COLOMBO July 17, 2017 – Sri Lanka has signed a US$100 million credit agreement with the World Bank to support its higher education sector. The objective of this initiative is to increase enrollment in priority disciplines, improve the quality of degree programs, and promote research and innovation in the higher education sector.
The Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) operation, signed today, is the first in Sri Lanka to use the World Bank Program for Results lending instrument. This instrument focuses on building institutional capabilities while investing in concrete activities to improve outcomes.
Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives and Dr. R.H.S.Samaratunga, Secretary, Ministry of Finance signed the project on behalf of the World Bank and the Government of Sri Lanka respectively.
“Sri Lanka’s aspiration to rise to an Upper Middle Income Country status depends on the skills and versatility of its people. The higher education system must result in skills that allow individuals to contribute to sustainable economic development of the country,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Sri Lanka was ranked 88th of 115 countries for higher education participation in 2014. The country particularly needs to improve student participation in disciplines of vital importance to economic development such as the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The proportion of students in the sciences was just 13 percent in 2014. The AHEAD project aims to increase enrollment in higher education with special emphasis on study programs required for an aspiring upper-middle-income economy. This includes to broaden and deepen modern teaching and learning approaches that combine academic excellence with high-quality socio emotional skills; and promote a vibrant research and innovation culture that can support economic development, especially the growth of higher-value industries and services.
“This is an innovative results-driven operation in support of the Government’s Higher Education Development Strategy,” said Harsha Aturupane, Lead Economist and Task Team Leader. “Promoting research, development and innovation are essential to expand knowledge and technology-intensive industries and services to meet Sri Lanka’s aspirations to become an Upper Middle Income Country.”
An estimated 600,000 students across a variety of higher education institutions, and approximately 5,000 academics, managers, and technical staff members will benefit directly from this program over its 6-year implementation period, which ends in 2023. The private sector and government will also benefit as they will be able to recruit better-qualified university graduates; future generations of university students and staff members will benefit from the system-wide reforms and improvements; and the private and public sector institutions will benefit from the research and innovation activities.