Thursday, January 29, 2009

ARTS is NotShiT

This post goes out to all the people who think that ARTS degrees are of no value. For the Information of you guys, I will tell you of the subjects that I have to follow this semester, and had to follow last semester. I'm doing Sociology, Management and Western Classical Culture(WCC) as main subjects and apart from them we have follow two foundation courses per the requirements of the university(I'm referring to the faculty of Arts in Peradeniya University)

For Sociology, we had to study all sorts of theories and introductions to the subject and this term, we are dealing with Sri Lankan Society from Vijaya to the modern period.(well some thing similar to the O/L history part but more in detail)

For Management, we had to learn about the theories and the four major functions of Management, planning, organizing, leading and controlling and this time, we have to Accounting with a nice young lecturer

For WCC the syllabus for this term can be found here and for the last term, we had to do Odyssey and Argonautica. Yes, two big books

For the foundation Courses, we had to do Maths and Writing Skills and Computer last term. Now I must tell you something of these three subjects.

Maths was hard because apparently, it used to have elements from the the syllabus of the Engineering guys at UoM.

Writing skills was harder because, we had to write research papers and critical arguments just after setting the foot in to the university.

Computer was hard because it was soooo hard to find a free computer in our lab.(other than that, for me, it was OK. I do not know about others. Just the history and introduction to networking and hardware stuff. No programming at all. Instead we had some advanced work to be done with Office package)

And this term, the foundation courses include basics of the following subject areas.

Human Mind

World Religion

Law and Ethics

Art and Aesthetic Subjects


Society and Culture

International Relationships

History of Science

According to Prof Desmond Mallikarachchi who had designed the course, the above subject makes a qualified undergraduate. To be called an real graduate, you should at least know basics of the other subject ares as well

Now,One question for you Engineers, Scientists, Financial Experts and Doctors....

What do you know about Art and Aesthetic? International Relationships?Society and culture? Of course, if you are exceptional engineer or a doctor, you will say yes to at least for one question. But for many, it is a “big no”.

Any way, on the contrary, the Arts graduates have the opportunity to learn something out of their subject matter, which in my idea, is a great achievement.(here in pera, we are given the chance to attend lectures in any faculty but the students hardly do it. It is another problem)

But still, in the long run, they(not Arts graduates) get jobs and a good salary while the “real graduates” sleep in the pavements.

So, the public think that doing Arts is useless. Children choose Maths and Bio science for the Advanced level examination and when they get screwed up for several times, they learn the so called useless arts subjects to get into the university. For many think, arts is the easiest of all the streams in the Advanced level. But it is not and I have the right to say so because I have experienced how it is to do English, French and Greek and Roman Civilization to get into the University.

I have deliberately put in my A/L subjects because they too belong into the category of Arts. Well but many think those subjects belong to a new category called languages. No it is not, they are same as Sinhalese,Logic and Political Science. The only difference is the medium of instruction.

However, there is a general idea among the public that doing Languages worth it than doing Arts. There is little truth hidden in the statement because the competency in English language always matter a lot in getting a job in Sri Lanka.

But knowing English itself is not enough to get a good job. You should have the knowledge in the subject matter the way the world demands. For example, learning how to draw a graph using Microsoft Word 95 is considered nothing these days.

Unfortunately, the knowledge of the students who learn in Sinhalese has ultimately fallen into that category today. I m not asking all the students to offer courses in English medium After all it is our mother tongue. But they should have a working knowledge of English so that they can apply what they learned into big companies.

And that is exactly what most of the Sinhalese Medium students lack. There are many reasons for that but I would not like to deal about them further because Prof. Shantha K. Hennayake has already done that here. ( Refer to the section on ragging)For your information, I would quote his article here.

"Students should not speak in English as it’s the "para bhasawa". (meaning not only a foreign but also oppressive). Generally the union leaders are English illiterate English."

With such practices, I wonder whether the efforts of the ELTU are fruitful. But they are doing a good job in the university. Hats off to you nice ladies and gentlemen!!

Another thing is the lack of computer knowledge. Some times, even a simple thing like formatting a USB Drive. The most common reason given by such students is their inability and the fear. There can be other reason like the ones I explained in one of my earlier posts. Anyway, such things are unforgivable at the University level. You have a computer lab where you can do anything(I mean not changing the OS, but simple things that are vital in day today's life.) So you can practice and learn, After all if we do not make use of the facilities who would?

English medium students too have this problem but at least they have English; something very very important for a good carrier like computer knowledge.

So, due to the lack of those simple two facts we ARTS students are considered to be the lower class in the hierarchy of the Faculties in Sri Lanka.

