Secondary education reform: ADB approves $ 400 m

Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $ 400 million loan to support the Government of Sri Lanka in transforming its secondary education system to align with the demand for highly skilled and agile workers who can compete in the rapidly changing global economy.

Sri Lanka aspires to be an advanced knowledge economy and has targeted education and skilled labour as national priorities. The “Secondary Education Sector Improvement Programme” will support reforms under the Government’s General Education Sector Development Plan 2020-2025, particularly on upper secondary education. The programme will benefit about 953,000 students annually, with skills that will benefit successive generations of students.

The programme will also equip the young population with knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and commerce, which are fields of high economic relevance for Sri Lanka. It will enhance readiness for further education in STEM fields and foster competencies for higher productivity and adaptability. To achieve this, the programme will reform the curricula, instruction, and assessment systems to focus on practical application of knowledge and integrate cognitive and socio-emotional skills.

The programme further focuses on improving teaching quality and teacher training, given the importance of quality of teaching and method of instruction on learning. More than 47,000 upper secondary education teachers will be trained on inquiry-based and interactive learning approaches to increase student interest and engagement with subject content and inspire a love of learning.

“A knowledgeable, agile, and skilled workforce that can leverage technology transfers and steer innovations could support Sri Lanka’s economic diversification and put Sri Lanka on a higher growth path,” said ADB Principal Social Sector Specialist for South Asia Uzma Hoque. “The aim is to equip students with market-relevant skills and foster competencies that allow them to think critically, apply what they learn and adapt, which are key traits needed to survive and thrive in the modern world of work.”

Learnings from the current situation under the Covid-19 pandemic will be turned into an opportunity for reforms. The curricula and pedagogy will introduce innovative technology-based teaching and learning approaches and multiple modes of delivery of education to build resilience against future emergencies. It will reduce the gap in access and learning in STEM between urban and rural schools through more equitable distribution of teachers and greater resources for underperforming and disadvantaged rural schools.

In addition, support to strengthen central and local-level monitoring capacity will ensure more evidence-based policies and resource allocation to meet the remaining challenges in the education sector.