Employment opportunities and upward mobility for graduates of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
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The aim of this study is to explore and understand the current condition of employment opportunities and upward mobility for General Degree Arts graduates of the University of Colombo and identify the prevailing issues and challenges that these graduates experience. Furthermore this paper attempts to identify comprehensive solutions and strategies that would help to overcome such challenges for future General Degree Arts graduates and enhance their career opportunities both in Sri Lanka and internationally. Primary data was collected through a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with four groups of stakeholders: General Degree Arts graduates from 2010, education experts, politicians, and potential employers. Interviews were conducted with the help of semi-structured questionnaires. Scenario planning tools were used to help design the research process. The study identified inadequate employment orientation in rural school education as the key reason for General Degree Arts graduates having a lower level of employability. Lack of English proficiency, IT knowledge and communication skills have similarly restricted their employment opportunities and upward mobility. Furthermore, the absence of practical course work is a concern, due to lack of reflective and instrumental knowledge that is provided by university education. This could potentially affect graduates performance in terms of critical thinking and problem solving skills. For these reasons, in recruitment processes employers have a dilemma and subsequently a prejudice against General Degree Arts graduates. The study also recognized the over-politicization of the Arts stream in Sri Lanka, where many of the decisions were not taken by an expert panel but by politicians. As a result of a declining budget share for education, many rural schools only offer Arts and Humanities for Advance Levels and have limited facilities for extra-curricular activities. With the government being the key player in policy making and funding, it is necessary to re-evaluate the entire education system in Sri Lanka and to do so soon, in order to create a better future for Arts and Humanities graduates.