Presentation on theme: "The Need of ‘Technology Teaching’ to be ‘Practice Orientated’ by Dr. Roland Silva Emeritus Chancellor, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka."— Presentation transcript:
The Need of ‘Technology Teaching’ to be ‘Practice Orientated’ by Dr. Roland Silva Emeritus Chancellor, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Chairperson, Chancellors and Vice Chancellors, Ladies and Gentlemen This is a paper we have culled out and condensed from an Address made by us to the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka in 2012.
We will never tire ourselves repeating this a thousand times as we feel that it is only with the deeper digestion of this critical thought and in the implementation of such a concept, that Moratuwa University and other Technology Universities will be contributing substantially towards the advancement of Our Mother Land.
In 2011, we advanced a couple of thoughts where the Teaching Curriculum of the Technical University could be dovetailed with a Construction Organization and in so doing, the student’s knowledge base could be made to mature in a hands-on environment, thus assimilating the applied principles of the theories that they were digesting.
By this method the youth will already be swimming at the deeper end of their practice pool on the day of their convocation.
With this in view, my suggestion was that the Vice Chancellor requested for an Additional Deputy Vice Chancellor precisely for this purpose of “Practice Orientated Teaching” from the Grant’s Commission and assigning him to this task. He too should be permitted to hand pick the right Dons from each Department of Studies for this purpose with a specific budget for this enterprise and then to fix a time target to have these programmes implemented, perhaps within one or two years.
If such an end result was reached, the respective Dons and the Deputy Vice Chancellor should have been appropriately remunerated both academically and financially.
I am placing below in summary what I stated in December 2011 pertaining to “The Need of Technology Teaching being Practice Orientated” as mentioned to the “Annual Symposium of the Engineering Research Unit”.
1.Ship and Trawler Designing and Building with the Fisheries Ministry and the Colombo Dockyards PLC This course of training can easily be twined with a working organization as that given below. The emphasis being that the students be orientated to working conditions on the lines of a “teaching hospital”. Hence, the university dons needed to identify an organization where the students are made to step into the workings of the trade from day one as is with the doctors. An international institution that is on a parallel practice, may be considered instead of having to ‘re-invent the wheel’:
Colombo Dockyards, established in 1974 is Sri Lanka’s leading ship repair, shipbuilding, heavy engineering and offshore engineering facility, conveniently located within the port of Colombo, a hub to all major shipping lanes. As a state of the arts engineering entity, it operates on four graying dry docks. A tactical collaboration with Onomichi Dockyards Co Ltd of Japan in 1993, had proved to be a highly successful venture. Onomichi’s long and reputed history in training and developing programs, has enhanced the professional skills and the technical experience of the engineers and apprentices.
2.Train Carriage Assembly with the Railway Department and the Ratmalana Workshop We may be wrong if we were to accept a wild statement that the only Railway Line that was laid in the Island since the British left Sri Lanka in 1948, was the toy train that was laid out in Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo. It is with a view to correcting such a humbling and thought provoking statement that we suggested, that the one and only Technical University of the country, takes up the challenge to move forward with programmes of work to counter the truth or otherwise of such a humiliating comment, directed, no doubt, against the intellectual prowess of a highly capable community.
With this in view, it seemed prudent that we corrected any misunderstandings about our good nation and made up for any lost ground, and so get our tracks in place and see that the Railway Stocks kept moving, and that, not with imports as at present, but with products turned out by our own hands and intellectual genius. However, let us be humble to learn this from those that have already had some experience as the people of Hungary:
The “Raba Automotive Regional University Knowledge Center” in Hungary is such an organization that can join hands with the Ratmalana Railway Workshop and Moratuwa University to meet such an objective. In order to promote technological innovation in Hungary, which is the basis of development, the company took an active part in the establishment of the “Automotive Regional University Knowledge Center”. Quality training of the employees had been taking place for two years in the framework of “Raba’s Learning Academy”. With such an impetus and by the introduction of a share-option purchasing scheme, which is a unique practice in Hungary, the company strengthened the management’s loyalty efficiently and was, thereby, able to earn 50 billion Hungarian units of currency profit in 2006.
