Connect with us

Features

What is quality in higher education?

Published

on

By Kaushalya Perera

With more interest in the quality of higher education in Sri Lanka than ever before, and with a pandemic forcing far-reaching changes, this is an opportune time to discuss what quality means for university education.

Quality in state universities

Mention quality in higher education and attention inevitably veers to the state universities functioning under the University Grants Commission (UGC). The foremost complaint about graduates of these universities is their ‘unemployability’. Successive governments and the World Bank have, rather simplistically, equated unemployability with low English proficiency and low computer literacy. Unions and educationists have critiqued this argument, and pointed to the lack of state investment in education as a major reason for their weaknesses. However, from the government’s point of view, the ‘employable’ graduate is to be produced not through state funds (education received a mere 2.1% of GDP in 2018), but through the USD 180 million worth World Bank loans that we have received since 2003.

Other factors associated with employability are strangely missing from this public discourse. What makes a young educated adult ‘unemployable’? One factor can certainly be a lack of employment-worthy knowledge and skills in graduates. To be employable, however, there must be employment opportunities, sorely missing in the country. The solution by current and previous governments has been, other than to absorb large numbers of youth into the state sector, to demand that universities make internal changes. The Fiscal Management Report of 2020, for instance, states that 2021-2030 will be the “Decade of Skills Development”, its objectives simply being to “transform education for better employment, arrest FDIs, and promote skilled migration while reducing unskilled labour migration.” A consequence of this employment wasteland is that people resort to nepotism and cronyism to gain employment. These consequences of (a lack of) governance are generally unaddressed, as FUTA’s unsuccessful attempt to stop the recruitment of non-academic staff to universities from Ministry ‘lists’ show.

 

Measuring quality

The Universities Act No.16 of 1978 vests the UGC with the responsibility of maintaining academic standards of higher educational institutions (section 3) and grants full powers to investigate and initiate changes to do so. Despite this, the World Bank’s first loan cycle to universities in 2003 – titled ‘Improving Relevance and Quality in Undergraduate Education’ – initiated a new quality assurance (QA) process which promised to increase the quality of our graduates by increasing their attractiveness to employers.

The new QA process aims to do so by standardizing higher education, i.e. it will make it possible to assess diplomas and degrees against each other. This is done through the ‘Sri Lanka Qualifications Framework’, which provides the minimum qualifications and other related specifications for degrees (undergraduate and postgraduate) and other programmes, such as diplomas. The authority for this is with the Quality Assurance Council (QAC), currently under the UGC. The mechanism is similar to the UK QA model – ironically, the UK has similar debates to ours on graduate (un)employability and their QA model was designed to help. Quality will be maintained through periodic reviews, using ‘best practices’ and ‘standards’ against which institutions and programmes are evaluated.

Assessing the quality of higher education is indeed a necessity. The devil, however, is in the details as they say. For example, the SLQF describes a graduate, with a four-year degree, as someone who should “demonstrate an advanced knowledge and understanding of the core aspects of the area of study” and “critically analyse data, make judgments and propose solutions to problems.” Their vision for life must “clearly identify where one wants to be and develop long term goals, accordingly.” How can these criteria be evaluated? Advanced knowledge adequate for one profession may not be adequate for another. Solutions accepted by one employer may be rejected by another. In such instances, instead of engaging with the difficult issue of creating measures that can include these subjective criteria, QA processes turn to countable measures.

The quantitative orientation to quality accompanies the corporatization of higher education, a global trend and not unique to Sri Lanka. Universities are required to function like companies, producing corporate plans, annual progress reports, institutional reviews and auditing space and finances, etc. However, the methods of developing intellectual capabilities are not easily assessed through common measurements. Answers to questions such as ‘does your lecturer inspire you to explore a topic?’ or ‘Did the lecturer push you to think critically and develop ethical positions?’ are subjective. Yet, the need for standardized measurements means that the QA process in universities rely on quantitative measures such as the percentage of lecturers using online learning management systems, whether a lecturer distributed course plans at the beginning of the semester, or the percentage of the curriculum completed. The existence of an online learning management system and the number of people using it matters more than what students and lecturers actually do with it. Universities may satisfy QA requirements if they maintain online learning management systems, provide peer review mechanisms or initiate rewards to lecturers in the form of ‘best teacher awards’. While such quantitative measures might be able to give you some inkling of how a university is managed, they cannot help us gauge a student’s actual ability to think creatively or a lecturer’s commitment to teaching well.

