Speaking to the Sunday leader, secretary to the Ministry of Education Mr. Suniljayantha Navarathne said that the government’s plans for reforming Sri Lankas higher education set-up will be implemented in phases shortly.
‘We are currently formulating our strategic plan and will come up with an implementation schedule shortly’.
The reforms to be implemented are two-fold; capacity building and structural reform. The current system excludes vast numbers of students from entering state universities ‘out of 130,000 who qualify for university entrance, only 20,000 are capable of being absorbed by state universities. The state simply does not have the funds to accommodate the rest’
He added that from the remaining 110,000, ten thousand students leave annually to foreign universities. The ministry maintains that the most efficient method of securing better higher education for more students is by allowing the private sector to compete in the education market. ‘By allowing private universities entry into Sri Lanka we can reduce brain drain and even transform Sri Lanka into a place where foreign students can use as a destination for higher education.’ He added that this will also be an incentive for state universities to become more competitive.
In terms of structural reform to the existing system Mr. Navarathne said that several infrastructural improvements have been identified and will be made to the 15 state universities along with attempts at making curricula and teaching methods oriented towards producing savvier, more creative graduates.
‘Some of our universities are highly backward and are not in tandem with the external environment. These reforms will be part of a continuous process, maybe to a 5 or 10 year plan. We will focus on investing in various fields every year’. He added that several fields, such as arts, archeology and ayurvedic studies that are now lagging behind market requirements can be vamped up to make them more relevant to current needs .