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Education equity in Sri Lanka: A pathway out of poverty



By Wimal Nanayakkara

Although Sri Lanka has provided universal free education since 1939, around one-fifth of poor children drop out of school after the age of 14 years and another-two thirds after the age of 16 years. Comparison of estimates based on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES)-2012/13 and HIES-2016, conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS), show only a marginal improvement.

With the closure of schools following the COVID-19 outbreak and the sudden shift to online learning, poor children with no access to e-learning opportunities risk falling even further behind. In this context, some proposals made in budget 2021 to improve the education system and reduce poverty will benefit poor children who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This blog highlights some of the education-related difficulties faced by poor children in Sri Lanka based on HIES data and the recent budget proposals which could help them to overcome these difficulties.

Poor children out of school

A large proportion of poor children are dropping out of school after 14 years, and the percentage of poor children (15-16 years) not attending school has declined only by 4.2, between the two survey periods. Among poor children aged between 17-18 years, this figure has remained almost unchanged at nearly 65%. The corresponding percentages for non-poor children are much lower (Table 1).

Out of the poor children (15-16 years) who leave the education system, more than 66% left mainly due to “poor educational progress/not willing to attend” (36.6%), “financial problems” (22.1%), or to “help in housekeeping /other activities of the household” (8.6%). The corresponding percentages of poor children (17-18 years) were 49.5, 15.8 and 20.0 respectively. One of the reasons for poor education progress could be inadequate nutritional intake. The HIES-2016 shows that the per capita energy consumption of poor households with children (5-18 years) is less than 75% [or 1513 kilo calories per capita a day (kcpcad)] of the recommended energy requirement (2030 kcpcad). The corresponding consumption of non-poor households is 2081 kcpcad, above the recommended requirement.

As there is a possibility for some of the near-poor children to slip into poverty, due to the effects of COVID-19, it is important to consider both poor and near-poor. Figure (1) shows the proportions of early school leavers are very high for poor and near-poor children compared to non-poor. There is also a significant gender gap, especially among the poor and near-poor.


For example, 73.6% of poor boys aged 17-18 years are out of school compared to 53.9% of poor girls in this age group. The corresponding percentages for the 15-16 age group are 24.5 and 14.2 respectively. A similar pattern is observed for near-poor children and even non-poor children, although the proportions are significantly low for non-poor.

Inadequacy of facilities for online learning

Inequality in education can be further widened as not all children have the necessary facilities for online learning during prolonged curfews, lockdowns or when schools are kept closed indefinitely. According to the Computer Literacy Survey –2019 (DCS), only 22.2% of the households in Sri Lanka own a desktop/laptop computer (Urban: 38.3%; Rural: 19.9% and Estate: 3.8%). According to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) of Sri Lanka, there were a total of 1.53 million fixed internet subscribers and 5.73 million mobile subscribers in 2018. However, the use of smartphones would be limited, especially in remote rural areas, where broadband internet facilities are weak and there is no information on the extent of smartphone users among the poor.

‘E-Thaksalawa’ the national e-learning portal of the Ministry of Education (MoE), is facilitating e-learning for students (Grade 1 to Advanced Level). But some children, cannot access them at present due to the lack of facilities or means. Broadband internet facilities, a computer/laptop or a smartphone and sufficient data are essential to download available study material.

As highlighted in a previous IPS blog, the best option therefore would be to use television (TV) as 86% (HIES-2016) of households in the country own TVs (Urban: 88.9%; Rural: 86.1% and Estate: 81.2%). The ‘Guru Gedara’ distance learning programme of the MoE broadcast by Channel Eye/Nethra TV, ART TV and Ada Derana, for students from Grade 3 to GCE (A/L) are both in Sinhala and Tamil. The SLBC is also broadcasting these lessons for the benefit of children who do not have access even to a TV.

This is an excellent and innovative way for poor children to continue their studies in a stream of their choice, who may be leaving education prematurely due to lack of facilities, especially teachers, to teach science/ technology subjects, mathematics, languages, etc., in rural/estate schools and non-national schools.