This system of course has been critiqued. Across the world, experts have pointed to the pitfalls of adopting metric-based, audit-oriented measures towards education. They stress the dangers of ignoring the role of higher education in creating a socially responsible individual and a caring, politically active population. The most damning evidence on university governance in this manner was published in “The UK higher education senior management survey: A statactivist response to managerialist governance” (Erickson, Hanna and Walker, 2020). Surveying nearly 6,000 staff members, it reported that nearly two decades of corporatized practices in universities have led to a brutal system of metrics, an excessive workload inimical to high quality teaching and research, a culture of silence in academia, the use of institutional funds for vanity projects by senior management, and a high degree of mental health problems in the sector. Since we aim to follow the same processes, the Sri Lankan higher education sector should take note of the results.

Who is exempt from the
quality discussion?

The intense attention on UGC headed state universities helps other higher educational institutions in Sri Lanka fly under the radar. One such group is the cluster of state universities functioning under various ministries. For example, two Buddhist universities (the Buddhist and Pali University and the Bhiksu University of Sri Lanka) exist under the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Vocational and Technical Training oversees the University of Vocational Technology. The General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University functions under the Ministry of Defence. While they are state universities, they function without being bound by regulations governing state universities under the UGC. For example, the KDU admits paying students to certain degree programmes and expects problematic ‘disciplined’ behaviour of its non-military students.

‘Private universities’ registered as companies essentially deliver external degrees on behalf of foreign universities. Even though they deliver content decided by a foreign university to Sri Lankan students, the local institution is not required to justify the award of such degrees in Sri Lanka. Neither the state universities under Ministries, nor the private universities are subject to external academic reviews or questioned on the quality of their lecturers, curricula or pedagogy. They are also not critiqued for a lack of research output.

 

The need for change

What we need then is a cohesive, far-sighted plan for higher education. Such a plan would take into account not only the financial development of the country but also the emotional, and intellectual development of its people. Beyond doubt then, the first priority would be the allocation of more funds for higher education. All degree-awarding institutions should ideally exist under the central authority of the UGC, or at the very least, must be reviewed by the UGC periodically. While evaluations of quality are necessary, they cannot be done quantitatively. Existing QA mechanisms needs to change from the box ticking, form filling, record keeping system to a more holistic one that deals with quality in qualitative terms. Educational research produced in other parts of the world seeing similar problems can help us with such transitions. None of this will work, however, without higher education (including the UGC) being depoliticised. Public discourse too needs to shift from its simplistic belief in education-for-employment and consider what ‘an educated person’ means and what universities can do towards creating such a person. The sole purpose of education, especially university education, should not be the mere matching of skills to jobs.

(Kaushalya Perera teaches at the Department of English, University of Colombo.)

Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.

 

 



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Features

Echoes of NM’s dismissal may have an impact on present crisis

Published

on

by Tissa Vitarana

Dr. N. M. Perera, one of the greatest politicians and statesmen produced by our country, was born on June 6, 1905.

In recognition of his stature as a freedom fighter, a trade union leader, an authority who consolidated parliamentary democracy in the country, an economist who defended the rights of the developing world and sacrificed political power to defend minority rights, he remains in the heart of the people 43 years after his death. Each year on June 6, it has become customary to celebrate his birth anniversary by paying floral tribute at his statue in Colombo. Leaders of the Left and many other political parties participated, together with some leading supporters of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which he had helped to form in 1935 with socialist objectives.

Among the chief speakers were the current Leader of the LSSP and the Chairman of the Dr.N.M.Perera Centre or his representative. Similar functions would be held at the statues in Thun Korale, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota, in turn bi-annually.

