ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka aims to enhance proficiency in English at the school and university levels through an ‘English for All’ initiative by 2030, with plans also underway for improving literacy in other global languages, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Speaking at the 10th commemoration of R I T Alles, educationist and founder of D S Senanayake Vidyalaya, President Wickremesinghe said every parent aspires to provide quality education to their children.
“This education should extend beyond Sinhala and Tamil, encompassing languages like English, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and Korean. We are focusing on implementing the “English for All” program by 2030, with an emphasis on imparting English knowledge to both school and university students,” he said.
Wickremesinghe said many Sri Lankans pursue education abroad, which he said underscores the need to pay closer attention to the island nation’s higher education system, despite the existence of a “supposedly free education system”.
“We aim to adopt successful education systems from around the world,” he said.
UNESCO has estimated that approximately 10,500 students are currently studying in Australia as of August 2023. In order to combat the outflow of foreign reserves, in October 2023, Sri Lanka’s University of Colombo started offering medical degrees for foreign students for a payment of 62,500 dollars. Minister for Higher Education Suren Raghavan has confirmed that the government plans to increase the number of foreign students from 165 to 500.
Contrary to the misconception that free education means providing money for universities, said Wickremesnghe, in other countries, students receive concessional loans and financial aid to choose their preferred universities.
“In our country, the University Grants Commission makes the selection. But we must ensure opportunities for students without compromising on the quality of higher education,” he said.
The president called for an end to students’ losing opportunities for higher education due to financial constraints.
He also called for an end to the practice of selling property to send children abroad, according to a statement from the president’s office.
“To alleviate the financial burden on students, we offer concessional loans, eliminating the need to sell land or send children abroad for higher education. The growing number of universities in our country is attracting students from foreign countries,” he said.
Sri Lanka plans to establish new universities in both the public and private sectors to ensure access to higher education for all students in Sri Lanka, said Wickremesinghe, noting that government support will be made available to those in the private sector contributing to this initiative.
“Our goal is to increase the number of universities and elevate the standards of existing ones within the next five years. Additionally, we plan to establish three technology universities similar to General Sir John Kotelawala University. We encourage the establishment of non-government universities and invite individuals like Dr Harsha Alles to leverage their experience in starting new universities,” he said.
Wickremesinghe also invited the global Sinhala and Tamil diasporas to return to Sri Lanka and participate in establishing new universities.
“To the Tamil and Sinhala Diasporas, we extend an invitation to return to Sri Lanka and participate in establishing new universities, as a means of supporting education for the country’s children, emphasising a shared responsibility for the nation’s progress. Mr Alles has set an example in this regard,” he said. (Colombo/Nov17/2023)