When I was young, I was told that I had two choices. One was to get in to a Sri Lankan University and the other was to get in to a foreign university. At that time, choices were few due to Funding difficulties and strict Foreign Exchange laws. I, having returned from USA, and being put in a Sinhala medium class, (there were no English medium schools nor International schools at that time) I managed to pass the GCE A levels in Sinhala medium well enough to enter the University of Peradeniya from my beloved Alma Mater the Badulla Visaka Girls High School to my parents relief .
Now, the times have changed. Not only that you can have an education in Sinhala/Tamil or in English mediums in a Sri Lankan school, or you can study an international syllabus in an international school.
But where does one go from there? The students today have a choice of entering a Sri Lankan University, a Foreign university or they can enter a College like the American College of Higher Education to read towards a degree from an Internationally recognized University in USA, UK, Europe or Australia for a two year study program and then transfer to a Foreign university of their choice. I think this is a good system. Instead of sending off young adults to a Foreign University to study right after their A Levels, they get to spend two more years in Sri Lanka at a college for a fraction of the cost and be able to be with their families a bit longer thus giving them emotional stability.
I got the inspiration to write this article when The American College of Higher Education (ACHE) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, conducted its graduation and transfer ceremony recently at the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo. I was privileged to be an invitee of Mrs. Sherryn Yaseen Mangalagama, CEO of the College. I have been to a few graduation ceremonies in the US and the UK and I looked forward to the event and wondered what kind of ceremony it would be! And I must say that the ACHE graduation ceremony, meticulously planned and executed, surpassed similar ceremonies of American schools and colleges elsewhere, including those in the USA! Most interesting was that the event reflected Sri Lankan culture set in a global context, as might be seen in the ceremony’s theme: “We open the world to you: Explore. Endeavor. Excel.”
The ceremony commenced with the traditional procession, led by the College registrar, Mr. R. H. M. Piyasena, who was followed in the procession by the academic staff, the students and the official entourage of college officials, the chief guest, the guests of honor and other invitees.
As a lifelong learner, I believe that a Wealth of a person is his or her education and in turn education is also the wealth of 0ur Nation.
Accompanying them and adding color and sound were the traditional Sri Lankan drummers and dancers and the “flower strewers”. The lighting of the oil lamps followed, in the midst of dancing girls dressed as Blue Lotuses who then performed a ‘Welcome Dance’ something which I have never seen elsewhere.
College CEO Mrs. Sherryn Yaseen Mangalagama delivered her welcome speech, and she was followed by an address from the chief guest, Dr. J. David Armstrong, Jr., president of Broward College in Florida, America’s ninth largest college, which has a full-time enrollment of 75,000 students. Mrs. Yaseen expressed her appreciation to President Armstrong for finding the time and making the trip from Florida to visit Broward’s International Center at ACHE. In his address to the College community, he urged American College students not to stop in the pursuit of their dreams and goals and to achieve and return to Sri Lanka to contribute to the country’s development. To underscore his and Broward College’s commitment, he announced that Broward College would offer a full scholarship for a deserving ACHE student to complete his or her studies at Broward College in Florida.
The graduation proceeded with addresses and remarks from the guest of honor, Ms. Sally Sternal, Consular Chief of the U. S. Embassy, Colombo; the Academic Dean, Dr. Padmini Sirimanne; a faculty member Professor Kennedy Gunawardene;–all interspersed with musical and dance performances including a traditional “Peacock Dance” by past ACHE student Ashini Wanigasuriya. The very touching valedictorian speech, delivered by ACHE star student Miss Damaris Augustine, who had maintained a perfect General Proficiency Average of 4.0 during her tenure as a student of the ACHE. Academic Dean Dr. Padmini Sirimanne declared open the main part of the ceremony: recognition of student achievements and the awarding of certificates and degrees, both associate’s and bachelor’s. There was an induction of seven students into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. (Phi Theta Kappa is a world recognized honor society, available in Sri Lanka only at the ACHE.). Immediately following was the cutting of a fabulous graduation cake made as a replica of the ACHE building. The cake was so big that it was brought to the hall on a palanquin carried on the shoulders of 12 people. This was followed by the the proposing of the toast and the Graduation Ball and dinner. I was truly impressed!
I found the following facts about the American College of Higher Education.
The American College of Higher Education (ACHE) is one of the largest and most diverse colleges in Sri Lanka.
The main campus is located in Dehiwala/Mount Lavinia with five branch campuses: Kandy, Negombo, Kurunegala, Galle and Matara. The college as a whole enrolls over 5000 students each year from Sri Lanka and other countries in the region. CEO Mrs. Sherryn Yaseen, an alumna of Ohio University, USA, counts over 18 years of experience as a pioneering leader in international education (both elementary and higher education) for the development of South Asian youth. Her college, based on American standards, is backed by Broward College, U.S.A., and is approved by the American accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and schools (SACS). This College is registered as a BOI (Sri Lanka Board of Investment) company and has approval from the Sri Lankan authorities to conduct educational programs leading to Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and beyond. The college is multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-national and has a global outlook and is open to students of any nationality. The College also provides assistance to obtain Sri Lankan student visas for foreign students.
The College offers certificate, diploma and degree programs through Broward College, Florida, USA, Excelsior College, New York, Guangzhou Civil Aviation College, China and Edexcel U.K., and has specialized courses in Psychology, Primary Teacher Training, Business, Criminology, Information Technology, English, TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and IELTS.
Foremost for many ACHE students are the three degree programs. First is the 2+2 University Transfer Program (UTP) that enables students to complete up to two years of university study at the ACHE and then transfer to a university in the U.S.A. , UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia etc. to complete the balance subjects to obtain the B.A. or B.S. degree. ACHE offers over 150 subjects at the degree level so that students can start their degree in any field at ACHE. Students taking Broward courses can transfer directly to Broward College to complete the bachelor’s degree or to other American universities.
Second is the Associate in Arts degree, which permits a wide variety of concentrations. The advantage of earning an associate’s degree in Sri Lanka is that it constitutes formal recognition of a student’s academic achievement after two years of university study. Many colleges and universities in the U.S.A. and elsewhere admit students into the 2nd or 3rd year of university study based on this study in Sri Lanka, and the wide range of subjects within the first two years of study enables the student to apply this integrated knowledge and skills to their personal and professional lives.
Third are the four-year bachelor’s degrees awarded by Excelsior College.: B.S. in Business with a focus on Human Resource Management; B.S. in General Business, and Management Information Systems; B.S. in Marketing; and B.S in Information Technology. These Excelsior degrees are extremely popular because the student can obtain an American bachelor’s degree without leaving Sri Lanka. One earns an accredited degree from the U.S.A., and the degree is recognized worldwide. The cost of this program is only 1/5 of the cost of doing the degree in the U.S.A. These four-year degrees can be completed in three years by taking coursework in the summer semesters. The human resource degree has great potential because of the high demand for human resource managers in Sri Lanka. The general business degree is aimed at those who are self-employed or have expectations of starting their own businesses. Finally, the Excelsior degree in Information Technology is aimed at I.T. professionals and is built around real-world experiences and professional certifications. Excelsior College is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the University of the State of New York.
In addition to the degree programs, ACHE has expanded its global education endeavors through an affiliation with the government of China’s Guangzhou Civil Aviation College enabling students in this two-year program to get the best of skill training and knowledge in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, Tourism and Flight Services, or Avionics Maintenance Engineering. Students complete the first year subjects and the Chinese language in Sri Lanka during the first year, and transfer to Guangzhou, China to complete the second year.
- Asian Tribune –
Today my column is about Education.