As usual on June 6, 2021 the function was held, but only with three persons present as a token event, to conform with the three health regulations required to control the Covid 19 epidemic . As the present General Secretary of the LSSP I gave a short speech, the Chairman of the Dr.N.M.Centre who was unwell was represented by Ranil Vitarana, and the LSSP rank and file by Nuresh Rajapakse, a member of the PB whose ample size filled the space left by the absent LSSPers. We retired home to discuss how NM might solve the present crisis if he was alive.

The crisis that NM faced as the Minister of Finance in the SLFP/LSSP/CP Coalition Government in 1972 was far worse than what confronts us today. In 1972 there was the perennial crisis of over production that dogs the capitalist economic system. But in addition the fossil fuel price went up seven times due to the getting together of the oil producing countries to form a cartel, OPEC. The worst global drought in 30 years led to a severe food crisis, with thousands of deaths worldwide. As a result, due to the traditional import dependent policies of the UNP Governments, our people were in grave danger (e.g. the price of a ton of imported sugar went up from $ 40 to $ 600).

NM explained to the people the magnitude of the crisis and called upon the people to tighten belts, stop the import based luxury lifestyle, and develop an import substitution national economy, producing our food and developing value added industry (his budget allocation for science and technology was increased four times). The bulk of the burden should not be passed on to the people but borne by government and the rich. The direct personal tax on the rich was raised to a maximum of 75% (today it is only14%). He managed to balance the budget and in one year in office earn more than the loss. The strict import restrictions reduced the foreign trade deficit and helped to cut down foreign borrowing. The foreign debt was reduced to the lowest in our history.

Today the biggest problem is the high cost of living, mainly due to huge profits made by rapacious middlemen (big mill owners, local money lenders to farmers such as traders etc.). To end this NM and the coalition developed the producer cooperatives (such as farmers) and the consumer cooperatives as genuine peoples’ organizations. By direct dealings between the two he wiped out the profiteering of the middlemen. The cooperatives were so successful that NM brought down the price of essentials to affordable levels, and even gave a measure of rice free. The result was that no one died of starvation unlike in other parts of the world. Due to the opposition of the traders, outsourcing to them was not possible. The result was long queues at the co-ops. This and the other shortcomings were exploited by the media controlled by the rich to lay the blame on the government. They hid the global nature of the problem, but blamed the government.

Besides food shortages a major problem was the shortage of medicine in government hospitals and the high cost of medicines in private pharmacies. Prof.Senaka Bibile, a member of the LSSP, came up with his Medicinal Drug Policy, which was accepted by WHO. NM strongly supported it and it was implemented. The outcome was that medicines for practically every disease was available in all government hospitals free of charge. The shortages were overcome, unlike the situation that prevails today. The foreign drug companies got their governments to intervene and promise a large sum of money to the government to overcome the crisis, provided the NM and the LSSP was expelled. The finance portfolio was taken away from him, and he was given a minor post which he refused and the LSSP was forced out of the Government.

The CP left the next year and the SLFP suffered a major defeat in the 1977 general election. The UNP led by JR Jayewardene came to power in 1977 and opened the door for the commencement of the process of change referred to as neoliberalism. This ideology led by the USA reached its zenith throughout the capitalist world, most of all in America. But it was a failure. It was rejected by the Sri Lankan people at the last presidential and general election.

The anti-UNP political parties helped form the SLPP-led government and are committed to do everything possible to solve the economic, social and health problems facing the country and people.

Like NM, I and the LSSP are very happy that the neoliberal foreign market dependent policies have been rejected, and the commitment is to establish an indigenous economy, where local agriculture and value added industry are to be developed. A major problem is the Covid 19 coronavirus epidemic. In view of my training in virology and experience here and abroad in association with WHO, I could have made some contribution to overcome this problem. In addition where local value added industry is concerned I have already made a significant contribution as the Minister of Science and Technology when Mahinda Rajapaksa was President.

