Big hike in Sri Lanka education spending proposed

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Human Resources Development Council of Sri Lanka is proposing a 43 percent increase in central government spending on education to 405 billion rupees by 2020, nearly doubling allocations for higher education to 133.5 billion rupees, officials said.

"We need to double the intake of students to state universities and create higher education and vocational training opportunities with the private sector for those who don’t make it to university," said Chandra Embuldeniya, a member of the council and former Vice Chancellor at the Uva Wellassa University.

The National Human Resources Development Council has submitted a 12-point proposal to the Sri Lankan government for consideration in the upcoming 2019 Budget.

The proposals include updating curricular across schools and universities to reflect global education standards which cater to market and industry demands for talent and attracting private investments into higher education.

"Around 71 percent of our state university students are in the arts and commerce streams, the rest are in sciences. We need to switch this around. Sri Lanka needs 70 percent of its university students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Embuldeniya said.

The council is also proposing the introduction of outcome-based learning and collaborations with recognised foreign universities to build capacity at state universities and incentives to train lecturers.

"If this means recruiting top academics from overseas, then we should so do," Embuldeniya said.

The council’s proposed budget estimates includes provisions for a voucher programme for students who don’t make it to state universities to enrol at private higher education institutes in the country.

The council also wants to provide free higher education or vocational training to three-wheeler drivers.

"Breaking their entitled mind-set will be a challenge," Embuldeniya said.





"We must begin when they are young. We need to develop curricular that focuses on technology and entrepreneurship from primary level right up to higher education," Embuldeniya said.

The council is proposing 23 percent increase in spending on education to 464 billion rupees in 2019, up from the 2018 budget allocation of 377 billion rupees, and a further 16 percent increase to 539 billion rupees in 2020.

Higher education spending should increase 57 percent to 113 billion rupees in 2019, and further 18 percent to 133.5 billion rupees in 2020, the NHRDC is proposing.

The NHRDC’s proposals include the following:

– Formulate a road map to increase access to higher education among females.

– Introduce STEM education focusing more on the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.

– Develop a tech-savvy labour force.

– Introduce outcome-based learning across the education system.  

– Increase access to tertiary, vocational and professional education.

– Develop capacity at state universities and bring curricular to international standards.

– Increase training and incentives for teachers.

– Create a single-window service centre for private investors in education.

– Collaborate and partner foreign universities.

– Develop a culture of innovation and development.

– Provide livelihood, education and vocational training opportunities for youth earning a living driving three-wheelers.

"We are only offering these broad suggestions. It’s up to the government to figure out how they will implement them if these recommendations are accepted," Embuldeniya said. (COLOMBO, 26 July 2018)

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