great if the government could just foot the bill. I also really want a space elevator. If you think we can have and eat cake given the realities cited above, I’d love to hear how. Maybe you have $270 million dollars in your ass, but we need to pull that out of somewhere.
Until then, Sri Lanka needs an independent, self-sufficient Higher Education system to provide the graduates that drive the economy. If they invest in themselves, they will reap what they sow. Taking loans sucks, but citizens of every country do it for higher education – even wealthy ones. Citizens of developing countries have also proved willing and capable of investing in themselves. We have to do the best we can for our people with this compromised solution. We have to educate more and better Sri Lankans.
This is confusing and boring. Can you give me some slogans to yell?
Sure. If you went to school with poor people you’re probably qualified to speak for them without surveys or research. Even if you just go to the kade now-and-then, feel free to appoint yourself. If anybody ever questions you, call them Elitist. Here are some slogans:
* Education is a Right, not a Commodity!
* World Bank Out of Sri Lanka (but leave the money)!
* Down with the Colombo Elite!
* Long Live the
Revolution Status Quo!
Note: I got sleepy and stopped adding FAQs. I’ll add some more as the come up, leave any as comments if you have. My Comment Spam filter is a little spacy, email anything to indi AT indi.ca if they don’t show up.
His questions also included one threat, which I published under the post Morquendi Declares Blog Strike.
What will happen to the State run universities if private universities are opened up? Will spending on them be increased?
Nothing will happen to them. Private Universities are not connected to the Public Universities. If the government would like to direct more funding to the Public Universities that is their business. Private decisions don’t affect the public system. We’re adding a new wing to make room for more students, not demolishing the house.
What will be the criteria for granting ‘loans’ for students? Will everyone have access to them? Even a student who has nothing to show as collateral?
Depends on the body giving the loan. The best-case is that in place at the Indian NIIT:
The Citibank study loan covers up to 90 per cent of the course fee. The student can then repay the loan over the next sixty months. Significantly, the loan does not require any collateral – so it is open to students from any socio-economic background, provided that they can pass the entrance test.
The worst case is something like the Phillipines where:
There have been relatively few students availing of the loan scheme due to what is considered a high interest rate, the short repayment period, and the fact that low income families do not have access to credit system (Table 7). Other research, however, acknowledges the willingness of low-income students13 (and their families) to pay for private higher education; yet, because of the capital market imperfections a large number of students are forced into the low-quality, low-cost programs and institutions. (The Case For Choice Equity and Efficiency)
The Indian government loans are also pretty crappy at serving the poor. If like to argue using for examples involving people those links might be useful for your case. Of course, if you went to school with poor people or get offended on their behalf, please don’t break a sweat.
The Sri Lankan case would likely fall somewhere in between. Sri Lanka’s largest Micro-Credit lender SEEDS has experience giving loans to the poorest of the poor and they’re actually profitable. They have made no committment towards funding education (beyond training programs), but it would great if they got involved. Their Annual Report has examples involving people, including landless people without collateral.
I should make clear that Private Universities are not an ideal solution. It is a compromised, tenative step in the right direction. I am making no argument for an ideal, I’m just arguing that this would be better than the Status Quo – where 175,000 people are completely shut out of higher education. In terms of loans, it will take years for the capital situation to adapt. In short, it’s going to be crappy and inequitable for a while. Will everyone have access to them? That’s the goal that we have to work hard towards. Pretty much everyone has access to SEEDS micro-credit, so it is possible in Sri Lanka. The free lunchers would have the poor eat free (and invisible) cake. Private Universities would give them bread, by the sweat of their brow.
What can you do to ensure that the teaching talent is equally distributed among the private and state universities? And that all the good teachers do not shift to the private universities?
It’s a market system. In developing countries Universities tend to cater more to the elite Doctor/Lawyer/Engineer track, while Private Universities “are found at the lower end of the prestige hierarchy in Asia (International Higher Education).”
For one thing, Mahangu’s Western Civilization prof isn’t going to be lured by a Vocational College. As I tried to address in the FAQs, “Private Universities tend to go for the mass market and end up closer to Technical Colleges than Universities (cause that’s where the money is).” The courses need to produce graduates who can get jobs and pay back their loans, which means a lot of IT, Business, and Tourism type courses. Or to summarize, they’re peeing in seperate pools.
Would you also like to comment on the state of private and public healthcare in Sri Lanka and what the involvement of private players in the healthcare sector has done?
I would like to comment, but saying anything sensible would require an assload of research. I’d also prefer to keep the scope of this debate as narrow as possible. If anyone can link any studies or aggregate information on a large number of people I’ll read them, but I personally think it’s best to keep any debate focused.
What kind of regulations do you think need to be put in place by the Government to control the activities of the private universities?
This is my opinion, so do your own research, but general areas which governments like Malaysia, Brazil, etc seem to focus on are
# *Quality Assurance*: At the basic level there is a certification board. Usually you have to go back every 5-10 years. This would ideally be transparent, maybe even sourced to a third-party.
# *Regional Equity*: Governments often offer tax and other benefits to set up campuses in rural areas.
# *Scholarships*: Governments often offer tax, other benefits for putting students on scholarship. In Bangladesh I think they are required to have 5% of students on scholarship.
# *Rankings*: Malaysia is trying this as a more transparent alternative to a all-powerful board. They’re working on criteria for ranking Universities (public and private) for public knowledge.
Will private universities grant hostel facilities to out of Colombo students? Which is a major incentive? Or will they not provide hostels because they can get enough students from Colombo?
Again, it’s a market system. If providing board is profitable (naturally or through regulated incentives) Private Unis will provide board. There is a role for regulation here, but we’ll see. This kind of thing is good to let the market figure out, cause it’s not clear if there would be demand or if people would stay at home. The Public University Ruhuna was built without dorms specifically to avoid students organizing, which is what we should avoid. If students demand there should be supply
Will private universities be opened up in rural areas? At least anywhere other than Colombo, Kandy and Galle?
Again, market and regulation. On one hand setting up out of the cities is cheaper in terms of rent and expense. On the other hand, the government can encourage/force this through tax and other incentives. This is another definite place for regulation.
How can a students who has taken a big loan to pay for his education also pay for living in Colombo?
In most countries (US and Canada for sure) students loans cover tuition AND room and board. Scholarships often cover the same.
Will students who do not have a good command of English be taken into private universities and then coached in english? As the State Universities now do? Or do you have to already have a good command of English to get in?
Yes. As much as English is required in the job market Private Universities will probably teach it. They don’t have to cause I or anybody says so, but it makes market sense to prepare your students. If they limited their entrance to English speakers they wouldn’t get many applicants and they wouldn’t make much money. Keep in mind that they’re not going for students like me who would rather go abroad, they’re going for the mass-market.
Will private universities teach Pali and Sankrit literature? Will the teach Sinhala and Tamil literature? Will they teach Buddhist and Hindu Theology?
Again, market. I don’t think that’s for anyone to decide for them. If students demand those courses and are willing to pay for them they’d probably be offered. In other Asian examples students have demanded IT, Business, and Tourism courses with quick job possibilities, but that expands over time. That type of content decision is probably best left to the students and parents.