Colombo, 16 January 2006: “ Developing excellent education institutions that will enable Sri Lanka to achieve high levels of human development and national income, and distribute the benefits of economic progress more equitably to rural, estate and poor urban areas“, is the objective of a new and innovative Education Sector Development Grant. This USD 60 million project is the largest grant ever given by the World Bank to Sri Lanka, and will help the Government to implement a five year Education Sector Development Program, from 2006-2010, to improve all schools in the country.
Sri Lanka has attained the first generation education objective of providing widespread access to primary education (grades 1-5), with net primary school completion of over 95 percent among both boys and girls. The Government of Sri Lanka is seeking to meet the second and third generation challenges of extending the compulsory education period to basic education (grades 1-9), and developing high quality schools in all areas of the country. To achieve this aim, the Government has prepared a comprehensive Education Sector Development Framework and Program for the period 2006-2010, covering both basic education (grades 1-9) and secondary education (grades 10-13). This program was developed through a widespread process of public consultation led by the National Education Commission, followed by all schools in the country preparing five year development plans according to guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education. The central Ministry of Education and the Provincial Ministries of Education prepared policy reforms and development strategies to complement the school plans. The combination of national and provincial education development policies and school development plans provide a promising foundation to construct a high quality education system in the future.
One major challenge that the country has to overcome is the moderate level of learning achievement. Only 37 percent of primary school students achieve mastery of their mother tongue, Sinhalese or Tamil. This is a serious constraint to further learning, as all subsequent study will draw on the child’s mother tongue capability. Mathematical knowledge is also moderate, with only 38% of students achieving the prescribed level of mastery. English language skills, which are critically important for the country’s future economic prospects, are low, with just 10 percent of students achieving mastery.
Table 1. Learning outcomes in Grade 4.
Source: National Assessment of Grade 4 Learning Outcomes: National Education Research and Evaluation Center, University of Colombo.
There are also high regional disparities in learning outcomes between urban and rural areas. In the first language, 51 percent of urban children achieve mastery in contrast to just 34 percent in rural areas. Similarly, in mathematics, 52 percent of urban students attain mastery, while in rural areas only 35 percent of students achieve mastery. The contrast between urban and rural areas is especially sharp in English language skills, where 23 percent urban students achieve mastery, but a mere 7 percent of rural children achieve mastery.
The Government framework to address the key policy challenges of the education system is organized according to four themes:
Theme 1. Increasing equitable access to basic and secondary education. Under this theme the network of good quality schools will expand to rural and estate regions to increase equity of access to the full school curriculum, especially science, English and technology subjects. In addition, special education programs for children with special learning needs, such as visual impairment, hearing impairment, behavioral problems, multiple disabilities, learning disabilities and epilepsy, will be strengthened. And non-formal education programs will be developed to provide non school-going adolescents opportunities to acquire skills relevant for the labor market.
Theme 2. Improving the Quality of Education. Under this theme, there are three key components. (i) Curriculum re-structuring and upgrading to introduce a curriculum approach that better reflects modern international trends, effectively disseminate curriculum goals to stakeholders and orient the education system more strongly to the world of work. (ii) Teacher development to enhance teacher motivation, skills and performance. A key feature of teacher development will be a system of regular and continuing on-site school based support to teachers. (iii) Modernizing examinations and testing to develop the examination system that reflects modern concepts and ideas in assessment and testing. In particular, the ESDFP will use the examination system as the lever to promote the acquisition of higher-order transferable skills among school children.
Theme 3. Enhancing the Economic Efficiency and Equity of Resource Allocation. Undet theme, too, there are three strategic initiatives. (i) Establishing a medium-term budget framework for education to facilitate multi-year planning, implementation and monitoring at the national and provincial levels of the education system. (ii) Preparing an overarching education sector development plan, for the period 2006-2010, to provide a comprehensive framework to expand and improve the education system in the country. (iii) Establishing a public expenditure and quality education tracking system (PEQETS) to promote equity and transparency in resource distribution by tracing the flow of expenditures to, and through, the various levels of the central and provincial education system, down to schools.
Theme 4. Strengthening Education Governance and Service Delivery. Under this theme, too, there are three key, innovative initiatives. (i) Establishing a balanced control model of school based management, the Program for School Improvement to empower principals and teachers and enable schools to forge links with local communities to give stakeholders, greater voice in the affairs of the school. (ii) Organizational analysis and capacity building to identify capacity gaps and design a capacity building program. (iii) Implement a human resource development strategy to provide high quality skills for the education system.
The World Bank Education Sector Development Grant will support the entire program of the Government. An innovative funding mechanism will be used for World Bank assistance. There will be no project implementation unit. Instead, funds will be provided directly through the budgets of the national and provincial Ministries of Education. The volume of funds flowing to the country and to individual provinces will be linked to performance, with greater funds allocated to better performers.
Harsha Aturupane, Senior Economist, Human Development
Unit, South Asia Region.
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