Brian Selvanayagam


How do you view the prevailing climate in education?
Sri Lankan culture and family values are such that we always consider education an important ingredient of personal success. So whatever the local climate, the importance parents place on a child’s education will persist in this country in line with our values.

Parents sacrifice immensely for their children and in some instances even resort to borrowing to ensure they possess the requisite knowledge to succeed in life.

How have Sri Lankans embraced professional education compared to graduate studies?
Professional qualifications have been growing in Sri Lanka for several reasons.

Firstly, there are very limited opportunities for individuals who wish to pursue graduate studies in this country. While around 10 percent of those who pass their A-Level exams are able to enter local universities, the rest must choose between other graduate-level studies and professional qualifications that are available withthe former being more expensive.

Secondly, professional qualifications can also typically be completed much more rapidly – in a minimum of two years – compared to a graduate study programme that takes at least three years to complete.

Finally, students enjoy the freedom to work while studying, which is not possible when pursuing a typical graduate study programme. Working is encouraged by professional programmes and provides a source of income as well as valuable practical experience.

So how are professional programmes evolving?
Most professional qualifications are evolving continuously and have surpassed traditional pen-and-paper exams. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) UK was among the first to pioneer the case study method. And today, other professional qualifications have now caught on to this.

CIM has moved to assignment-based evaluations as well. The fundamental belief here is that students should not only be assessed over a single three-hour paper but for a longer duration, to test their knowledge and other relevant skills.

Moreover, the entire course is broken down into modules, offering an element of choice with pass certificates being issued on successful completion of each module. This trend is being followed by other professional qualifications today.

From a once British-focussed sphere of learning, Sri Lanka is shifting to a more global outlook in terms of foreign education. Where do you think this trend is heading?
I believe that students and parents seek two primary factors in a qualification: content that enables the student to gain knowledge; and secondly, global recognition, which lends itself to higher studies at various universities around the world and even job opportunities globally.

From a corporate perspective, having global qualifications helps companies select and recruit talent across geographical boundaries – so it’s a win-win at both ends.

What do you think are the most challenging hurdles for students when studying for professional qualifications? And how can they be overcome?
The challenge for a student pursuing any qualification is to understand the practical application of what he or she is learning. In the case of CIM qualifications, these factors are being addressed through assignments and work-related training.

Traditional pressures such as time and funding will continue to exist. But with a focussed determination to succeed on the part of candidates, I believe the challenges can be overcome.

Speaking of challenges, what are they for professionally qualified individuals in the workplace?
Obtaining a professional qualification is only one aspect of succeeding in one’s career. In a dynamic and changing workplace, it is important that individuals practise a culture of continuous professional development to ensure they stay abreast of the latest trends in their relevant fields.

And recognised professional qualifications provide members with opportunities to continuously learn and regularly upgrade their knowledge.

In your view, what is the role of professional education providers in gearing up for 2020?
With the government’s emphasis on education amid limited opportunities for all students to enter the local university system, the availability of recognised professional qualifications offers individuals an opportunity to arm themselves with the required knowledge to succeed in their chosen fields.

Organisations are also seeking skilled individuals for employment and professional qualifications are actively contributing to nurture such talent.

What is your mantra for success?
Self-belief, perseverance and integrity underpin everything one does.

Describe yourself in one word…

Brian is the Chairman of CIM Sri Lanka
– Compiled by Ruwandi Perera