3.Building Buses with TATA Motors and the CTB A major shortcoming in the country is the lack of proper public transport. This has resulted in people using private vehicles to get to their places of work. Thus, contributing the overcrowding of roads and the excessive use of expensive fuel. It is a national responsibility for Institutions like the Universities to provide the intellectual back up to national needs. One such way would be to educate the public to use public transport such as bus travel by providing adequate fleet of buses at reasonable cost than spending valuable foreign exchange in importing buses. Moreover, these are different avenues of employment to all sectors of the people as well.
It is with a multi-purpose objective that we suggest that the University undertakes not only the designing of bus body’s, but also the mechanical development of the machines as well, which aspects can be the academic features of a course of studies at a Technical University as Moratuwa. Such details can be worked out with institutions like Tata Motors, which organization is already working in Sri Lanka and the Ceylon Transport Board.
4.Construction of Speedways along with the Highways Authority The Speedway Constructions has taken a new dimension in development with the inauguration of the Southern Expressway. This trend will, undoubtedly, be replicated throughout the Island. It is most definitely an area that will require large number of Specialized Engineers. Thus, Moratuwa needs to wake up to this call by the nation.
A country that has developed its infrastructure of highways in recent years is China. And also as a country that is most sympathetic to Sri Lanka’s growth, China could well be a donor not only to the enterprise of training, but will undoubtedly, considered being a banker to “Speedway Constructions in Sri Lanka” as well.
A forward-looking statements made by John Bai, Chief Financial Officer, China of the China Infrastructure, Construction Corporation in a press release made recently records the expected joint venture collaboration to such an enterprise. It is this type of Nation Building Ventures that the Dons, of this Number One Academic Institutions need to pursue for their country and home.
5.Slum Clearance, Flat Construction with the Housing Authority, UDA and the Town Planning Department A serious proposal of the Government of Sri Lanka in the past months pending Local Government elections was the need of “Slum Clearance and Flat Construction with the Housing Authority”. These election promises should not be disbanded even if one loses such an election. In fact, the sincerity of such election promises should be to have these implemented irrespective of the outcome.
Many former colonial countries, without exception, have encountered the growth of slums due to ill-conceived planning and the job creating efforts following independence to nations. India was no exception, perhaps even worse due to the enormity of the population problem. As such, some examples may be cited from among the Indian cities such as Bangalore. These were considered collectively on a state by state basis such as the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board. The Main Objectives of the Board were:
(a)To take up environmental improvement clearance and redevelopment of the slums. (b)To enable slum dwellers to live in hygienic conditions by providing basic amenities like drinking water, toilets, street light, drains, roads, community bathrooms, community toilets, etc., (c)To construct new houses to the slum dwellers and to upgrade the houses. (d)To prevent unauthorized constructions in slum areas. (e)To identify and declare the slum areas in accordance with the provision of the KSA (I & C) Act 1973. (f)To take up a socio-economic survey in the slums in order to improve socio- economic conditions of the slum dwellers.
Is the solution to Slum Clearance to disperse Industries whether, Public or Private throughout the Country, than permitting these in over saturated regions of the Cities? We doubt if such a plan does exist? Why cannot Moratuwa work with the UDA and the Town Planning Department and undertake such appropriate schemes for all the Provincial and District Capitals and reward these efforts with academic and financial benefits?
6.Motor Engineering with Micro Cars Ltd. and other Car Importers With the many imports of cars and the maintenance, a serious study programme not only to repair or assemble but even to manufacture these as is in The Netherlands and Australia, with the same population as in Sri Lanka, and is being carried out presently.
Tata Motors provides a congenial atmosphere to work, learn and grow. The Company conducts various programmes to train their staff in the latest and the best technology and management practices. Moratuwa University need not leave all these initiatives to the Vice Chancellor or the Council or the Senate to formulate proposals but instead these should be developed by the Dons and the Faculty staff. Using the Tata example and the pioneering efforts of Micro, Sri Lanka. Moratuwa can be the leavening institution to move forward in the academics of this enterprise.
