By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka needs to allocate more funds to develop its education, the latest report from the World Bank states, pointing out that currently it stands at only 1.9% of GDP, making it one of the lowest in the region.
The bank’s latest publication on the country’s education sector, titled ‘Transforming School Education in Sri Lanka: From Cut Stones to Polished Jewels,’ which presents an in-depth analysis of the sector, points out that the Government’s contribution to the field is well below the share of investment for middle income countries as a whole.
Education Specialist Dr. Harsha Aturupane speaking at a World Bank-organised discussion on general education sector for a knowledge hub yesterday stated that middle income countries on average spend 4.6% of national income on education, whereas Sri Lanka falls to the lowest.
“Even from among countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, Sri Lanka’s investment is the lowest.”
The low investment, especially relative to other countries, prevents the Sri Lankan general education system from growing to its full potential.
“Whether Sri Lanka is investing enough is a key issue raised by the public; the answer is that the investment is extremely little. The education bodies must discuss this with the Ministry of Finance before the situation worsens.”
He added that private sector investment in education is also at low numbers as the State limits such investments. “The country officially limits investment in private sector. It is controversial but a lot of the local private investment happens in the black market as the system is not an open one,” Aturupane said.
In the wake of the new transformations that have taken place within the country, with rankings being moved from a low income country to a middle income country and from a country of war to a country with lasting peace, education pays a vital role in moving forward.
Sri Lanka is also set to get a new education curriculum in 2014/2015. The consultation and the ground work have started now, he said. The new curriculum will explore the kind of skills demanded by the labour market, particularly those known as ‘soft skills,’ which includes characteristics such as entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, in addition to hard work.
The key dimensions of education should include the learning of English language, bilingual education, high quality mathematics and science education and a new school based technical development programme.
Vice Chancellor of the Ruhuna University Prof. Susirith Mendis also speaking at the event stated that the report, made available to the public since Saturday, takes on important pillars of education in Sri Lanka.
“There are two dimensions of quality that are needed to become a knowledge hub, as the Government targets. Measures must be taken to ensure that the plans are met with additional force and adequate resources,” Mendis said.
He added that in a consultation meeting in Parliament last week, the possibility of bringing back science and mathematics education in a reorientation process, going back to olden-day methods, were discussed.
“In other words, it was about going back to basics and separating students into science and arts streams from grade eight, as was done some 45 years back.” The proposal was objected to by the majority, he said.
Mendis went on to contradict the strap line of the publication, ‘From Cut Stones to Polished Jewels,’ saying that in the local universities, the students were more rough stones than cut stones.
“We must get the university students up to mark and that should start at school level.
The value of a graduate is being questioned now. This must change. The school education system must be transformed so that good graduates will be created who will help the country move forward as expected.”