In the four years I established 263 Vidatha Centres, one in each division, and helped 12,300 micro, small and medium entrepreneurs to develop island-wide (17 exporters, 64 suppliers to Cargills and other food chains, and 53 to hotels). To promote large scale industry for the export market I set up a Hi-tech Centre, SLINTEC, with emphasis on nanotechnology near Colombo. But it would appear that I am not fit to be a minister, leave alone a cabinet minister. I wonder whether what happened to NM and Senaka Bibile had any bearing on this.

But why was Prof Sirimali Fernando, Senior Professor in Medical Microbiology at Sri Jayawardenapura University left out. For her post-graduate research in London she not only worked in the field of Virology, but also used the PCR. She could have seen that the PCR test (and the RAT) were properly standardized to give reliable results. Control of the epidemic will be difficult with many false positives and negatives.

You can understand what a person of NM’s stature felt when he was kicked out of the finance ministry, when what has happened to me is related. The only occasion that I could express my views was when the Health Advisory Committee of Parliament met on one occasion, at very short notice, with the Minister in the chair. I proposed that a National Committee of party leaders in Parliament be set up to interact with the minister to exchange views so that we all unite to fight this common enemy. Then truly national Covid committees could cooperate down to village level in the interest of all the people.

The minister turned this down and said that this Health Committee will meet twice a month and any party leader is free to come. Four months have gone and this committee has not met once since then. Secondly I proposed that as community spread had begun a new community based approach was necessary to control the spread and I gave an outline of the necessary measures. She rejected my assessment and approach, stating that it was still in the cluster stage. I said that the cluster approach could continue where indicated, but my proposal too should be implemented. She rejected this proposal.

I might mention that the day Dr. Fernandopulle was appointed as minister she invited me to meet her and I had a fruitful discussion with her for more than an hour. I hope that she will get the necessary support.

Continue Reading

Features

Monastic food – vegetarian food (mildly selective)

Published

on

I was directed to the film series on food on Netflix titled Chef’s Table and enjoyed watching the first of series three. It was on the South Korean Zen Buddhist nun, Jeong Kwan, and her preparations of monastic food.

Jeong Kwan

(born 1957) is a Zen Buddhist and chef of . She lives in the Chunjinam Hermitage at the in , where she cooks for fellow nuns and monks, as well as occasional visitors. She had no formal culinary training but is now directing the preparation of vegetarian food in a café in Korea and has visited China and Japan as ‘food ambassador’. Temple food is literally food consumed by ascetic Buddhist nuns and monks. Since their goal is enlightenment, achieved by both mind and body, ascetic food aims at this great achievement – enlightenment.

The bustling Chef

Jeong Kwan ran away from her home in a northern province of South Korea at age 17, leaving her family of seven siblings. At 19 she joined an order of Zen nuns and took to cooking with joy, food for the nuns and monks in an adjoining monastery. She had learned to turn out noodle dishes when she was just seven years old. She refers to her being chef to monks and nuns as her way of spreading the Dhamma as food is a very important component of ascetic life, the food certainly not to be relished, drooled over, hungered for, but eaten mindfully to sustain the body in health and thus contribute to the development of the mind.

Jeong Kwan’s recipes use aubergines, tomatoes, plums, oranges, pumpkin, tofu, basil, chilli pepper, and other vegetables and of course rice or noodles. vegan, Jeong Kwan’s recipes omit garlic, green onions and leeks, which are believed to be mildly aphrodisiacal. In the Netflix film I watched, this fairly well set nun with a serene face and charming smile, grows all the vegetables used in her menus. She sows seeds or plants seedlings, tends then lovingly and then harvests what she needs day by day. She says however: “It’s up to nature and the plants themselves to stay alive. Time flows for them and for myself at the same pace.” Her philosophy on cooking monastic food is: “We cook food that can become one with the person eating it; then it functions like medicine inside our bodies.”

