Generally, elsewhere in the world those who study Arts subjects have more employment opportunities, as they have specific vocational skills or general skills. Of course it depends on the subjects taken. For students, Arts is a field which moulds flexible, literate and well-informed graduates with analytical and interpersonal skills. Through this stream the students get valuable training and knowledge in research methods, developing interpersonal and intercultural communication skills, written and oral communication and creative thinking. The interest and the talents of the students, determine how they utilize these opportunities and skills to lead them to a satisfying career.
According to a survey conducted at the University of Melbourne, Arts research skills are applicable in the workplace in many different contexts from research for politicians or trade unions, to market research. The survey result shows that the many Arts graduates also get employment opportunities in the corporate and government sectors. Study of Arts subjects thus enables the students to apply their skills in various sectors, so that they can become administrators in government, the arts, commerce and industry, the diplomatic service archivists and historians, theatre directors psychologists, social workers, publishers, criminologists, journalists, , curators in art galleries and museums, art conservationists, media and advertising professionals writers, poets, producers etc.
But, a question that arises in my mind is : to what extend this is true in Sri Lanka, especially in Jaffna? The sad reality is that those who study Arts face difficulties in finding jobs. Even those who study Mathematics, Bioscience and Commerce do not get good results in the G.C.E (A/L), they somehow manage to find jobs in Banks and other private companies. As seen observed in the survey the Arts stream students should be in a better position to get job opportunities. However, in reality this is not the case in Jaffna. I think the blame should go on the system of education.
The students in Jaffna do not have access to all the opportunities the Arts stream offers. Only very limited subjects are available to the students for selection. Language studies usually bring a lot of benefits to Arts students. In Jaffna students can take English as a subject in their G.C.E (A/L) only in one or two schools. There is an acute shortage of English teachers. In many schools students are compelled to take some subjects such as Hindu Culture, Christianity, Hindu psychology etc. Whether they like it or not, they have to take these subjects in order to continue studying at the schools. The reason is that such schools do not have variety of subjects, so they compel the students to take the subjects they have. There is also a religious purpose behind this. These subjects can only help one get through the examination, but not a satisfactory employment.
The Universities also do not prepare students to be able to get job opportunities. Most of the students who study at the University of Jaffna become teachers. Therefore, a culture has emerged in the Arts faculty of the University of Jaffna, that prepares the students for the exam, so that they can become teachers or clerical servants.
The other thing is the teaching of information technology related subjects to the Arts students. In other parts of the world, the Arts students have better knowledge of information technology and can use them in their study and work. The music and advertising industries are good examples of this. But, the education system we have in Sri Lanka dos not impart this important skill to Arts students or encourage them to get this knowledge. On the other hand, the students do not know the potentiality of information technology in their field, and thereby ignore it.
Media and communication is another line open to the Arts students. Even though the students identify their talent in Journalism and creative writing, and want to pursue it, they do not get the opportunity. Only one university in Sri Lanka provides Media courses for the undergraduate students in Sinhalese language. Those who want to study Mass Communication or journalism have to go to foreign countries.
All this is because there is a major deficiency in our education system which compromises students who wish to take up Arts. The authorities must recognize this as a serious problem and work towards removing it.