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Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN hosts seminar on the Impact of Education in the Implementation of the SDGs

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 15:45

Chargé D’ Affaires Ambassador Sabarullah Khan delivers his welcome address at the Seminar titled The role of Education in the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda co-hosted by Sri Lanka and held at the Sri Lanka Mission premises on 25 May 2016.

The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development – NY co-hosted a seminar on education titled the Role of Education in the Implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda at the Mission premises on 25 May 2016.  The discussion addressed innovative education concepts and solutions to build sustainable communities and global citizens. Speakers drew on lessons from Tanzania, Sri Lanka, United States of America and elsewhere to explore ways and means of bridging the economic and digital divide, by working with youth and adults, to increase literacy and technical skills, to empower marginalized communities, to allow for entrepreneurship and artistic expression and in doing so, to ensure that no one is left behind.

Co-Chairs of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development  Ms. Margo LaZaro & Ms Yvonne O’ Neal deliver opening remarks at the Seminar titledThe role of Education in the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda  co-hosted by Sri Lanka, and held at the Sri Lanka Mission premises on 25 May 2016.

A section of the audience at the Seminar titled The role of Education in the Implementation of the sustainable Development Agenda co-hosted by Sri Lanka and held at the Sri Lanka Mission premises on 25 May 2016.

 

Chargé D’ Affaires and Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador Sabarullah Khan in his welcome address noted that education was essential to achieving all of the new Sustainable Development Goals. He said that currently, 58 million children remain out of school – most of them girls. In addition, 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school.

Turning to Sri Lanka’s own experience, Ambassador Khan said that Sri Lanka has a long history of education. Literacy rates and educational attainment levels rose steadily, after Sri Lanka became an independent nation in 1948, and today, the youth literacy rate, stands at 97 percent, he noted.

Ambassador Khan stated that Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in Asia to grant Universal Adult Franchise in 1931. Following this, the country enacted laws in 1939 and in 1945 to ensure free education for all. This enabled children from all walks of life to gain free access to education. The right to a free education was now enshrined in the Sri Lankan Constitution, which also mandates compulsory schooling between the ages of 5 and 16, he also said.  

Mr. Narinder Kakar Permanent Observer of the University of Peace to the Unite Nations delivering his remarks, in which he reiterated the University’close collaboration with Sri Lanka on many academic projects.

Mr. Khan further said that In order to address the root causes of conflict Sri Lanka was committed to the idea of education as a means of social cohesion. The government had already taken steps to incorporate national unity and reconciliation as a pillar within the education sector, and had begun to mainstream reconciliation into policy, curriculum, teacher education and co-curricular activities and to promote these concepts through the twining of schools and by setting up programs for students and teachers, he noted.

The Ambassador said that while Sri Lanka still faces many challenges, State policies have consistently shown a real commitment to the quality education of its people, and that Sri Lanka believes that it is our national responsibility, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Sri Lanka’s goal was to make the “the nearest school the best school” through the provision of an excellently managed school system consisting of all physical and human resources for the creation of a dignified future generation, without any racial, religious or cast discrimination the Ambassador also said.  

Speakers included Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, Director of UNESCO Liaison Office in New York, Mr. Narinder Kakar, Permanent Observer of the University of Peace to the United Nations, Ms. La Neice Collins, Communications Officer for the United Nations Academic Impact, Ms. Paige Propper-Sanborn, Co-founder and President of the Zariki Nursery and Primary School in Tanzania, Ms. Lirone Glikman, Founder and Innovator of Global Impact Alliances Project, and Mr. Iran Nazario , Director of Peacebuilders and Community Relations at COMPASS youth Collaborative.

The full text of Ambassador Khan’s Welcome Address may be found below.   

 

Welcome address

by

Mr. Sabarullah Khan

Ambassador and Chargé d᾽ Affaires

 

The Role of Education in the Implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda

25 May 2016

 

Excellencies, Colleagues, Distinguished Panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to welcome you all to the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka. We are happy to cohost this event with the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, New York, and to facilitate discussion, on the very important topic of, the Role of Education, in the Implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

We know, that education is essential, to achieving all of the new Sustainable Development Goals. It is necessary to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity and broad-based economic growth, and, build peaceful, tolerant societies. This is why Goal 4 is so important. We all agree, that every student has the right to quality, free, public education, and that it plays a fundamental role, in human, social, and economic development.

Currently, 58 million children remain out of school globally – most of them girls. In addition,  250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school.

Therefore effective implementation will require strong regional coordination, and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the education agenda. It will also require more funding, especially for the countries furthest from providing inclusive, quality education.

Let me now turn to my own country. With a national literacy rate of 93 percent, one of the highest in the region, Sri Lankahas a long history of education. Literacy rates and educational attainment levels rose steadily, after Sri Lanka became an independent nation in 1948, and today, the youth literacy rate, stands at 97 percent.