Most of what she used in the film were familiar to me. There was nelum ala or the ‘yam’ of the lotus used; and various leaves she gathered. She uses oil fairly freely in her preparation. I don’t know what oil it was. And of course kimchi is an integral part of what she serves each nun in small dishes; the typical Korean dish always present, made from a certain kind of cabbage dipped in sauces. Nun Kwan dipped into large clay pots of sauces, some of which were very old, the sauces I mean.

 

Vegetarian and Vegan

It is apt to define these two terms here. A vegetarian is one who does not eat meat or fish and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious or health reasons.

A vegan is one who abstains from the use of animal products particularly in diet and believes in the “philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.” There are degrees of veganism. The term was coined by Dorothy Morgan and Donald Watson in November 1944. (Wikipedia)

 

Food served at meditation retreats

I wrote a fortnight ago about my experiences of meditation retreats at Parappuduwa Nuns’ Island off Ratgama, Dodanduwa, while Ayya Khema was living there and later; and about 10-day and shorter retreats undertaken at Dhamma Khuta Vipassana Bhavana Centre in Hindagala, Peradeniya. Both places were vegetarian. At Parappuduwa we served ourselves from dishes placed on a trestle table, after the resident nuns and any foreign persons in prolonged retreat, had had their meal. I recollect Ayya Khema would remain in her seat supervising us! I once reached out for a dish to pass on to my neighbour who I thought needed some from that dish. Ayya Khema reprimanded me for reaching out for a dish. I did not explain it was not for me but for another that I did what I did. Extreme respect!

At Dhamma Khuta we went up to the food tables in a two queues – men and women – and held out our plates for rice first and then down the line for the vegetable curries; just four sans red chilly, and a salad or leaf sambal. Everything was served in measured quantities. This was lunch at 11.15 – 11.30. We were served dessert, mostly fruit or a prepared simple pudding. For breakfast we were served boiled seed like green gram, followed by a cup of tea. We were allowed to keep tea and sugar in our dormitories and expected to drink plain tea after noon, which unfortunately some did not follow, copiously adding milk and even snacking, just as they broke the Golden Silence rule. In the evening at around 6.00 we were given the choice of half a glass of fruit juice or a mug of plain tea. Those on medicines were served a couple of biscuits and a banana.

Recollections are many but I will narrate just two. At the first ten-day meditation retreat at the newly constructed and not quite complete Dhamma Khuta picturesque Centre right on top of a hill, with Ven Goenkaji and wife living in the bungalow on the premises, we were rather choc-a-bloc since the organizers wanted to accommodate as many as possible at this unique retreat. We were three in most dormitory rooms with the previous meditators accommodated in the now defunct tea factory below, necessitating an arduous van ride in rain and mud and fog.

One of my roommates was obviously rich and definitely fussy, and oldish. She brought along a huge suitcase which covered half the floor of the room. My small bed was against the opposite wall so I had no jumping across or alongside it. She even brought a winter coat! Before bed there was a ritual she followed: munched crackers and cheese, thala guli and drained a mugful of beverage – cocoa or chocolate made with the hot water given each of us in our flasks after the evening gilanpasa.

The next recollection is me, a novice, standing at the narrow food table with helpers on the opposite side, ready with ladles. On the first day of the retreat, I stood at the rice dish at lunch, waiting for the server to give me another spoonful. I thought the amount served was totally inadequate. A slight wave of her palm to indicate I move on was missed by me. She then moved me to the curries with a big wave of her hand. The point in this story is that by the end of the retreat, say seventh day to tenth, I found the rice served me was too much and waved away the second spoon ready to descend on my plate. Even the measured, restricted quantity was found to be too much as the mind got calmer and body felt rested.

With Ven Goenkaji, samples of the cooked curries were taken to him to be tasted and passed as OK. At latter retreats, maybe Brindley Ratwatte or Damayanthi performed that task to see that not too much spices were added. But bland though the food was, it was so very well cooked by the village women who came to help. We ate with gratitude in our hearts to them, the organizers of the retreats and even the farmers.

