A business leader who inspires female leadership and entrepreneurship, Dr. Gayathrika Kiriwattuduwage is the current Campus Director/General Manager of the Edulink International Campus.
Speaking of the importance of higher education and the status of the sector in Sri Lanka, Gayathrika explained, “In a Sri Lankan context, I believe that a higher education plays a crucial role in the career development of a person. Sadly, the school education system in Sri Lanka is still quite traditional, and despite plans of development being discussed, these have yet to be implemented. So, if one wishes to be up to date about the workings of a particular industry, then pursuing a proper higher education is vital. It is my belief that everyone should receive a higher education and gain worthwhile experience in order to ensure the development of our country. However, one major issue in this plan is the fact that the standard of higher education in Sri Lanka is currently not at a very satisfactory level. When you take higher education, it is divided into 2 categories. The first is provided by the government via the state universities and the second is the higher education offered by the private institutes. So, both of these categories need to look into their curriculums and other offerings, and examine whether or not these meet the requirements of the specific industries. I would suggest consulting with experts from the various industries and gaining their input when drawing up the university/institute’s curriculum.
A higher education allows you to pursue a career that interests and inspires you, while also ensuring higher job satisfaction, larger income, additional benefits and more advancement opportunities. Thus, it is extremely important that one pursues their higher education once you complete your school education. If you look at the statistics, nearly 225,000 students sit for the GCE Advanced Level Examination annually, but only 25,000 will gain entry into state universities due to the limited resources and facilities. So, the rest of the students either have to go abroad to study in foreign universities, which is not an affordable option to many, or they have to enroll in private higher education institutes. However, most private institutes are affiliated with foreign universities, which provide their course curriculums to be offered in Sri Lanka. These are not always compatible with the industry requirements of Sri Lanka, and also, while there are no set regulations for the private higher education sector in our country as there are in countries such as the UK or U.S. So, it becomes a question of whether or not the higher education institute one selects, be it state or private, is maintaining the appropriate standards and addressing the latest requirements of the various industries. As I believe that via higher education, one should not only gain academically, but also receive training in aspects such as personality development, leadership development, self-management, etc in order to ensure a successful future career.”
On the topic of women pursuing their higher education, Gayathrika stated, “What I currently see is that in Sri Lanka, women are more educated than men. The percentage of women pursuing their higher education is quite high. Based on the statistics, 60% of entrees into state universities are female, while nearly 68.5% of graduates are female as well. This is more visible due to more and more women pursuing subjects such as Engineering and Computer Science. The problem lies in the rural areas as the outlook in those areas is still very traditional. If more women from the rural areas of the country are encouraged to pursue their higher education then the aforementioned percentages will rise significantly.”
“Any organization in the corporate sector will most certainly benefit by having more qualified female professionals in their work force. While doubling the talent-pool and increasing productivity, women are found to be much better at multitasking than men. If you look at some of the Fortune 500 companies, those with a larger percentage of women in their top management perform better than those with a lower percentage. As I always say – if a woman can handle a household and make a house a home, then why can’t she do wonders in the corporate world?”, responded Gayathrika, when questioned about the benefits to the corporate sector when the number of qualified female professionals increases.
Discussing how Edulink has adapted to the changes brought on by the Covid pandemic, Gayathrika said, “I think almost every sector has been impacted by the prevailing pandemic. What I have seen is that many people have realized the importance of pursuing their higher education and gaining specific professional qualifications, as one of the lessons this pandemic has taught us is that when companies are cutting down their work force the most qualified and experienced professionals are often less likely to be laid off.
At Edulink, we faced an issue where a number of our working students were affected due to the impact of the pandemic upon their place of work, either by salary reductions or job cuts. Thus, many had issues with maintaining regular tuition payments, facility fees, etc. To aid our students in this difficult time, we provided many benefits and installment plans. With these in place, we have seen an increase in the number of students enrolling in our various course programs as they have understood that the best way to survive the changes brought on by the pandemic is to invest in their higher education and thus, boost their career prospects.”