What are the perceptions and attributes that influence pupils and students in Sri Lanka regarding their selection between public and private higher education opportunities?
Edirisinghe, Edirisinghe Mudiyanselage Nalaka Sandeepa
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Today, the demand for higher education is growing at a rapid rate in many developing countries throughout the world. Unfortunately, many governments have realized that their public higher education systems are unable to satisfy this demand. Under this condition and strong encouragement from international donors, private higher education has begun to emerge. Sri Lanka is an example where private higher education surfaced in response to a need from its society. However, private higher education remains a foreign and elusive concept for many Sri Lankans. This study seeks to determine what are the perceptions and attributes that influence pupils and students in Sri Lanka regarding their selection between public and private higher education opportunities. This study, using traditional push-pull theory, utilized a research design that combined both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The design focused on the pupil, student, teacher, and administrator populations in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Questionnaire surveys and interviews were administered. The data produced consisted of quantitative data from the questionnaire surveys and qualitative data from the interviews, all of which were analyzed for common themes. The study concluded that the major themes of the responses included the cost of higher education, quality of higher education, recognition of higher education, and the environment within higher education institutions. Further, the study also discovered several minor themes that played a role for some pupils and students. These included the medium of instruction and the issue of social class in higher education. The recommendations proposed include a need to provide pupils with loans to pursue higher education, to increase awareness of private higher education, to establish smaller private community colleges in rural areas of Sri Lanka and to provide more interaction between public and private higher education.
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