A very significant point was that with the glass of juice or tea and the fresh cool water off the clay pots placed at strategic positions, I slept more soundly than at home. I found the cup of tea made before going to bed totally unnecessary and even impeded sound sleep until woken at predawn 3.30.

Conclusion: we normally eat far too much, especially at dinner!

Continue Reading

Features

UNDERSTANDING PERSONALITIES – Part 10

Published

on

CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY

by Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

chandij@sympatico.ca

The Round Trip

We made substantial profits from our first-ever Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) Graduation Ball and decided to spend all that money to go on a seven-day “all-inclusive” round trip for all students in the two senior batches that organised the dance. Three members of the teaching staff joined, perhaps to keep an eye on us. It was nice to have ‘fun’ activities outside the formal environment we usefully operated at CHS. With plenty of singing, dancing, joking, river bathing, games, drinking and eating, this trip was lot of fun, but was not without some mischief in between. During this trip, for the first time in my life, I realised the importance of analysing different personalities and how people behave differently and more freely in more relaxing situations. In later years, throughout my careers in management, academia and consulting, I used those two concepts – ‘Personality Analysis’ and ‘Combining Work and Fun.’

When we returned to Colombo at the end of the week our relationships with the participating staff had certainly improved. This trip became an annual event at CHS. A decade later when I became a Senior Lecturer of CHS, I always joined the student round trips. It provided me with opportunities of better understanding my students from a different generation.

 

Frau Sommersaul

One of our most popular subjects was Basic German, but it was not due to the subject matter. The main attraction was the gorgeous looks of the young lady who was our part-time German Lecturer. Frau Sommersaul had blond hair, a very nice figure, and often wore short skirts. Basic German was one class that inspired my punctuality.

My aim was to get a front row seat, but I was not the only student with that idea. One of my playful batchmates, Priyajith would regularly sit in the front row and purposely dropped his assignments on the floor. He was hoping that our short-skirted teacher would bend down to pick up the assignments. One day he was warned by the Principal not to stare at the German teacher’s shapely legs. The next day, Priyajith appeared in the class wearing sunglasses. When Frau Sommersaul asked for the reason for wearing sunglasses, he replied in broken German, “Frau Sommersaul, die Blendung stört meine Augen”. (“Mrs. Sommersaul, the glare is bothering my eyes.”)

In every German class, there was a question written on the board. Frau Sommersaul directed each student to take a turn answering in German. English was not allowed in her class. By the second month, she had realised that I never studied and therefore could not answer correctly in German. After that, each time it was my turn to answer the day’s question, she simply skipped me and went to the next student.

 

Mrs. Carmen Gomes

By observing three Chef Instructors, I learnt lessons beyond cooking. When addressing the whole class, Mrs. Gomes, only lady Chef Instructor at that time, called all of us, “Boys”. When she addressed any of us individually, she used only our family names. Every time she called me, “Jayawardena”, I did not like it, and said tactfully as possible, “Madam, my name is Chandana”.

Whenever I had to present to her a dish prepared by me for grading, she reacted in the same manner. She made a face of disgust and disapproval, before giving me a low mark. One day, as a prank, I sent the same dish that received a low mark, to her for the second time, with the best student of my batch, W. D. T. Anton. Mrs. Gomes tasted my dish and told Anton, “Perfect! Well done, Anton!”, and gave him 100%. In later years while managing the largest Chef School in Canada as the Academic Chair, I realised that kitchen practical marking at times can be subjective, based on the first impressions created by the students. Unfortunately, I had created a very poor first impression for my cooking at CHS.

 

Chef Helmut Belling

We liked the Expert Lecturer in Kitchen Operations from West Germany, Chef Helmut Belling. He was a fun-loving person and did some practical jok

es in the kitchen. His favourite joke was replacing cubed cheese (which we liked to steal) kept in the refrigerator with similar sized cubes of yellow Sunlight cleaning soap to trick us. He was tall and large and looked like a giant among some of my batchmates who were short.