Budget proposals

Budget 2021 has some proposals which, if implemented, could solve most of the issues highlighted above. They will benefit the poor and vulnerable children, who are facing difficulties in continuing their education, explained above. The proposals are also aimed at developing the entire education system with special emphasis on skills development, to meet the ever-increasing demand for high skills and also to provide necessary facilities.

A summary of some of the most important proposals are:

• ‘Gamata Sannivedanaya’ to provide 4G/Fiber broadband facilities to cover all Grama Niladhari divisions; internet facilities to all schools.

• ‘E-Thaksalawa’ learning portal to be strengthened further to minimise the difficulties faced by students in rural / estate and non-national schools.

• ‘Guru Gedara’ programme to be made available to all students, by providing TV sets to schools in difficult areas.

• Improving and expanding the opportunities for vocational/technical education, which will be extremely useful in developing the necessary skills in a rapidly changing environment.

The early implementation of these proposals could pave the way to breaking the vicious poverty trap through equitable education and ensuring that no child is left behind.

Link to original ‘Talking Economics’ blog:

Wimal Nanayakkara is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) with research interests in poverty, and is a specialist in sampling. He was previously engaged at the Department of Census and Statistics, where he functioned as the Director General for 12 years. He received his BSc in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Peradeniya and holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Statistics from the University of Reading, UK. (Talk to Wimal –

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Next Meats, Purveyor of the World’s First Plant-based Yakiniku Meats, Is Now in Singapore



The Tokyo-based startup makes its debut in the alt-protein hotspot of Singapore Next Meats has collaborated with Aburi-EN to deliver two new meal sets Made with soybean proteins, the Kalbi contains no chemical additives or animal ingredients


 Media OutReach – 14 April 2021 – Next Meats, a purveyor of the world’s first plant-based yakiniku meats, is making its debut in the alternative protein hotspot, Singapore! The Japanese alternative meat company has collaborated this time with popular Japanese restaurant Aburi-EN, which will offer two types of set meals using the NEXT Kalbi (boneless short rib) for the very first time. Made largely from soy proteins, the NEXT Kalbi contains double the amount of protein and half the fats than that of regular meat and even more, it does not contain any chemical additives or cholesterol due to its lack of animal ingredients. Now, Singaporeans can enjoy yakiniku without the guilt! 

The two new menus available at Aburi-EN are the Kalbi Don Set (S$13.80) and the Stamina Teishoku (S$15.80) — which are available for a limited time only. Next Meats has specifically chosen to work with Aburi-EN as they are a Japanese grilled-meat specialist. The two menus are the culmination of many months of research and development, and they will also be Aburi-EN’s first-ever plant-based dishes.

For the Kalbi Don Set, Next Meat’s Kalbi is grilled and served atop a bowl of fragrant Japanese steamed rice. Equally indulgent, the Stamina Teishoku features the Kalbi stir-fried with cabbage along with egg imported from Okinawa. The meat is then served with fragrant Japanese steamed rice, salad, pickles and miso soup. For both dishes, the meats are glazed with a special homemade sauce that packs an irresistible umami punch.   

 Both the Kalbi Don Set and Stamina Teishoku will be available at all Aburi-EN stores from April to July 2021.

 An advocate of sustainable food production and better food security

 The NEXT Kalbi is one of Next Meats’ innovative offerings, which includes other plant-based delicacies such as the NEXT burger and NEXT gyudon (beef bowl). The company champions the importance of saving the planet and humanity through reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (which is produced from meat consumption and animal agriculture) and utilizing biotechnology to combat protein deficiency.

 Through extensive research and development, Next Meats has culminated the knowhow on using molecular binding to mould vegetable proteins from powder. Buoyed by state-of-the-art, proprietary technologies, the company has successfully created vegan substitutes that replicate the texture of real meat.



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Lanka Hospitals tops healthcare sector in LMD’s Most Awarded Entities



Lanka hospitals, the internationally accredited multiple award-winning healthcare provider, topped the healthcare sector in the Most Awarded list compiled by LMD magazine for 2019/20.

