Long before Sri Lanaka’s main contribution to the world job market became unskilled labour in the form of domestic aides, the country was known the world over for its talented and qualified teachers, Dr.Kithsiri Edirisinghe told the Nation last week.
He is a consultant medical administrator by profession, with a vision to transform lives and landscapes by way of encouraging and facilitating the local labour force to become better – through education and training that will help them become competent local professionals with a global appeal.
The Nation spoke to Dr. Edirisinghe on his pursuit to produce better professionals which he deems is the need of the hour, the country’s first and only institute exclusively dedicated for medical studies, IIHS, which is his brainchild and the Institute’s ongoing CSR initiatives conducted in partnership with the state sector.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: Other than the venture being timely, is there anything else that inspired you to start the International Institute of Health Sciences (IIHS)?
A: When we go to a foreign country like Malaysia, those days, people would fondly reminisce their school days and the Sri Lankan teachers who taught them. Over the last few decades however this has changed so much to the point that now the moment we say we’re from Sri Lanka, people tell us they either have or had a Sri Lankan aide in their house or working for a family known to them.
It is ironic and embarrassing given that Sri Lanka boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the region.
IIHS was started with a vision to fill the void for a facility offering quality and affordable education and training opportunities for local labour attached to the medical sector to add value to them through acquiring a globally recognized qualification and exposure. In that regard, we have trained around 3000 nurses since the inception and we are planning to make better the local health sector by adding qualified professionals into the workforce.
We are starting our BA and MA in education programmes soon to help Sri Lanka regain its reputation as the country that provides the world with the best teachers. One of our key focuses is to instill in youth a sense of pride and self-worth by grooming them into becoming ‘professionals’ in the very sense of the word.
Q: How has your journey with IIHS been so far; what are the milestones that you have achieved over the past 15 years?
A: One of the most recent milestones would be completely digitizing our nursing programme. This means we have given tabs to all our participants instead of textbooks. In other words, the textbooks and all other materials are now at their fingertips.
This decision was taken as a first step towards incorporating our students with the global trends, requirements and the ever expanding pool of knowledge. Through the tabs, the students are able to access the largest nursing library in Malaysia which has over two million books.
They can do their reading while on the move, or from wherever they are, without having to carry hefty textbooks around. What is important to us is to ensure that the students enjoy studying.
IIHS is an Associate Member of the World Nursing Council and has trained nurses attached to the National Hospital in Critical Care as a CSR project.
Q: Why does IIHS do this kind of training programmes in national hospitals? In what way does the institute benefit from it?
A: IIHS was set up with a vision to make the local health sector better by producing quality professionals. In that regard, we see imparting knowledge to the health sector as a part of our Corporate Social Responsibility. This organization is not merely a profit-oriented one.
So far we have trained around 3000 nurses in the national hospitals in different areas including Public Relations – a very important aspect of the profession which most traditional training programmes don’t pay heed to.
Understandably most of the criticism that is levelled at nurses in the public sector is for being insensitive or rude which stems from the lack of proper training in that regard. We aim to groom a breed of health professionals who are confident, humane and who are on par with global standards.
Another area in which IIHS has trained nurses in is ‘Nursing Informatics’ which is a relatively new subject that involves ‘making sense of information’.
Q: In what areas does IIHS offer courses?
A: The institute currently has a School of Nursing, School of Physiotherapy, School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Education and the Business School. IIHS is affiliated with a number of reputed universities in Malaysia and Australia including the Open University of Malaysia, Charlton Brown, Deakin, La Trobe and Conventry University.
Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), a unique degree with distinct specializations in the field of teaching English, is soon to be launched.