7.Irrigation Work with the Mahaveli Authority and the Irrigation Department UNESCO-IHE offers four accredited International Master of Science programmes, with a total of 21 specializations. The MSc programmes are meant for professionals that want to deepen their expertise, and in the meantime wish to gain substantial insight into the global water agenda. Moreover, studying at UNESCO-IHE could result in, establishing contacts with fellow professionals from around the world, who could be scientific advisers, thereafter.
UNESCO-IHE MSc degrees are legally accredited, and students awarded this degree are eligible for admission to PhD programmes all over the world. UNESCO-IHE uses the European Credit Transfer System, in which each credit point is equivalent to 28 study load hours. The Delft-based UNESCO- IHE specializations are 106 credit points in total. The Institute’s academic staff was composed of established international professors and lecturers. A pool of guest lecturers and partners from UNESCO-IHE’s global network provide additional scientific expertise in the various areas of specialization and bring in case studies where theory is merged with practice.European Credit Transfer System
8.Telephone, Telegraph, the development of Internet and Computer Development through appropriate organizations. Telephones, Telegraph and Internet which were all dependent on an extensive network of telegraph posts, telephone cables and servicing offices have now been eliminated due to the cell phone system and its compact instrumentation and its multifaceted usage.
The term ‘Electronic Age’ takes its name from such equipment and the economic growth of nations too, are heavily dependent on such industry. Nearly 80% of grown up persons in Sri Lanka carry such a device and is contactable in nearly every part of the country at any time. It is a convenience that is near universal, at least in this country. It is believed that there are as many cell phone units as the population of the country.
If this be the situation in the country where one’s cell phone can soon be even the credit card for purchasing items of food, clothing and perhaps even shelter, why is Sri Lanka not launching its academic skill at university levels to such a knowledge base? If the Information Technology Faculty can get linked up with Dialog or any established Software Organization and train the personnel to higher objectives the monopoly of Finland, Sweden or South Korea or Taiwan in such a futuristic industry can well be challenged by the young minds of this country as well.
9.Ariel Survey work with Satellite Imagery together with the Survey Department Satellite Imaging, undoubtedly, is most advanced in the United States. This science was, in all probability used for intelligence gathering. However, the science is most useful in peace time for appropriate high resolution satellite images, as well as enhanced satellite image data to create accurate, interactive mapping projects. The imaging, geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and geodesy in the extraction, manipulation, and supplementation of satellite images and imaging data are all now possible.
If such an organization and the Ariel Survey Division of the Survey Department could join hands with the University of Moratuwa, an appropriate course of training can be commenced to aid projects in oil and gas exploration development, and production, land cadaster, construction planning, and environmental impact studies.oil and gas explorationdevelopmentproduction
10. Radio and Television with suitable institutions. It was Arthur Clark who repeatedly said that if Africa and other members of the Third World were to get even with the rest of humanity, the only course of education was the Radio and the Television. Despite countless reports in the public press that Sri Lanka has stepped up from its place in the Third World, it is well to know that much more education via Mass Media is essential to elevate the Common Folk to an even stand above that of the Third World.
Education, as we all know is not only book learning. It is the knowledge and practice of all of us in our daily life. It could be the way we eat, the way we dress, the way we talk, the way we play and a whole host of behavior patterns that we carry out minute by minute, hour by hour, throughout our life.
What is the best way to adjust our lifestyles to accepted norms except through the examples set to us by our parents, by our teachers and by our neighbors? Despite these fundamentals the eternal educator is the all-time companion, the Radio and the Television. It is this outreach that can penetrate any home however remote it be. It is in many ways a pity that the authorities have not taken adequate advantage in this regard.
Even at this late hour, it seems prudent that the Faculty of Information Technology extends its interest to training not mere Radio and Television repairers but Designers and Inventors so that these products are made available at reasonable levels to the Common Folk.
These efforts will undoubtedly, reduce the drain on Foreign Exchange and also find more employment to the people of this country. What about “Distance Learning” and the advances towards our bread winner, namely, the higher yields in our agriculture. All these are ideas that each Ministry can draw on to extend their objectives to the public through “Distance Learning”.
