Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taking free education forward - Part 1

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world offering free primary, secondary and tertiary education. The high literacy rate of 97.3% in the country shows that free education has worked out well.

The government, no doubt, is putting a lot of money every year in to the educational system to provide free education, but as it is evident, that money is not enough. Only 16% of eligible students get to enter the government universities. May be about 2~3% of the remaining get to obtain degrees from private institutes like IIT, SLIIT and APIIT. (Note almost all of them are providing IT degrees - leaving not much of a choice for students interested in other fields) Another 1~2% of students based on financial strength of their parents get to go abroad for their studies. Almost 80% of the students who qualify for tertiary education are deprived of their right.

Even though some students like the ones who are members of Inter-university student bullshit union do not appreciate the opportunity given to them for free education; depriving that from many others who would have embraced that opportunity; free education is still a good thing. It’s just that, if we can give that opportunity to only 16% of those who are eligible, selecting them through a competitive examination is not the best solution. That discourages the students in engaging in extra-curricular activities and essential personality building activities. From the 40 odd students who were in my advanced level class, those 2 or 3 who got through to the universities were the guys who had their heads buried in books 24X7 and didn’t had enough self-confidence to look someone in the eye when they were talking. That certainly is not the sample of academia we should have in a country.

Those who have seen class rooms and facilities available in international schools may attest for the difference in standards between them and an average school in north central province or central for that matter. Putting aside international schools, comparing leading schools in Colombo with schools in other parts of the country yields the same differences in available facilities and maintained standards. Moving on to universities; comparison between an average American university and the best universities of Sri Lanka shows greater difference in standards and available facilities than the above comparisons. Note that it is not money alone that has brought those institutes to the high standards; but also the will and expectations of the stakeholders involved, including pupils, faculty staff and of the government body.

So what do we have to do, in order to bring the standards of average schools to the same level as - say Ananda or Royal College of Colombo? And what do we have to do to get University of Moratuwa to the standards of Chicago state university - an average state university in America?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prostitution and Porn

Bunch of jesters at the police women and children bureau and some court in Battaramulla or somewhere has published a set of photographs claiming to be of Sri Lankan “porn stars”; I saw them on gossip lanka website and I bet some of those photos are from 1980s and some are not even Sri Lankans - some of those Latin American porn stars even have Wikipedia pages dedicated to them. Yet; our police and the courts are searching for them and need public assistance in doing so...

Current situation and the stupidity of the law enforcers aside; I thought of writing down how I feel about the whole thing - prostitution and porn.

Sex sells. Just like liquor but with much more demand; it sells all over the world. And it’s been selling ever since mankind invented trading - in one form or another. Why? Because it’s in our genes to need sex; humans are a species that enjoy sex. No cultural bullshit can really suppress that need; there may be people who’ve suppressed it by some mean, but that’s not the natural state of humankind. And when sex is not available for free, there are always people who are willing to buy. And when it’s not available to be bought; there would always be those who’d just take it anyway. (Any females in here taking public transport, who’ve noticed a recent hike in molesters in buses?)

When there’s such a huge market available; there always would be people who are willing to supply to that market; legally or illegally. And when things go beyond the boundaries of law; the boundaries of imagination widens for those outlaws. Illegal sex would cost more for those who are willing to pay; and as there always is, there would be those who’d just get it themselves - since it’s illegal anyways. Those who’d run the businesses would find their own ways of recruiting and handling their “merchandise” and there would be no justice or guarantee of safety for those who would be traded - by their will or not.

The greatest tragedy in our society is that we fool ourselves over a culture that exists only on the surface and folktales. Underneath; we all have the same needs, lusts, obsessions and hatreds that any other human would possess; but we pretend to be saints outside. We make laws based on this nominal culture and break those very laws at the very moment we get to hide it away from others.

Even now; a lot of women and children are drawn in to prostitution in Sri Lanka; and most of their fate is ill-ridden. Much more innocent children and women would be victims of sex crimes in the coming years if we don’t legalize and control this. But I don’t see that coming in Sri Lanka... so suffering it is... Take good care of your children and women...


Sometimes, I think about death. Of mine and of others. How would I die? Would it be painful? I hope not. How is it like to witness the death of a loved one? Is it better to die than be sick and suffer at old age? And, what happens after you die? Why are all people and animals scared of death?

I was raised as a Buddhist, so I was taught that the dead would be born again as another life unless they have achieved nirvana. The re-birth happens based on what karma we’ve done in this life and what thoughts we’d have in our last breath. Fascinating; a little scary too.

I’ve also heard of re-incarnation stories – of people speaking of their past lives and they being matched with true incidents; and then I’ve heard of ghost stories, of people who’ve died years ago and still haunt the living. Somehow; they don’t go together really well though... because, if someone dies and become a ghost, and that same someone also get re-born in another life; then the ghost seems pretty stuck being a ghost till the eternity...

I’ve heard some Buddhist monks explain ghosts as another life; not human, not animal but some super human life, that like any other, would end someday. I think I like the lives that end than something eternal. Personal choice though ;)

Anyways; what really happens? Religion aside; I really don’t know - I don’t remember of a previous life. I guess that not knowing what happens after death is what scares us all. And; may be; evolution has built it in to our genes, to fear death, so that all animals would strive to live; instead of just give in whenever death is on one’s way.

I’ve had an out of body experience in my childhood. I was sick and was in my mom’s arms. I was in pain and I wanted to move; and then, I passed out. Everything that happened thereafter until I woke up again are still in my memory in vivid detail. And; I was observing all that from outside of the body. And my parents say; I explain the events exactly the way they happened.

Looking back, I don’t think I died or was going to. I was in so much pain; my brain must have disconnected the consciousness. Because; all the while I was unconscious, I didn’t feel any pain at all. How did I see from outside of my body? I don’t know, but maybe my senses apart from eyesight were working quite sharply and my brain must have created the visual impressions through them.

I’ve read in some science journals that say; that’s exactly what people in near death experiences have experienced. The process of the body dying is a very painful process and that makes the brain - while it still lives - to disconnect the consciousness. Depending on the functionality of other senses and the amount of brain death happening; they might either see what’s going on around them or bright lights / their past / loved ones etc.

All this; doesn’t explain the phenomena of ghost stories and re-incarnation stories. But; just because science doesn’t explain that doesn’t mean religious explanations are correct. Most religions taught that the world is flat until they were proven otherwise. Buddhism, even with my biased opinion towards it, has had its share of myths associated with it.

So; when it comes to death I think I’ll take my chances with it and discover the unknowns myself; and that’s if my consciousness survives - which I think is highly unlikely. I think that would be the end of me and my consciousness would cease to exist. I hope to have a smile on my face when I die; so I hope I would realize the moment has come and have control over my facial muscles for that one last smile...