SAKYA HIGHER EDUCATION GROUP
Q: What compelled you to join the education sector and how would you describe the journey thus far?
A: I believe that change begins with education – i.e. the knowledge needed to develop potential – as this was true in my life.
My childhood was typical of a boy from a village in Anuradhapura and despite the hardships faced while growing up, I received the right guidance to make good choices and completed my education at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Sakya was established in 1999 in response to the urgent need for youth education, at a time when private education was being criticised for various reasons. Today, this seed in private education has grown into two fully fledged establishments known as Siksil Institute of Business and Technology (SIBT) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) approved Saegis Campus – and they offer courses ranging from diplomas to MBAs.
Our desire is that students studying with us gain something more than passing exams – knowledge that would enable them to contribute something of value to the nation.
Q: You recently marked another milestone in this journey; could you elaborate on this achievement?
A: With ISO 9001 accreditation for secondary education, Sakya has educated youth for the past 20 years. I recently received the Sri Lankan Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2018 at an event organised by the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL).
Over the years, Sakya has produced several high scoring students in the commerce, arts, science and mathematics streams who are knowledgeable in theory as well as practice. Moreover, we are pleased that some of our students have excelled as entrepreneurs, CEOs, university academics and leaders, in both government and private sector organisations.
Q: What roles do competition and innovation play in higher education?
A: While competition and innovation are both vital for the development of higher education, I believe that competition has aggressively filled the vacuum in the sector to the detriment of innovation.
The quality of education is generally measured by factors such as IT enabled classrooms, libraries, laboratories, study halls, syllabi, and methods of teaching and evaluation; however, the supply of this standard of education does not meet the needs of the country.
Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to explore the possi- bilities of enhancing education through creativity and incorporating new technologies for productivity, which I believe would spur economic growth in Sri Lanka.
Q: How can Sri Lanka become a hub for education?
A: Many Sri Lankans hold leading positions in various international education providers, which demonstrates the knowledge and ability of our people. Geographically too, the country is ideally situated, adding to its potential to become an education hub in South Asia.
To attract foreign investors to develop the education sector, the first step is to cultivate an equal importance for soft skills such as industriousness, leadership, creativity and communication, in addition to theoretical knowledge and qualifications.
With the advancement of technology, attention should also be paid to competency based certifications that test specific skills and combine individual skills with professional groupings that are expected to become global employer requirements for jobseekers.
Secondly, we should seek measures to retain our students by providing educational qualifications in line with their needs. This would also attract more foreign students to our shores. Being rich in language and culture, Sri Lanka could offer courses in many other disciplines, which would enhance its educational reach.
And thirdly, improving national academic and physical infrastructure is mandatory, to attract new students and developers to the education sector.
A change in education policies is also needed to support more academic programmes in foreign languages, university twinning, e-learning and distance learning programmes.
The Sakya group aims to support an education based economy through partnerships with regional universities, new district campuses and affiliations with other institutes.
Q: Where do you see the Sakya group in the next five years?
A: I firmly believe in the holistic development of a student as it produces a well-balanced individual and improves employability upon graduation. At the Sakya group, we follow continuous improvement through updating methodologies and providing quality services to bring our courses on a par with international standards.
With regard to profitability and growth strategies, we intend to expand our services to the other main cities in the coming years and invest in the diversification of our business to provide employment opportunities.
Our vision is to establish the Sakya group as an icon for primary, secondary and tertiary private education in Sri Lanka, thereby supporting the government’s education plan – and we will continuously work towards our goal in the years to come.