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ADB Fostering Science and Technology in Sri Lanka’s Higher Education

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The project will help nurture a new breed of technology-oriented graduates equipped with skills and entrepreneurial spirit for the economy. Photo: ADB

The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved $145 million in loans to develop new applied science and technology programs in four Sri Lankan universities.

“To achieve higher incomes and better standards of living, the Sri Lankan government aims to transform the country to a knowledge-based economy by 2025, with education playing a key role,” said ADB Principal Social Sector Specialist Ms. Gi Soon Song. “To this end, the project will help nurture a new breed of technology-oriented graduates equipped with skills and entrepreneurial spirit for the economy.”

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%—much less than the 50% average for upper middle-income countries. Moreover, less than 20% of graduates are from science and engineering subjects.

Although more than 60% of undergraduates in Sri Lanka are female students, they overwhelmingly (about 82%) 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.

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.

Recognizing this, the government in 2013 introduced a technology stream into secondary education, supported by an ADB Education Sector Development Program. Since 2015, about 7,000 students from the technology stream have become qualified for higher education annually. The government also selected 11 public universities to open new technology faculties. The World Bank is providing financing for 8 technology faculties. The government requested ADB to support the development of technology faculties in the remaining 3 universities—Kelaniya, Rajarata, and Sabaragamuwa—as well as an engineering faculty in the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

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 aligned 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. In addition, the project will develop a future project proposed for 2021 focusing on research and development capacity.

The total project cost is $165 million, of which the government will provide $20 million. It is due for completion at the end of 2023.

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Preparing teachers for the future we want

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At its annual meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, from 5-9 November, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 adopted a declaration focused on ensuring that teacher issues stay at the centre of the global education agenda.

Through this declaration, the Teacher Task Force reinforces its vision that at the heart of the right to education is a highly valued, qualified, and well-trained teaching profession. It therefore recommends that:

International partners should intensify efforts to develop robust definitions and classifications of qualified and trained teachers and strengthen cooperation and reporting mechanisms to ensure full monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal target 4c.

Governments should ensure adequate financing for all public goods, including the teacher workforce, and this should be achieved primarily through domestic resource mobilization based on socially just fiscal policies, rigorous measures against corruption and illegal financial flows, efficient and effective teacher policies and deployment practices, developed with the full involvement of teachers and their organisations, and continued focus on external resource mobilization to complement domestic resources for countries.

Moreover, the dual focus of the Education 2030 agenda on equity and learning puts teachers at the heart of policy responses that should foster equal participation and learning globally. Teachers can be an impactful equalizing force to overcome unequal life chances from birth. The massive recruitment of new teachers, particularly in least develop countries, with little or no training is a real cause for concern.

The Teacher Task Force also expressed its concern over the fact that teacher education has not kept pace with preparing new teachers to face the rapid changes in globalization, migration, demographic change, and technological advances that will mark the future of education.

Furthermore, teacher education in this increasing complex world must be forward-looking and prepare teachers who are continuous learners themselves. It must enable teachers to think about the kind of education that is meaningful and relevant to young people’s needs in the different 21st century’s learning environment.

The Teacher Task Force acknowledges the ever-growing importance of Information and Communication Technologies in education. However, technology should be treated as a supportive tool for teachers and not a replacement. Teacher education should therefore empower teachers to use technologies to support learning within a holistic and human-centred educational framework.

The Teacher Task Force also called attention to the fact that teacher education needs to be seen as career-long education and special attention should be paid to the nature of teachers’ professional development, competency frameworks, curriculum development and professional learning communities/communities of practice. As teaching is a knowledge-based profession, teachers and trainers should be supported to continually update their knowledge base.

Through this declaration, the Teacher Task Force advocates for a teacher education that allows teachers to prepare learners to manage change and to be able to shape a just and equitable future, leaving no one behind.

This declaration reflects UNESCO’s belief that the right to education cannot be fulfilled without trained and qualified teachers. Teachers are one of the most influential factors to the improvement of learning outcomes and UNESCO has for long been an advocate of better training for teachers to ensure inclusive and quality education for all.

UNESCO, which is one of the founding members of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, has supported its work since its creation in 2008 and hosts the Teacher Task Force Secretariat.

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ADB to Partner on New $4 Million Facility to Help Asia Meet Climate Commitments

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today announced the launch of the Article 6 Support Facility, a $4 million initiative to help developing member countries (DMCs) in Asia and the Pacific combat climate change through a key provision of the Paris Agreement.

Funded by ADB, the Government of Germany, and the Swedish Energy Agency, the facility will provide technical, capacity building, and policy development support to help the DMCs meet Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, in which countries have voluntarily committed to lower their carbon emissions.

The ultimate goal of the Article 6 Support Facility is for DMCs to achieve critical expertise on Article 6, draw lessons from pilot activities, and enhance their preparedness for participation in carbon markets beyond 2020, while contributing to international negotiations.

The Paris Agreement will go into effect on 1 January, 2020 and aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C.

“This new facility will play an important role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and we are delighted to be establishing it at this very critical time,” says ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Director General Mr. Woochong Um.

“Climate change is a challenge that must be met on a global level and we are confident that this facility will help deliver the critical practical experience, innovation, and learning necessary for our developing member countries to meet their emissions targets.”

The facility is another step by ADB toward meeting its commitment to address climate change, a core part of its long-term strategy, Strategy 2030. The strategy commits ADB to scaling up support to address climate change, climate and disaster risks, and environmental degradation as one of seven operational priorities.

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Climate technology collaboration makes an impact

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In its Five Year Progress Report, the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) has announced that 137 technology solutions have been delivered or are under way in 79 countries. Two thousand five hundred people have been trained and over 10 million tonnes of CO₂eq are expected to be reduced per year with the completion of mitigation-related projects.

The CTCN promotes the accelerated development and transfer of climate technologies for energy-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient development. It is the implementation arm of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Technology Mechanism and is hosted and managed by UN Environment and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

With an original investment of US$40m, the CTCN’s technical assistance has leveraged US$670m in anticipated funding for developing countries’ technology implementation.

“Accelerating the deployment of clean and green technologies is crucial for realizing the aims of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the past five years, the CTCN has served as a powerful example of a UNFCCC mechanism connecting developing countries to the innovative and relevant technologies they seek,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

“Over the last five years, the CTCN has provided targeted interventions to help countries meet their national climate change commitments – through its technology assistance, capacity building programmes and knowledge sharing initiatives. UNIDO is proud to support the Centre in its climate technology transfer mission,” said LI Yong, Director General of UNIDO.

The country-driven nature of the CTCN, with 160 National Designated Entities identifying climate technology needs based on goals set forth in Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans, is closely aligned with the Paris Agreement.

“Our interventions identify the best possible technology options for climate action, and support policy development and resource mobilization to enhance their uptake. Experience from the last five years has taught us that pairing technology expertise with local knowledge is essential, scalability is important and that relationships matter,” emphasized Jukka Uosukainen, Director of the CTCN.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) utilizes the expertise of a global network of over 460 civil society, finance, private sector, and research institutions, to deliver technical assistance and capacity building at the request of developing countries.

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