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SL’s spending on education one of the lowest in South Asia

By: Isuru Parakrama

Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka allocates less than two per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, which falls well below the international benchmark of four-to-six per cent of GDP and is identified as one of the lowest in the South Asian region, revealed the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in a statement yesterday (16).

These remarks were made during the initiation of a national initiative to help 1.6 million primary school children impacted by prolonged school closures and sporadic disruptions to their education over the past three years, to catch up on their learning.

The initiative is being spearheaded in a joint effort by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.

85 per cent of Grade 3 children are not achieving minimum proficiency in literacy and numeracy, which is essential in their transition to secondary school and beyond, both in life and work, a Ministry-led national assessment disclosed.

The event was held under the leadership of the Sri Lankan Education Minister Susil Premajayantha, along with the UNICEF Representative for Sri Lanka, Christian Skoog, and was attended by government and development partners. 

Currently, Sri Lanka allocates less than 2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, which falls well below the international benchmark of four-to-six per cent, making it one of the lowest in the region, UNICEF emphasised.

“There is an urgent need to increase the national budget allocation for education, especially for primary grades, where we need to boost foundational learning for children, while also ensuring the implementation of vital Education Reforms so that we can build the solid human resource skills needed to support the country’s development,” said Minister Premajayantha.

The learning crisis has affected vulnerable children the most, including younger children in primary grades and those in plantation estates in the country.

“The basics of literacy, numeracy, and social economic skills are the platform on which children build their own, their families, their communities, and their country’s future,” commented Christian Skoog, UNICEF Representative for Sri Lanka. “We commend the MOE for its commitment to undertake urgent efforts to reverse the widening disparities in learning achievement for children who are lagging further behind, including slow learners, and missing out due to the continued hardship the country faces.”

In July, the MOE and UNICEF held a special briefing on ‘Learning Recovery’ to leverage the support of development partners, while more technical-level workshops were held across nine provinces, to identify gaps and prioritise actions.

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