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Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP at the Indo-Sri Lankan Dialogue at Indian International Centre, New Delhi 21-22 October 2010.

But, in addition to these areas where we should work together for conceptual change, there are obviously more practical ways of improving things. In particular I believe we can profitably follow Indian examples with regard to providing a range of options in higher and vocational education. Replicating something like the IITs for instance in previously deprived regions would help with promoting the excellence we need while also showing our commitment to equity.

I was thus delighted recently to hear that our Ministry of Youth Affairs has been in contact with an Indian Non-Governmental Organization that has developed a heartening model for Vocational Training. In Sri Lanka we had concentrated too much in this regard on technical training that came close to being academic, with long courses that made no provision for the varied needs of the workplace. Aide et Action, as the Organization is called (actually of French origin, but it has developed a decentralized system of management that gives priority to local expertise), has instituted short carefully targeted courses that also develop soft skills. I was pleasantly surprised, having attended a couple of their events in India over the last year, to see the confidence of the youngsters who had benefited from their training, the skills bestowed on girls who were breaking into non-traditional occupations whilst also able to stand up for themselves in the workplace as well as at home, the capacity for self-expression and analysis.

This sort of model can benefit us tremendously, especially in the context of the single parent families that will be one of the lasting legacies of the conflict we have gone through. It was encouraging therefore that the Ministry now in charge of Vocational Training had registered the possible impact of such work, and has encouraged an expansion of Aide et Action’s work in Sri Lanka.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2010
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