Because of the competitiveness of the broadcasting industry, many jobs require a bachelor’s degree. A four-year degree also gives employees a better prospect for advancements in the respective fields. Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators held about 114,600 jobs in USA in 2008. Their employment was distributed among many detailed occupations:
All is well to rest on the laurels of a past and say that Moratuwa University has been the best in the island in the past five or more years. It is the prudence of a leader institution to be sufficiently humble and attempt to be even better. I say this on the example set by perhaps the third or fourth best frontline university in China with that country holding the largest economy of the world.
Reaching for the Top globally: A relenting need for the best. In the modern era where the importance of nations are judged by its economic might and GDP, it is comforting to know that even those institutes sitting on top of the pyramid are examining routes to improve their performance base on solid foundations and academic prowess.
Recently, a Sri Lankan Don working in the UK was invited to Chair a committee to examine the quality of output and performance metrics of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Zhejiang University in China by the President of the university. The request was purely to help benchmark this activity against international competition, knowing very well that the activity had been found to be rated third or fourth in China by a pan-China review panel.
The first question to ask oneself is why was such a highly rated university was using an international panel to benchmark its own ‘crown jewels’, such as the Materials Science and Engineering activity considered to be one of the best in China? It was also the first comprehensive Materials Science and Engineering Department set up by the government of China. The simple answer to the question is that the Chinese psyche does not believe in sitting on its laurels, and there is the ever present drive and energy to make things better and stronger and grander.
This is clear in the manner in which technology has evolved in China, where they started with basic designs and quite primitive electronics and now the Chinese electronics industry has within the last 20 years, developed into one of the strongest and most progressive in the world. At present there are more semiconductor foundries and electronic companies engaged in the assembly and in the designing of electronic circuits in China than in the USA. The same progressive attitude is now mirrored in the car industry at present.
The Chinese authorities have given the people with knowledge intellectual capital, and an open playing field to develop competitive products in the country. These products so evolved, now challenge the best in the world, due to the comprehensive knowledge base that they possess. This is now being developed via the academic establishments, with funding poured into the best to make them stronger and thereby, supporting the industry based knowledge power-houses of China.
Yesterday’s world of using efficiency of manufacturing to keep costs low and making margins on products is no longer the route to profits and healthy surpluses of balance in the nations’ economies. Today’s objectives are based on knowledge economies, where technology and intellectual prowess trumps all others, and for the knowledge economies to be driven the government has created catalysts for intellectual discourses, innovation and debate. There is the acceptance that the world will not stay still to be better and stronger.
The second important question raised was why an international panel was requested to conduct the benchmarking with no local or native Chinese academics to guide the process? This attitude was quite unique and brave. In this case the committee consisted of leading material science and engineering professors from the UK, Germany, Slovenia, Japan and the US. The expertise of the panel was selected to give the depth and breadth of the subjects covered within the existing department.
So, the final question we need to ask is, “what was it all about?” Was it purely to navel-gaze and produce a document that affirmed how good the unit was? Not at all? The scrutiny placed on the report so submitted has enabled the department to position itself even more strongly within the university with a custom designed building with new laboratories and state of the arts facilities.
Consequently, new courses were evolved to strengthen the curriculum by bridging the gaps between science and technology, with a fresh outlook on enterprise and entrepreneurship. The so called valley of death scenario for academics starting companies and then running out of steam is now being examined to find routes through regional funding.
At present on a worldwide scale, this activity in China is rated as per the ISI data to be within the top 20-35 in Materials Science Engineering. It was noted that within five years this discipline will be among the top 10-15 in the world. We have much to learn from the Chinese in improving standards and the quality levels of our own institutions.
Therefore, what is the lesson to learn from this Chinese puzzle? First, to be humble that even if we are the best today, let us not rest on our laurels, but in all humility, see what more can we do to better ourself tomorrow. Secondly, let us not get petty minded that there are no Nationals in such Review Committees, as it is only a science review. Thirdly, what is the follow-up – to be better and better in an international ranking rather than to be the best in a country set-up.
Well Ladies and Gentlemen, While we compliment the Chancellors and Vice Chancellors present for results of eminence in their own establishments, let us keep an open mind that there is, indeed a world of massive experience to draw on and make our Institutions even a wee bit better in the years to follow. And above all, let ‘Technology Teaching’ be ‘Practice Orientated’.