Education Policy 1994-2005 and the road ahead
The Kumaratunga Presidency gave top priority to education and implemented policies aimed at building Sri Lanka’s standing as the regional success story in education (with a 92.5% adult literacy rate and 95% primary school enrollment rate even in war time) by gearing students at all levels with modern knowledge, critical and creative thinking skills, modern methods of teaching and resources needed to gain a competitive edge in an English speaking and science and information technology oriented global economy.
Concurrently, the Navodya schools initiative and the provision of non-formal education centers and adult literacy programmes sought to overcome remaining national infrastructure inadequacies and obstacles to access. The development of a large number of schools took the pressure off the 62 schools considered to be the “best” by improving 650 to the level of the “best”.
Moreover strategic investment in teacher and administrator training, along with the institution of a competitive and evaluative process for textbook selection, was integral to strengthening the classroom experience.
Her tenure also saw the establishment of seven new universities island-wide and the creation of interdisciplinary courses to meet the demand from the growing number of capable and ambitious high-school graduates.
A much needed private education regulatory framework was also introduced to assess private educational opportunities that could help balance capacity issues faced at the public level.
The tens of thousands of casualties and widespread destruction of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami near the end of her final term presented President Kumaratunga with perhaps the greatest challenge to the progress made. Spearheading the rehabilitation process she crafted plans to rebuild damaged school and improve neighboring ones.
Achievements of the 1998 Education Reforms Report
● Navodaya Schools - 650 - two (02) per divisional area, a total of 400 schools were completed.
● Teacher Training - 88 teacher training institutes were commenced. Every one of the 200,000 teachers received annual training.
● IT Training introduced for the first time to government schools. A large number of schools were given IT rooms with all the facilities.
● Schools curricula were extensively revised - all text books were also extensively revised after 25 years.
● Quality of teaching in schools improved remarkably, especially in Science, Technology and English.
● Physical infrastructure developed to high levels
● In 1994, proficiency of primary grade 5 students in science, mathematics, and even Sinhalese, the country’s own mother language were extremely low. By end-2001 proficiency in all subjects had shown a massive increase.
● Proficiency in mother tongue in 1994 was 33% - this increased by 65% in 2001
● Proficiency in science 18% - increased to 43%, mathematics was 13% - increased to 36%
● Grade I entrance - regularized, eliminating corruption.
● Schools administration, at school, district and Provincial levels - new systems of supervision and review introduced.
● A large number of schools even in the districts considered to give the best results in education such as Colombo and Gampaha showed failures of students at the O/L and A/L exams. This greatly improved.
● Teachers’ salaries increased by 5 times and other facilities provided.
● World Bank report of 2005 - Accorded 1st place to President CBK in the global ranking for achievements in the education sector.
Technical & Vocational Education
Technical Education was commenced in 1893 by the British Colonial Administration, with the establishment of the Ceylon Technical College. The Institute of Practical Technology was established in the 1960’s, followed by the University of Moratuwa (1972)
● Technical Colleges were improved and upgraded in Galle, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Amparai, Kandy, Badulla, Dehiwela in 1957.
● The CBK Government established the Department of Technical Education and Training (DTET) in 1994 and brought it under the purview of the newly created Ministry of Labour & Vocational Training.
● All Grade II Technical Colleges upgraded to Grade I in 1995.
● 9 Colleges of Technology and 29 Technical Colleges.
● Technical Education conducted in Sinhala, Tamil and English.
● Subjects taught included - Automobile technology, Farm Machinery technology, Food technology, Production technology.
● JICA provided aid to create the Japan-Sri Lanka College of Technology. Subjects included: Information Technology, Mechatronic and Welding Technology
All Courses are accredited by the Tertiary & Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) through training, assessment and quality assurance.