Sri Lanka’s general education sector faced challenges in expanding equitable access to primary and secondary schooling and establishing a high quality education system. The government needed to substantially boost participation in basic education to achieve the target of universal completion, as well improve the quality of education. Cognitive achievement tests showed substantial shortfalls in language and numeracy skills. Schools had little voice in the delivery of education services, with nearly all management decisions being taken at higher levels of the education administration. The allocation of resources for education was inadequately prioritized towards higher-order processes, assets and spaces, and towards maintenance and replacement.
The Bank’s Education Sector Development Program for Sri Lanka promoted equitable access to basic and secondary education through the creation of school attendance committees, and the expansion of basic facilities such as classrooms, water and sanitation, school health and nutrition programs for poor children, and special and non-formal education. The Program improved the quality of education through curriculum modernization, teacher development, and the on-time delivery of textbooks. This initiative, by setting explicit budget targets, also helped increase resources for the training of teachers and principals, and for new or better libraries, science laboratories, multi-purpose rooms, information-technology centers, and activity rooms. The role of schools in the delivery of education services was strengthened through a school-based management pilot program called the Program for School Improvement. This element of the program helped train education managers and administrators, and in-service advisors. A special grant provided support for an over-arching education sector development plan implemented jointly by the central Ministry of Education and the provincial education ministries. Funds were released only as the various education agencies reached certain goals and milestones.