But in the reality, we are taught about the humanity so that we should have the ability understand it ,to be flexible and adopt to any situation easily. We have the best knowledge base in Sri Lanakan students; I mean, with regard to the breadth of it.

Earlier, an Arts degree was something to do with Sinhalese, Political Science and Sanskrit. But these days, the trend is changing. You have the access to many fields such as management, computing ., law and many things. (Well, I'm not talking about the private universities)

And if you have the means, doing another degree or a diploma in a private institution to is possible. But if you make the best use of University of Peradeniya, you can have an Arts degree as well as a part of the Engineering Degree(cz you can go for the lectures in the Eng fac if you wish. I do not know about the other universities)

My dear sisters and brothers who are planning to enter into the university, why don't you give a heed to these thoughts and decide your University life today it self?

After all, ARTS is not shit if you manage it properly!!

(Will talk about my point of view about this in the future)


  1. University "Education" is a waste of time, whether it be engineering, arts, or science. What really matters is the student body you get to interact with and possibly the links that you create within perhaps the most memorable time of your life.

  2. I guess the reason Arts has got a bad name is because too many people do it not because they love learning Arts subjects, but because they feel they can get a 'free ride'. So when you get a bunch of people that are not doing Arts for Arts sake, rather in hope of getting a pass, you don't get the passion and drive.
    Yes there seems to be a shift now from traditional subjects - which is great...
    Also just a thought: Why don't Arts students do any 'arty' stuff?? Like, dramas, musicals, art exhibitions? For the whole 4 years I was at uni, they did no such thing..hmm

  3. nice article first of all...

    i have my own views about some of your points.

    first I'm a tech student, learning totally tech subjects. but we have some modules that give us a peak into the world of aesthetics. Two of the most favored ones are fundamentals of sociology and fundamentals of psychology.

    I love sociology (which is "soso" in our language). unlike u guys after the basic concepts we learnt about the holocaust, informational society concept, Krakaur's article called "photography" (i'm not sure about the name of the article, but it was definitely something about the photography.) etc. i am basically fascinated by the lesson holocaust and is still studying about it.

    so i can proudly answer your question, "yes, i know about society and human mind" (we did psychology also. great subject. loved it. even had a visiting lecture by one of the lecturers from Pera). and i continue to study these sociology stuff at my leisure time. specially interested in social psychology which has stuff like bystander apathy, groupthink etc.

    so don't think all the tech guys will give you a "big no" for the answer.

    I had read Prof. Hennayaka's article on asian tribune earlier. although i cannot agree to all the facts stated there (such as putting all the blaming on the students while saying nothing about the administrative staff who did nothing to prevent the situation when it was escalating and waited for it to become worse) i agree with the point you've quoted. and the reason for banning usage of english is also stated in the article.
    I heard the faculty of arts student union has started a lecture strike (පන්ති වර්ජන) now and is preventing the students from going to the lectures (the reason for this strike is not getting a proper response from the staff about an appeal made about lowering the lowest GPA marks to get a first class degree which is now at 3.7).
    events like these prevent the students from getting the "universal knowledge" they should be getting from the university. and everyone know as a fact that the faculty of arts is the main student body which has politics lurking under. so it is no wonder that the quality of the arts degrees are viewed as lower.

    and I also think that the way english medium education is viewed should be changed. people still see it as a "posh" people's way of education. i'm also an a/l student who followed biological science in english medium.
    there was an obvious advantage for me when it came to university education which is done totally in engllish medium. the transition time(the learning curve for the university education) was less for me than the students who did their a/ls in sinhala medium. this is the kind of stuff you get when you do english medium. so english should no longer be seen as the "para bhasawa" and should be treated as a competency.

    and finally when you say "we have the best knowledge base" you should know that art subjects (social sciences) are as important as engineering or medicine or IT (natural sciences). there is no lower stream (others have the best knowledge bases as well relative to their stream of work). society needs intellectuals from all these streams as these are the bases of the advancement of the society.
    if we just have tech guys the element of humanity will slowly disappear. if we just have humanistic guys (i don't know if its the correct word, but it is the opposite of tech guys) there will be no new technological advancements.
    (if my point is not clear-> i think you are trying to say arts is better than other streams. so i'm saying that there is no better stream, only better students)

    so ARTS is NotShiT and NONE other is!

    education will be useless w/o the social interactions and vice versa

    "arty" stuff like drama and musicals are done by the students at the performing arts section right? so i think they are doing events like that all the time. i saw one of the වීදි නාට්‍ය done by the students of Arts Fac of UoC last week.