Designed to rank the most awarded entities in Sri Lanka, LMD conducted the research, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, involving 204 corporate entities, based on the cumulative tally of awards received from 52 awarding bodies between January 2019 to September 2020.

With a total of five awards, securing the overall rank of 67, Lanka Hospitals came first in the healthcare sector.

Deepthi Lokuarachchi, Group CEO, Lanka Hospitals, said three factors contributed towards Lanka Hospitals’ award winning process; profound commitment to quality, service standard in healthcare and the accreditation of Joint Commission International (JCI).

“Our stringent standards for quality have earned accolades and accreditations from numerous national and international agencies. Lanka Hospitals has been in the forefront of healthcare providers since 2009 and, particularly, between 2019 and 2020, we were able to win seven national and international awards including one for environmental management systems”, he said.

As a result of superior facilities, customer care and quality of service Lanka Hospitals offers, a growth was experienced in terms of medical tourists during the Covid-19 pandemic even though the inbound international population was restricted. JCI, a US-based accreditation agency, rates healthcare services based on several criteria related to medical as well as non medical services”, he noted.

In terms of corporate responsibility, Lanka Hospitals focuses on skills development, medical care and donations. Every year, Lanka Hospitals’ nursing school enrolls batches from outside the Western province and upon the successful completion of the course they are offered employment, he added.



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Sino Lanka Power Gen to install 2MW solar power at Taprobane Seafood Dankotuwa plant



Sino Lanka Power Gen announced its partnership with Taprobane Seafood to supply and install a one-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system at their plant in Dankotuwa. This is the first of a two-phased project with the second megawatt to be installed in two years. The collaboration will result in a 19,000 tonne reduction in Taprobane’s carbon footprint over 20 years, a company news release said.

“Combating climate change has become critical and we are delighted to team up with Taprobane Seafood to be a part of their solar expansion strategy,” said Dhiren Kundanmal, Director of Sino Lanka Power Gen. “We are honoured that Taprobane Seafood, being a conscientious brand aiming to reduce its carbon footprint, is looking towards us as a working partner in this area. Our approach is fivefold i.e., improve yields and plant performance, reduce downtime, holistic monitoring, skill transfer, and finally minimising their liability and risk.”

Commenting on the partnership, Taprobane’s Managing Director Timothy O’Reilly said Taprobane Seafood has always been at the forefront of ethical labour practices, sustainable development, and earth friendly practices. “Shifting to solar energy is an important step in our sustainability journey and we believe Sino Lanka is the right partner for us given their expertise in the renewable energy industry,” he said.

Established in 2010, the Taprobane Seafood Group is Sri Lanka’s leading seafood company with over 1,500 direct employees in 11 processing facilities throughout the north-western and northern province. With high quality standards, social responsibility, and sustainability values, Taprobane’s vision is to be the global leader in sustainable and socially responsible seafood.

Sino Lanka Power Gen provides state-of-the-art equipment, capable of withstanding harsh tropical environments, utilising the latest technology from Canadian Solar and SunPower, alongside Tier 1 purpose-built inverters. The company adopts the latest industry trends -namely IoT, big data, and AI- to ensure their systems perform optimally for well over 20 years.

Sino Lanka Power Gen’s vision is to support the government’s initiatives on the “Soorya Bala Sangramaya” policy statement that sets a target of meeting 70% of the country’s total electricity demand from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Sino Lanka Power Gen is a joint venture between the Sino Lanka Group – an Asian enterprise with investments in real estate, hospitality, chemicals, healthcare, financial services, and rooftop solar, among others-, and the Atman Group, an investment holding company with investments in renewable energy, hospitality, real estate, and agriculture.

Sino Lanka Power Gen provides reliable and modern renewable and sustainable sources of energy for businesses, with a dedicated engineering and operations team that counts over 25 years of collective experience in implementing rooftop solar projects across Sri Lanka.




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