From left to right: Russel Aponsu, Michaela Martin (IIEP), Sunil Nawaratne, Farid Abillama(IIEP), Panagodage Demayanthi, Kahandawa Dilrukshi

Sri Lanka working to improve its higher education sector

IIEP training officials to build national indicator system

As in many other countries, the higher education (HE) sector in Sri Lanka is currently confronted with certain policy challenges. The provision of access to the sector presently remains a problem. An average 100,000 young people graduate every year from secondary education, of whom only half find a place in higher education. In response to this major unsatisfied social demand, private HE providers are mushrooming, many of which are cross-border providers and not yet officially recognized. Graduate unemployment is another problem, in particular for the graduates from the Arts, who form the majority of enrolments in the sector.

In order to respond to these challenges, the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) has prepared a new HE strategy for 2012–2020, which puts both the widening of access and the improvement of quality and relevance at the centre of HE developments. At the same time, Sri Lanka wishes to establish itself as a regional hub for higher education and so attract a greater number of foreign students. A quality assurance body is being created, and a transformation in the teaching–learning processes is envisaged. In order to strengthen mechanisms for policy follow up, MoHE under the leadership of Dr. Sunil Jayantha Narawatne, Secretary of MoHE intends to develop an indicator system for the follow up of the objectives laid down in the HE strategy for 2012–2020.

Building an indicator report for the Higher Education sector

It is within this context that IIEP recently conducted a mission to build capacity for the development of a national indicator system on higher education. This mission was a follow-up requested by MOHE to the distance education course on “The use of indicators to monitor HE policy objectives for Asian countries”, which took place from 22 April to 14 June 2013, in which a team of five officials from MoHE took active part.

During the mission, IIEP experts actively supported key staff at the Sri Lankan Ministry of Higher Education in identifying those HE policy objectives that need to be monitored, in the selection of relevant indicators and the identification of necessary information sources related to these policy objectives. Experts also assisted in the calculation, presentation, and interpretation of the selected indicators, as well as supporting the production of a draft version of a national indicator report on HE in Sri Lanka.

IIEP will go ahead supporting the indicator report until its conclusion as a first step in the cooperation between IIEP and the Sri Lankan MOHE.