  4. wow.. sorry ... it got big as a separate blog post itself =D

  5. Hi Deeps ! First and foremost well done and a great article! I have starred this article , shared it on google reader and most possibly write my own reply for this.

    Well let me join the discussion. Lots of people still think that arts degrees are about 'non practical' stuff. Looking at your subjects they would hesitate to say so. Sharing my subjects i did Logic , English and Statistics - a combination quite away from the traditional perception of an arts graduate.

    Deeps , as we know a decade ago arts students were taught dry,old useless things. Today they have the Opportunity of learning new things. New subjects are introduced (E.g Gender and Peace and Conflict studies to name two new fields taught at university of Colombo). In addition they are offered computer and English courses.

    However little number of arts graduates follow these trends. Even in Colombo most of the guys and girls are cutting ELTU lectures and they are not that interested in computer studies as well.

    Therefore i think that the problem is not in the courses of the lecturers , it's a problem with the mindset of the students.

    Arts graduates with good English skills find good jobs. In my batch almost all the English medium students are well employed , however many Sinhala medium students are still unemployed.

    IMO lack of English knowledge is the barrier to the arts graduates. There so called seniors tell most of the innocent new students that English courses are useless. (They ask them to do political work during that time - and those guys become the key leading force on all the demonstrations , campaigns , death fasts and all the bull shit.) and finally enter the end of the jobless queue.

    Sri Lankan job market is still not positive about arts grads. One of my batch mates attended a seminar for HR managers (she was also an arts graduate) and the trainer asked them not to get arts graduates. This idea , in my opinion is a wrong and unbalanced one. With proper training arts graduates could also do good.

    I know several arts graduates working in the computer filed. Their linguistic skills and research abilities are treasures by those companies. So there could be a better future for the arts graduates

    @me - I am sure you are a typical Sri Lankan graduate who did a external degree while duing an internal degree and now telling that "University Education is Useless"

    @Niro - Yes i agree with you somewhat as most arts graduates have serious attitude problems. Even would agree that they don't study in the true spirit. University system has provided many resources for all the university students including arts graduates , but very few use those resources. Now most of the university students are following the photocopy culture. They would write down the note of the lecturer without going to the library or doing any research work. This mindset is generating parrots m not graduates.

    Once again i should thank deeps for her article. I am giving this one full publicity. :)

  6. Dear Deeps , you know .. it seems that your blog is rocking now . I am proud to be the 2000th visitor to blog.

  7. "Arts graduates with good English skills find good jobs"

    very true...
    hell i know this guy who got a job right after finishing his arts degree at UoC. he is "project someone" at UN colombo.

  8. Yes I agree Deep's blog totally rocks! way to go sis. Great post.

  9. @me : read your response to my response to you. I am deeply sorry if you were upset. I was really worried about the statement "University "Education" is a waste of time" - In your short post you have not provided any justification to prove that why you say university education is useless. IMO it has produced many intellectuals and business persons and has contributed positively to the development of the society. @ Deeps - if you think that my comment is insulting please delete / modify it.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. 200% agreed with deep's post. If the people who do B.A.'s select their subjects wisely, and there will b no problem at all.

    some people think arts students at universities are idiots who only know to protest and yell along roads.. but that is not true.
    Art rulez!! \m/

  12. hey deeps,
    sorry i was watching a movie .. didnt see the chat box...

    any way here is the link.. sign in to ur google account and then goto this link. they will give you the code. paste that code into a new html/javascript widget....

    and send me ur username... or send an chat invitation to "cs2respect"

  13. Before the politicisation of the Universities; the introduction of standardisation and other "improvements" to the system:

    1. There was no such thing as an unemployed graduate, so much so that:
    2. The Government had to pass an Act in 1970 (I think this was the date) requiring compulsory public serviced by graduates - graduates were leaving so fast that they could not be replaced.
    3, University of Ceylon degrees were accepted worldwide.
    4. Graduates in the arts were well regarded, not seen as 2nd class to doctors and engineers.

    After all the improvements to the system, we have the problems that are seen today.

  14. @Jackpoint - Thanks for providing the history before the "improvements" - for present day graduates what you say sounds like fiction. 100% agreed on Politicization - it ruined my university experience. Alayo and Jeppo started fighting and university was closed nearly for 6 months. I hope the two fractions are Ala and Bathala in pera deeps ? :)

  15. First of all, thanks for all your comments. I do not know how to start because you all have carried on the debate better than me. However, I would also like to present my idea as an undergraduate of Arts

    well, it is quite contradictory to my point of view now;I mean after getting into the university.

