Written by Joanna Hughes

The World Bank has approved a grant for $100 million to support higher education in Sri Lanka, according to a recent World Bank press release. Here’s a closer look at where the funds will go, along with how stakeholders expect the investment will both improve higher education and spur economic growth in Sri Lanka.

Key Focus Areas

The World Bank financing will be designated for several key areas, including increasing enrollment in priority subjects; improving the quality of degree programs, and promoting research and innovation throughout the higher education sector.

According to figures provided by the World Bank, Sri Lanka was ranked 88th out of 115 in terms of higher education with higher education rates of 21 percent -- well below the 23 percent average of middle-income countries. Specifically, Sri Lanka student participation rates fell short in STEM disciplines deemed essential to economic development.

According to Harsha Aturupane, Lead Education Specialist and Task Team Leader, “Promoting research, development and innovation will be essential to expand knowledge and technology-intensive industries and services to meet Sri Lanka’s aspirations to become an Upper Middle Income Country.”

A First of Its Kind Initiative

Sri Lanka’s Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) Operation Project represents the first time Sri Lanka has used the World Bank Program-for-Results (PforR) financing instrument, a program aimed at helping countries build capacity, enhance effectiveness and efficiency, and produce sustainable results.

Said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank County Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives, "Sri Lanka's aspiration to rise to an Upper Middle Income Country status depends on how skilled and versatile its people are.”

Continued Pswarayi-Riddihough, "The higher education system must produce a pool of highly skilled scientists, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics, and teachers, who can contribute to sustainable economic development of the country. Improving competitiveness and growth of the country is a key focus of the Sri Lankan Government and we are pleased to be supporting them in this endeavor."

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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