ECONOMYNEXT – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will give Sri Lanka 145 million US dollars for science and technology in higher education, developing curricula with industry inputs to nurture a new breed of technology-oriented graduates.
The ADB and four Sri Lankan universities Wednesday signed project agreements for the funds under the ADB funded Science and Technology Human Resources Development project to foster science and technology in Sri Lanka’s higher education.
“The project will help nurture a new breed of technology-oriented graduates equipped with skills and entrepreneurial spirit for the economy,” Sri Widowati, ADB Country Director in Sri Lanka, said.
A statement said Sri Lanka’s education system is facing several challenges in delivering quality learning relevant to the labor market, particularly in science, technology, and engineering subjects.
Higher education opportunities as a whole are limited, with the gross enrollment rate at less than 19 percent—much less than the 50 percentaverage for upper middle-income countries.
Moreover, less than 20 percent of graduates are from science and engineering subjects.
Although more than 60 percent of undergraduates in Sri Lanka are female students, they overwhelmingly (about 82 percent) concentrate on liberal arts and social studies where unemployment is highest.
“Encouraging more women to take technology disciplines will increase women’s career opportunities in technical areas where wages are high,” the ADB said.
A lack of investment, laboratory facilities, researchers, and qualified academic staff are holding back the quality of teaching, learning, and research.
“Existing degree programs in scientific or engineering areas are more theory-oriented and lack practical applications of knowledge and skills,” the statement said.
“The project will construct faculty buildings following green building standards, ensuring they are climate-proofed, well equipped with laboratories, and offer flexible spaces for different kinds of research and learning as well as facilities that help integrate female students and staff, such as day care centers.
Under the program, the universities will develop complete degree program curricula, incorporating industry inputs and align with international standards.
The project will also support the recruitment and training of academic staff for the new programs.
Staff performance management systems will be strengthened to continuously improve teaching and learning, student services, and industry collaboration.
“The universities will develop joint proposals with industry partners for research and development activities to resolve industry problems or come up with new products and services,” the ADB said.
In addition, the project will develop a future project proposed for 2021 focusing on research and development capacity.
The government will provide an additional 20 million dollars for the project.