    I also have followed some courses in private institutions and in comparison to them, the university WAS a time waste.

    But now, I feel that it is an experience ,that if possible, all the youth in Sri Lanka should under go. As you say, the connections matter a lot.

    And the education matter a lot too. But the students should know how to get the maximum out of it. Then, it wont be a time waste as you say.

    Any way, you represented the idea of one group of people in the society. thanks for that. mm m If you have given the reasons for your argument, at least a one or two, it would have been great

    After all, I too was thinking State Universities are a waste of time before entering into the Uni and some of my friends who follow degrees in the Foreign/private Universities also have the same idea!!

    Thanks for the publicity given and guess what, by now, the hit counter states >2100 hits!!

    Thanks for all the visitors and commentators. if it was not you, I would have stopped blogging by now.

    And getting back to the reply,I agree with most of your facts on cutting the ELTU classes and being not interested in following the newly introduced courses.

    But your story about the HR manager is quite unbelievable. HR is all about Human beings and how to work with them, isn't it?

    May be that manager would have been thinking that Arts Grads are people who enjoy a free ride at the uni(The idea taken from the comment of Niroshini Akki).

    Any way,changing such ideas should be done by the ARTS Grads them selves. For example instead of being parrots, we should do some real work!

    In fact bro, I was thinking that WCC was uninteresting and not useful during the last sem. But now, Im working a bit on it and feels the spirit . As you say, taking the maximum use of the facilities given by the Unis would make intellectuals that can really do something for the country as well as the society.

    "so ARTS is NotShiT and NONE other is!"
    Totally agree with your points!!
    yes the we also had no lectures on Thursday due to that GPA issue. Any way, it is an issue worth to be debated.

    Speaking about the politics, well, the anti- ragger group does not involve in such things to that extent. but in with regard to the GPA issue, we also had to do it as the lectures were canceled.(No more comments about this. I want to Live!!)

    On the other hand,incidents like that prove the argument of Me.

    And glad to hear that you too have to do soso and you really enjoy it!!Keep it up. But all the tech guys do not think like you. many consider soso and other humanitarian and literature subjects as unimportant. It is the sad part

    PS: thanks for that link!! I'll work it out soon

    @Jack Point
    well as sadeepa ayya said, the info that you have provided is like a Cinderella story for us..heheh and yeah we do not have jeppos in Pera

    mmm I agree 99% of what you say. But as chamila ayya says there are many Arty things done by the ARTS students. If you visit our fac, you will see poster hanging around all over the place about the ARTY stuff you say. May be the people out side are not much aware of them!!

    Anyway, thanks for the comment

    thanks for the encouragement bro!!

  16. Nanga, it's not the value of the subjects that you learn that is in question. There is no arguement, at least in my mind, that Arts subjects are important. All those things you say, yes they are important.

    But the thing is, if you face the reality these days, then you would have to agree that people in Engineering/Medicine/Science do have better job opportunities. Whether it is right or wrong is a totally different matter. I personally think it shouldn't be as such. But that is how it is at the moment. The system in SL do not provide much job opportunities to the people who are educated in those fields which is a sad thing...

    Second, these words of yours:
    "Now,One question for you Engineers, Scientists, Financial Experts and Doctors....

    What do you know about Art and Aesthetic? International Relationships?Society and culture? "

    You are greatly mistaken there my friend. That depends a lot on the personality of the person in question than what subjects they learn, don't you think so?

    I have been in the same uni which you are in now, and trust me there are a lot of Arts students who don't know shit about current affairs, Sinhala literature and such. On the contrary, there are a lot of Scnience students who are fully aware of such things...

    I myself, for example, am an Engineer, but I'm sure I have read a lot more than the vast majority of the FoA! I have a love for books, and do try to learn something other than my own field everyday. And there are many such people.

    So my advice is, don't generalize people like that. Cos it depends a lot on their personality rather than what they learn. See... your post is about how people generalize and how they have a prejudice about Arts students, and then you go on to generalize others.

    Still, enjoyed your post a lot. Some food for thought.
    Keep up the good work!

  17. First and formost, great article. Well done Deeps.

    In summary, this is a topic that can be debated upon for years to come. However, we all understand the fact that the Education System is a right royal mess, and it needs to be reformed to its former glory. And it needs to catch up with times – A proper Degree in Advertising (not mass-com) is something I would personally like to see one day.

    Sach, you hit the nail. It’s the person and the personality that makes it to the top. Education is just the means.

    Wishing you all at the Uni a fabulous future!

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