Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris was the Special Guest at the inauguration of the Annual Research Symposium 2021, at the University of Colombo on November 23. The symposium brings together distinguished academics representing a number of disciplines, and highlights the theme for 2021 – Impartial Research through an Interdisciplinary Approach. The event was also attended by the Acting High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Vinod K. Jacob and notable academics from the Faculty of the university.
Addressing the opening plenary session, the Minister, while stressing the importance of the symposium, drew particular attention to two principal aspects of symposium: namely impactful research and the methodology adopted, in the wider context of interdisciplinary approach. Elaborating on the role of the University of Colombo, the Foreign Minister highlighted the importance of the institution in fostering interaction within our diverse communities, adding that it is an area in which the University is capable of doing much more, especially in offering programmes of instruction to not only undergraduates but to professionals and members of the community who would benefit immensely from the expertise the metropolitan University has to offer.
Minister Prof. Peiris highlighted the importance of multidisciplinary research, and its immense contribution in dealing with many of the issues the country is facing at the present juncture, particularly in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation demanded the collaborative efforts of the many researchers, microbiologists and specialists who have been and are essential to crisis management. The Minister made special mention of the stellar contribution of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in this regard.
The Foreign Minister underscored the critical need for preparedness in crisis management, highlighting the recent Express Pearl disaster, and the invaluable contribution that an interdisciplinary approach could make in addressing the calamity and its collateral consequences. Speaking further, Minister Prof. Peiris drew attention to the need for sustained research that can be undertaken in many fields that can inform the efforts of policymakers.
Elaborating on the genesis and evolution of the university system in Sri Lanka, Minister Prof. Peiris recalled the origins of the system and its development over the years from representing an elitist system to becoming a more inclusive system that welcomes students from a wide cross-section of society.
The Foreign Minister also highlighted the need for a change in the system to be socially relevant, in order to address the mismatch between the content of formal education and the availability of livelihoods, which would result in the production of employable graduates with competencies that match the job market. Alluding to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Neighbourhood First” and its potential for shared success, the Foreign Minister highlighted the vibrant relationship between India and Sri Lanka and their peoples emphasizing the scope for multi-faceted regional cooperation
Minister Prof. Peiris concluded his remarks by pointing out the disconnect between academia and vocational training and the need for greater focus on vocational training institutes so that a greater number of persons qualified in various skilled trades and professional occupations could be incorporated into the higher education system.
Foreign Ministry, Colombo, 26 November, 2021