For Sri Lanka to emerge as a knowledge hub
For Sri Lanka to emerge as a knowledge hub, which is capable of creating higher education opportunities for both local and foreign students, the public university system of Sri Lanka has to be elevated to world class status, according to the latest Annual Report released by Central Bank of Sri Lanka,.
“For this transformation, the government allocated Rs. 3,000 million as per the Budget 2011 to transform the Peradeniya, Moratuwa, Colombo, Sri Jayawardenapura, Kelaniya and Ruhuna universities into world class institutions. However, considering the budgetary constraints, it is essential to take a holistic perspective on the development of the higher education system where private sector investment in higher education also has a vital role to play. While characteristics of world class universities such as teaching in English have been adapted by local universities, these institutions still require increased autonomy, high quality of research and funding.”
In 2011, the University Grants Commission (UGC) continued its programmes to improve the existing university system and to cater to the needs of a dynamic labour market.
UGC granted approval for five new undergraduate courses and 23 new postgraduate courses. The UGC had also approved local research grants for PhD Research degrees for academic staff to invigorate a research culture among academia. Internal Quality Assurance units are also to be established in universities to create and inculcate a “quality oriented” culture. To improve the quality and standards of all public and private higher education institutes and their programmes in Sri Lanka, the UGC is embarking on an accreditation programme to be implemented from mid-2012.
Technical and vocational education training continued to expand during the year. The development of competencies of middle level technical officers is the key objective of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme of the government. There were 725 institutions operating by the public, private and NGO sectors providing technical and vocational education in the country by end 2011. Under the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) system, 16,572 NVQ certificates were issued to students by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) during the year. The TVEC has started to provide information on the labour market through its Labour Market Information Bulletin and Labour Market Information Website to enable the effective design of TVET programmes to cater to the emerging labour market needs of the economy.
A high quality education system can lay the foundation to create a sound human capital base which can effectively contribute to the sustained high economic growth in the context of a knowledge based economy.
The consistent commitment of the government to provide free education has helped Sri Lanka to stay ahead of many of its regional peers in educational attainment. Despite its high performance, there is a growing need for the education system to be more dynamic to cater to the rapidly changing needs of the economy. Hence, recognizing the importance of re-shaping education at all levels, the government has taken many initiatives to uplift the education standards of primary and secondary schools. At the same time, appropriate changes in the higher education and technical and vocational education sectors are also needed in line with changing labour market trends.
Several initiatives have been introduced in the recent years to ensure equal opportunities in education while ensuring efficient resource utilization. Some schools in centres gained popularity with the concentration of resources both human and physical leading to the system’s inability to provide equal opportunities to students and teachers at the periphery and made underutilization of existing resources affecting the quality of education.
The “1,000 Secondary Schools” programme was initiated to address regional disparities in education. It has been noted that there are 1,552 schools with less than 50 students in each school. While the student-teacher ratio is 5:1 in such schools, at the national level, this ratio is at the level of 18:1. This shows that there is a need to rationalize schools to optimize use of existing resources while providing quality education for all students. Therefore, a school mapping exercise is to be carried out to redistribute 1,000 secondary schools based on the needs of the population and to ensure that each Divisional Secretariat has at least 3 1AB schools. This will also help to reduce the high percentage of students who are pursuing the Arts stream especially in rural areas.
Steps have been taken to improve emerging core areas such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Maths and English to match with the emerging labour market trends. Public Private Partnerships have been established for the empowerment of ICT in the education sector such as the “Partners in Learning” and “Intel World Ahead” programmes. These programmes are aimed at strengthening the use of computer and software to ensure the adoption of best practices while opening up new ways for school communities to keep themselves up-to-date with cutting edge technologies. These programmes also enable professional development of teachers to utilize technology to enhance student learning. The government has also actively encouraged the development of English competency among students and teachers by launching the “English as a Life Skill” and “English for All” programme. These programmes conducted at the provincial level, include a 10 day teacher training programme, the designing of a teaching kit with productive activities and establishing centres of excellence for the teaching of English.