Occasionally, the Chef lost his cool when we made a serious mistake in the kitchen. One day, a short batch mate of mine burnt the Chicken Maryland, just before lunch service. The Chef was very upset and lost his cool. He carried my batchmate by his trousers at the waist with one hand and threw him out of the kitchen. This batch mate in later years became a top Chef in the largest airline kitchens in Australia.

 

Chef Robert Napper

Towards the end of our first year at CHS, an ILO Expert in Kitchen Operations, Chef Robert Napper arrived from the UK. He was a skilled Chef but had a superiority complex. As a result, he appeared to be sarcastic and not very respectful of the local culture. His relationship with his German colleagues at CHS were not the best, to say the least.

As a developing nation, it was normal at that time in Sri Lanka to experience occasional power interruptions and water cuts during the dry mo

nths. One day towards the end of the kitchen practical, the water supply stopped. We were happy thinking that we did not have to wash the kitchen that day. Chef Napper ordered each of us to pick a large pot or an empty garbage can, and march behind him across the Galle Face Green to the Indian Ocean. That day we washed the kitchen with salt water! That provoked the German Principal.

Due to his racist comments, most of us disliked Chef Napper. Another day, the Chef was not satisfied with the freshness of the fish delivered to the kitchen. One of my batchmates, Kotte, disagreed and said that the local fish was fresh. That angered the Chef, who said that, “This rotten fish is as old as your bloody culture.” We were shocked. One key lesson I learnt from Chef Napper was what I should not do when I lived and worked in different countries and among people from diverse cultures. In later years I often teach what I call ABC (Attitudes and Aspirations, Beliefs and Behavior, Customs and Culture) in my management seminars. ABC of host communities must be recognised and respected by expatriate managers.

 

Restaurant Service

We had excellent team spirit among all three batches of CHS students. Usually when the third-year batch did the cooking, the second-year batch served the lunch. As the training restaurant had 36 seats, a few of the first-year students were invited to dine at the restaurant. If and when one of the servers dropped a spoon on the floor or had a noisy service accident, students of all three batches dining or servicing looked up to the ceiling, in unison. This was done to distract any attention from the teaching staff, from the already embarrassed server who had made a mess.

Our Lecturers in Restaurant Service did a great job in humorously teaching us the basics and menu explanations. Their memorable stories based on their experiences in West Germany, enhanced the lectures. Usually, during lunch, each table had one teaching staff member and three students. I always rushed to sit at the table hosted by Mr. Rohan De Silva, as he offered us free cigarettes. At the end of the lunch, Herr Sterner made his Principal’s comments on the lunch and service. As the Principal was more of a Front Office specialist, every time he made a comment about dishes and cooking, Chef Napper made a face of disapproval and whispered a sarcastic or a racist comment to the students at his table. 

 

Last Minute Studies

Considering the second chance given me at CHS after my poor academic performance during my first year, I was keen to improve in my second year. That was my only chance of survival at CHS. However, given my busy schedule full of Judo fighting, Rugby Football practices, Tournament Secretary work, part-time work, movies, girlfriends, parties and pranks, I did not get down to studying until the end of the fall semester in 1972. I knew that I had to pull up my socks to do better at this exam, because I was virtually on my last warning and last chance.

Finally, I commenced studying the day before examination. We had a full week of examinations, and I got into a last-minute study mode. I opened the textbook for the next day’s exam subject for the first time around 11:00 pm and studied the textbook and my class notes all night without any sleep. Overnight, I made a one-page summary per subject of everything I revised. After breakfast and before going to the examination hall in the morning, I looked at that one-page summary once and then wrote the test. Soon after the examination, when I returned to the hostel in the mid afternoon, I went to sleep. I woke up again around 11:00 pm to go through my newly developed examination-preparation strategy.

I continued this unorthodox studying method for the whole week. As most of my hostel mates were sleeping at the time I was studying, it was quiet and ideal for my concentration. Although many experts disagree with this type of last-minute studying, it worked well for me. My grades improved significantly. I used this technique for all my further studies at undergraduate, professional, graduate, doctoral and post-doc levels in later years.

Continue Reading

Trending