Education and the development opportunities of Sri Lanka
by Parakum Jayasinghe
December 20, 2016

“Thanks to free education and the vernacular education, we are doing well in education,” said Dr. Iresha M. Lakshman who authored Educating Sri Lankans for Development, a thematic report based on Census of Population and Housing 2012.

She expressed these views participating in the Generation to Generation Dialogue organized by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) held on 9th December 2016 in Colombo.

Sri Lanka is a country which has an impressive literacy rate of 95.7% although there are disparities between urban, rural and estate sectors. In each sector, males record higher literacy rates than females. The highest illiteracy rate is in the estate sector in which almost one in every four women are illiterate.

Yet problems remain among the most privileged sections also in terms of education.

“More qualitative interventions are needed. Our classrooms in the government schools are very traditional. The developed world is fast moving to student-centred education,” said Dr. Lakshman.

“The attitudes transmitted into the classroom too is very traditional. They may not necessarily be development oriented. A complete shift of attitudes must be made.

“We have good curricula, modern methodologies, training and perfect policy etc. but what you actually carry to the classroom is more important. What we deliver and how we deliver must be really thought about if we want to improve our education system.”

However, in terms of Information Technology education, Sri Lanka still lags behind.  While 78% of the rural population lack computer literacy, 90% of the estate sector people do not know how to use a computer.

Nalaka Umagiliya, Vice President of John Keells Holdings PLC described his experience as a leading private sector employer on the outcome of the education system of Sri Lanka.

“We attract the best. We have lot of graduates who have come out of local and foreign universities. The Sri Lankan graduates have qualifications but we have to think how relevant those curricula are.

“We have to think of the efforts of the policymakers on Information Technology education. IT education has has two ends. The users’ end and the creator’s end. Fifteen years ago, there were few end users. It was very difficult to getting the solution through people to use them. Now the end user community is growing.

“But today we have a problem of getting the new generation’s efforts to create new solutions. It is because of the value differences between the generations.

“In the finance sector, the time taken to double the knowledge is 18 years. In marketing, it is eight years. But for the IT industry the time needed to double the knowledge is three and half years. One who is out of the industry for three and half years can be obsolete because of this. It is a challenge in IT sector to sustain the resources. It is one reason for the female population being out of the core designer architect level creators.”

The thematic report Educating Sri Lankans for Development highlights that a high number of persons with disabilities are not given priority for their special needs in government schools.

“Attitudes play a big role in issues like bringing in women to labour force and addressing the issues of over 1.6 million strong differently-abled population,” Dr.  Iresha M. Lakshman stated.


Parakum Jayasinghe
Blogging for Social Change
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