Of education modernisation, and growth

The Education Modernisation Project funded by the World Bank, commenced on 22 October under the patronage of Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

Referred to as the General Education Modernisation project (GEM), the five year programme was initiated in July this year, when the Sri Lankan government signed a $ 100 million credit agreement with the World Bank.

GEM will be implemented by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the National Institute of Education and the Provincial Educational Institutions from 2018 to 2024.

The World Bank provides that GEM will compose of three main components;

1. Enhancing the quality and strengthening the stewardship of primary and secondary education

2. Project operations and technical support that aims to provide traditional input-based financing to support the Ministry of Education to implement and monitor the (GEM) Project

3. Contingent Emergency Response, an initiative that aims to allow the rapid re-allocation of projects in the event of a disasters or crisis that is likely to cause adverse economic and or social impact to the country

Accordingly, under the GEM, project steps will be taken to develop the quality of primary and secondary education.

Initiatives have been taken to facilitate programmes and certain action plans for the modernisation of curriculums, diversification of subjects, introduction of technology in the syllabus, teacher development, empowerment of school development programmes, evaluation of school system quality, promotion of education leadership and the management and upgrade of social equity and inclusivity through education within the next five years.

Objectives, importance, methodology and funding

Ministry of Education Deputy Director of Education Dr. Jayantha Balasooriyafurther elaborating on the primary components of GEM said: “A major objective is to improve the English language, mathematics and digital learning amongst students in the primary and secondary education levels.” He further mentioned that GEM is inclusive of implementing procedures, to improve school-based teacher development programmes.

There is also to be a special focus on quality assessment – according to Dr. Balasooriya,while the public examination system is merely a selection exam, there will be a national assessment test via GEM to assess the learning outcomes of students.

Finally, he mentioned that despite the project being implemented island wide, in both national and provincial levels, 500 schools will be selected in order to assess and collect data. Speaking about the criteria for selecting these schools he said: “These are schools which produce students in the Arts streams in local universities, and there is prevalence in Arts graduates struggling in the job market due to varying complications, which at times includes a lack of English language proficiency.”

Minister for Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said: “This initiative is a pivotal movement in our education system,” adding that he is hopeful that the project will prove to be a success.

Kariyawasam further added: “We have initiated this project however, it is a time-consuming project. We are gradually working on it. We have already finished regularising some subjects and we are in the process of modernising others.”
“The plan is to achieve a completely modernised curriculum by 2024 in order to achieve the sustainable development goals,” he added.

In respect of the second component to GEM; the monitoring and regularisation of the education systems, the Minister addressed the need to appoint an independent inspectorate.

He said: “In the light of this project we are planning to introduce an Independent Inspectorate, something like a governing body. This is an external body appointed by the Government. The independent inspectorate will focus on regularising the inter-learning processes; managing facilities and evaluating the standard of education processes. We are hoping that this will help us achieve our target sooner.”

The World Bank agreed to fund the ‘Education Modernisation Project’ as it is dedicated to recondition, diversify, strengthen and improve the education system of Sri Lanka.

It is aimed at building a strong, diversified education system within the country by 2025 and to contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

In light of the announcement regarding the immediate implementation of GEM, there were many who expressed their views and expectation with regards to its effect.

From the educators themselves

We spoke to a few educationists, those whom will truly benefit and will be affected by any of the changes that will be brought about by GEM. Regarding the project, its impact on the education system and the future of the country’s children; here’s what they had to say –

Model United Nations Coach/ Entrepreneur Gulzar Ahmed: “We are the most literate country says the stats, but how well have we established ourselves from there, to be in phase to the ever modernising global village? Is a question many of us fail to answer? As a teacher and mentor, I believe this initiative will be the turning point in the history of the Sri Lankan educational system, one that will incorporate technology in our ever rich curriculum, for us to be truly the next knowledge hub of Asia.”

WP/NG Lankasaba Junior Secondary School Principal S.W. Gamage: “Our current education system focuses on memorising culture and that needs to change. An active transformation of the curriculum and the inclusion of diversified subjects, and technological knowledge are important to create citizens of the society that can make a change in our country and that I believe is the sole duty of schools.”

Pushpadana Girls’ College Kandy Biology Teacher Shanika Perera: “When I first heard about this project, I thought it was a wonderful initiative to improve the quality of our education system. Diversity among subjects is something that we really need. However, it is one of my concerns that these alterations may have practical drawbacks. For example, if the curriculum of a student facing the Advanced Level Examination in August next year is changed abruptly after their advance level classes are initiated, that child will struggle. In general sense, this is a great initiative and as an educationist I am thrilled to see the fruitful outcomes.”

Lyceum International School English Teacher Salma Bucker: “I believe that education plays an important role to be in gear with the 21st century and aspirations, and foster the right types of values and skills that will ultimately lead to a better sustainable growth. However, it is apparent that educational technology which is a systematic way of conceptualising the execution and evaluation of the educational process is growing in the classroom. Students, especially millennials, come ready to work with these new technologies, which play an important role in children’s learning and acquiring cognitive knowledge. ICT is definitely an enabler to more efficient resource usage, education and even business operations which is critical success factor for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).”


By Pujanee Galappaththi and Dimithri Wijesinghe