Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It’s Time! - PART II: HHJ Keerthisena compares Peradeniya with Moratuwa

By Rasika Suriyaarachchi [E/81/214]

Continuing from PART I - The beginning

PART II - HHJ Keerthisena compares Peradeniya with Moratuwa

Out of 250 students in our E/81 batch, only 90 got through all eight subjects at the first attempt. That was a miserable situation, to say the least. I am sure the majority of those remaining 160 students experienced failure for the first time in their lives. After all, this is a group that had excelled their studies just less than two years ago.

Soon, there was a repeat examination for the first year students and even after that second attempt, about 30 students failed to get through the minimum requirement of five subjects. Yet, there were no visible signs of any panic or attempts to address this grave situation at all in the faculty. If there were any plans being drawn up by the faculty members, we never saw the implementation of those during our four year stay.

In our second year of studies, though over 30 fellow students who started with us were not there attending the same lectures anymore; the gap was more than compensated by a similar number of fellows from our senior batch now continuing with us.

Within my own limits, I tried to understand what was so wrong with the situation where once excellent students are continuing to end up being utter failures. Was it the false secure feeling you get when you get selected to study engineering that you are invincible that contributes to your eventual downfall? Was it the change in the medium of instruction from Sinhala/Tamil to English that makes the difference? Or was it something in the climatic conditions of the hill country? Obviously, the fellow students at the Moratuwa University did not have this problem to this extent!

Any comparison with Moratuwa drew strange responses from the staff. HHJ Keerthisena clearly said in a private conversation that Peradeniya engineering faculty retained those who secured first classes and second uppers as members of the academic staff, but Moratuwa University could manage to recruit those Peradeniya graduates with only second lower passes. In a different context Sanath Ranatunga told me that Moratuwa academic Patuwathuwithana failed examinations several times while studying at Peradeniya!

In short, except for the rounds of discussions S. Sivasegaram had with some of us over tea and Marie biscuits in our first year, there were no visible attempts from the staff that they were interested in understanding why students fail at the exams and fail en-masse.

After a while, I came to the only logical conclusion that was available. That is, those who are in the academic staff in general have no idea of and no interest of the plight of an average student at all. This is obviously because; they themselves have not been average students during their undergraduate days!

A few incidents cemented this view.

In our third year, as a part of Engineering Mathematics, we were being taught some computing related topics. Within twenty minutes into the first lecture delivered by TMD Samuel, some students sitting in front rows started asking questions. As we all know, even to ask a question, we need to have a clear idea about what is going on. I am sure that the vast majority who attended this lecture did not understand it much at all. As it later transpired, these front row students who asked extremely intelligent questions one after the other had previously studied those concepts outside the university. Samuel was so thrilled and commented a few times that we are a wonderful lot! I guess he left the lecture theatre very satisfied. When even a kind hearted, student-friendly lecturer like Samuel is easily misguided like this, what can you thing about the others?

Then there were other non-academic incidents as well, also providing ample evidence. In our first year, five students from other faculties were suspended just because they allegedly hooted at the convoy carrying R Premadasa. The whole university lost two days’ worth of academic activities. In our second year when many students, this time including a few Engineering students as well, were suspended the situation became very ugly. It was very clear from these incidents that most of the academics and especially those who were in power did not have any sympathy towards students at all.

To add insult to injury, there were hardly any signs that the situation will get any better in the near future, when it is our turn to graduate and join the faculty as academics! All the evidence in front of my eyes was to the contrary.

I realised that I am helpless is correcting the status quo. However, there was still a slight chance of making the future less bleak. That obviously meant that I should become a part of the academia!

CONTINUED with PART III - CLV Jayatilake's Threat


  1. I'm from e/98 batch and i can think of few reasons for why students at pera are lagging behind..
    first of all most of the students who goes to moratuwa are from western province who are more technically savvy than the rest and have much higher AL results(due to competition) than the rural students.
    and a another important factor is being close to colombo, students there will get more and quick industrial exposure than the pera people who tend do spend most of their free time going behind gals :)

    1. Daft to dismiss students from rural areas are not technical savvy compared to urban areas. I was introduced to engineering when I was 5 years old by my late father who was a PWD civil and building contractor. I learned about 1:2:4 mix for concrete as a 5 year old watching concrete blocks being made for our tiled roof house build in 1953.I went to being one of the top maths stream students winning maths prizes at the top school which sent the highest number to efac in 1967 (15 out of 150) new 4 year engineering and I was one of those 25 denied of exception from the first year.

    2. Jaffna Hindu College again topped in 2014 maths stream in the country with top student also from this school with 23 of them getting 3As.

  2. @ Anonymous E/98

    Thanks for the comment. This story is about 1981-85 period. HHJ was talking about late 0s to early 70s, I think.


  3. Though this article is about a different era, 90s weren't any different when I was a student there.

  4. Sir I'm from E/11 batch etremely happy about your comment what did you say.But I think in our faculty academia is 2nd thing others are the first thing therefore we think we think we are at the second place.I think it is only belief in minds of us.It can be changed from one Legend Like Prof.Ranaweera,Prof.Sivasegaram,Prof.Mahalingam or some one from new generation

  5. I am doing MSC in Mora and is a graduate from pera passed out in 2007. One difference which I think as the major deviation if u compare these great faculties is that, during my studies at mora, I haven't seen any lecturer has drawn threephase voltage waveforms except power electronics. But, you could see this waveform every day if you visit the lectures in pera.
    I means the basics are too much in pera than mora and may be you could get struck about the theoretical concepts rather than implementations. But, defenetly Mora do not raise the scientists but engineers while you have the concept developers at pera backed up with engineering...

  6. What is happening to the standing of engineering faculty in the world today compared to rest of the world. I used to be proud that I educated at the top school in Ceylon which sent the highest number to engineering I 1967,15 out of 150 and I was the maths prize winner there as well and taught by dozen of those who got their PhDs at Cambridge and. Imperial college London which even many in UK cannot claim. Peradeniya University not even among 400 world listing let alone Moratuwa .

  7. I have to draw attention to the second class honours graduates recruited to Moratuva as lecturers. I think Prof chandrakeerthi who was an instructor in maths while HHJK was lecturer to me in 1967/1968. as a talent spotter myself I rated very highly of Prof Chandrakeerthy at that time. I used to give my maths tutorials on one A4 sheet of paper while others half a dozen or more. I knew Prof chandrakeerthy some times used my methods to solve tutorials at class. one day I purposely delayed my tutorial submission and Prof chandrakeerthy saw me in the corridor asnd asked for my submission and .i gave my A4 sheet of answer to him.To me Prof Chandrakeerthy is a much better lecturer than HHJK tthats why students at moratuwa execell compared to those at peradeniya where a culture of supressing the best has been going on for decades.