Leadership training at universities scrapped in
favour of an international English training program :
In an unprecedented move, the Government recently cancelled the
Leadership Training Program for undergraduates initiated by the
Rajapaksa regime jointly conducted by Military personnel and the
University Grants Commission(UGC).
Coordinating Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education, Sarath
Hewage explaining why they had decided to do away with the leadership
training, said, “The Leadership Training Program has been cancelled and
an international training program has been introduced instead. The new
program is the Independent Faculty English course.
All Faculties in universities have been authorized to co-ordinate the
course. The UGC will fund it. I think it will be useful to students and
will be a success. English Language is important, therefore, we decided
to improve the standard of English in Universities.
For example, Medical Faculty students will undergo a Medical English
course and Economics students will undergo an Economic English course,
relevant to their field of study.”
However, former Secretary to Minister S.B. Dissanayake, Dr. Sunil
Jayantha Navarathna opined otherwise, “At present the Advance Level
Examinations are competitive. Most students try to get the maximum marks
by cramming and attending tuition classes.
There is no recreation or time for extra-curricular activities, for
them. To become a leader one should possess communication skills, have
the capacity for team work, leadership qualities, decision-making and
problem solving ability.
Poor leadership skills
“When a graduate faces a job interview, he or she is tested for
leadership skills. Today, most graduates have poor leadership skills, as
the only thing they know is to sit at a tuition class and listen to the
he said calling it a pathetic situation. Another factor was that
until students gain entry to local universities, they spend nearly a
year after their Advance Level Examinations doing nothing.
It was to make use of this time effectively that former Minister S.B.
Dissanayake introduced the Leadership Training Program. After the
introduction of the program, three sessions were conducted successfully
and 98 percent of the students who underwent this program were happy.
Navarathne said leadership training was not an Army training as
perceived by many, he said. Last year 24,000 students entered the
program and it was divided into two batches. The training was not
conducted in classrooms but the activities were conducted at Army, Navy,
Police and Air Force camps.
“Many practical sessions were conducted such as problem solving,
arranging beds and clothes, cleanliness and table manners. It is a pity
the present government has stopped the program which was of benefit to
It is a good solution for ragging as they get to know one another,
even before they enter the University.
“However, the Leftist Movement was not in favour of this program
because it is they who are running the Universities today. Student
unions cannot control ragging, that is why they do not like the
program,” he said.
Meanwhile, an Arts Faculty student from the University of Peradeniya
said the leadership training program was a valuable experience and that
he was sent to the Giritale Military Police Camp for training.
The training lasted three weeks and was a form of relaxation after
the Advance Level Examination in 2010. It included being able to cope
with untoward situations. Physical training was a part of the program. A
lecture on sexual health and beauty culture was also conducted.
As far as he was concerned, he felt that the time limit for the
training program was not enough. “Attitude and behaviour cannot be
cultivated in such a short space of time,” he said. All facilities were
provided. Good meals were also provided.
The program enabled interaction between undergraduates from other
Universities. “I got the opportunity to make friends and get connected
to many students from various Universities in Sri Lanka. Physical
training was almost akin to military training. It was challenging to go
through tunnels and climb ladders. They gave us permission to stay away
if we could not perform any of the activities,” he said.
Claiming it was inevitable that students get injured during physical
training. “ It is difficult to cultivate leadership qualities in a short
time. I think it should be more systematic,” he said.
However, he was in favour of the program and wanted more time for the
He said that it would have been good if students were permitted to go
home and return during the training period.
Thilanka, a Language student from the University of Peradeniya said
as far as he was concerned, the Leadership Training Program did not
help. “It was like my daily routine and I did not find it interesting.”
Students wake up at 5 a.m. do physical exercises and attend lectures
on how to arrange clothes and etiquette training.
However, he was interested in the lectures conducted by the Head of
the Geography Ddepartment of the University of Peradeniya, Prof.
“He taught us how to face university life and how to tackle problems.
The worst part was that our camp had more than 800 girls. The
Trincomalee camp was like a hospital ward. The climate was so hot and we
did not have proper toilet facilities.”
Farhana, a Law student from the University of Peradeniya said she was
assigned to the Diyathalawa Air Force camp. She cultivated leadership
qualities and made many friends. “Getting to know people and building
social connections was a great thing” she said.
Farhana said that discipline, personal hygiene, etiquette and
speaking in front of a crowd were some of the things she learnt. As for
her there was a good side as well as bad. Farhana said that the public
money spent on the program was a waste.
A statistics student from the University of Colombo, said there were
700 students with her at the Diyathalawa Air Force Camp. She said
numbers were far too much and the facilities fell short of expectations.
She said the Government should minimise the number of students in each
camp. She praised the lectures conducted by Army officers. They narrated
their life stories and experience at the Army Camp. The Leadership
Program helped undergraduates to face difficult times and overcome
ragging in Universities, she said.