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in Asia to grant Universal Adult Franchise in 1931. Following this we enacted laws in 1939 and in 1945 to ensure free education for all. This enabled children from all walks of life to gain free access to education.

The right to a free education is now enshrined in the Sri Lankan Constitution, which also mandates compulsory schooling between the ages of 5 and 16.

The two main languages of instruction are Sinhala and Tamil. English is taught as a compulsory subject through all 13 years of school study. International private schools typically offer instruction in English. At the tertiary level, Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of instruction; however, English is frequently used, especially in universities.

Sri Lanka has a network of different schools, serving a little over 4 million or 20 percent of the population.

National Schools, which are funded and administered by the Ministry of Education, AND Provincial schools which are mostly secondary schools and administered and funded by provincial authorities and local governments. We also havePrivate schools and a network of international schools mainly for the children of the expatriate community.

In addition Sri Lanka has a Pirivena education system or Monastic schools which train Buddhist priests.  

Sri Lanka also has several technical colleges and institutes dedicated to vocational education and training.

In order to address the rapid advances in technology Sri Lanka has established a secondary Education modernization project with funding from the ADB.

The Education ministry has established a wide-area network (WAN) connecting most of the senior secondary schools and other related organizations. This network is referred to as SchoolNet.

SchoolNet is a nation-wide infrastructure that brings all organizations related to the School Education System online. It can be thought of as a platform for Next Generation Learning.

SchoolNet takes collaboration among students and teachers to a new level and tests the teacher's creativity.

Sri Lanka’s Educational Publications Department implements the Free Textbook Scheme of the Government by making available textbooks, workbooks, reference books, supplementary readers, glossaries, dictionaries, audio-visual study packs and other materials.

Sri Lanka has also established the Nenasa Educational Television Telecast which is a distance learning program run by the Ministry of Education. The country also have what are known as Nenasala or knowledge centers around the country that serve as e-libraries, communications centers, and learning hubs.

The ICT branch of the ministry of education has set up a National E-learning portal called E-Thaksalawa for general education which consists of resources for students and teachers, including past papers, questions and answers, teacher instruction manuals and course materials. It also contains interactive educational games, entertainment and songs for students, in order to make learning fun and interesting.  

As you may know Sri Lanka has recently emerged from a thirty-year civil conflict. In order to address the root causes of conflict we are committed to the idea of education as a means of social cohesion. Last year we set up an office of National Unity and Reconciliation and we have already taken steps to incorporate national unity and reconciliation as a pillar within the education sector. We have begun to mainstream reconciliation into policy, curriculum, teacher education and co-curricular activities and to promote these concepts through the twining of schools and by setting up programs for students and teachers.

We have also established reforms to protect the rights of children in detention, created a framework of action for inclusive education, to have primary schools within two kms of every child and secondary schools within 4 kms of every child.

The Ministry of education allocates 10 percent of its budget for subsidies, free text books, uniforms, nutrition programs, bursaries and scholarships. We also focus on disaster risk reduction and school safety education and teach disaster preparedness in schools.

In order to reduce child labor we have established a minimum employable age of 16 years. In order to ensure education for specific vulnerable groups, children from the plantation community have been integrated into the national system.

For children with disabilities and special education needs, special schools have been established, special educational units set up, and the inclusion of disabled children into the mainstream has been fostered.

With regard to street children, we have set up community learning centre programs, basic literacy classes and mainstreaming into schools.

However, while Sri Lanka has been very successful in the education sector especially since independence, we have only nearly achieved the second Millennium Development Goal-universal primary education - with 99% enrolment. However, the third goal-eliminating gender disparities in primary, secondary and university education has already been achieved.

Yet we still face many challenges.

  • Regional discrepancies – geographical, economic and social
  • Unequal distribution of resources
  • Disparity in the quality of resources provided to secondary schools
  • Marginalized children facing exclusion, access and participation issues
  • Low quality educational outcomes in vulnerable groups
  • Limited non formal education programs
  • Polarization of schools
  • Number of small schools in disadvantaged locations receiving little attention
  • Social stigma towards children with disabilities and lack of quality programs to address their needs
  • Poor parental awareness about education
  • Weak service delivery systems in rural and isolated communities

But our policies have consistently shown a real commitment to the quality education of its people and we believe that it is our national responsibility to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Sri Lanka’s goal is to make the “the nearest school the best school” through the provision of an excellently managed school system consisting of all physical and human resources for the creation of a dignified future generation, without any racial, religious or cast discrimination. Through this, it will be possible to reduce the competitive environment in urban schools, to provide excellent learning opportunities and equal opportunities for all and to generate a skilled human resource that can make the future of the nation a prosperous one.

Again, I welcome you all to what promises to be a lively and robust discussion.

Thank you