Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry has emphasized the need to reform higher education in Sri Lanka.

Addressing the Parliament this morning (09 Dec), Sabry noted that travelling overseas for higher education, or getting into a local university should not be the only two options available to the students of Sri Lanka.

While acknowledging that Sri Lanka is unable to provide free education for all students, Sabry noted that this was the case globally, including in developed countries such as the USA and the United Kingdom.

He, however, noted that although the provision of free education for all is impractical, Sri Lanka needs to provide an opportunity for those students who are unable to get into local universities or travel overseas.

“Currently, we provide a certain number of students with free education, however, to those remaining, we tell them to go overseas if they have the money to do so, but otherwise, there is no room for them to study here in Sri Lanka. Is this right? Is this fair?” the minister questioned.

Accordingly, he suggested that Sri Lanka, too, should become a regional educational hub, similar to what is being done in Malaysia. Sabry noted, however, that each time such an initiative is attempted in Sri Lanka, it is shut down almost immediately.

“Today, our children have to go abroad to study. Approximately USD 1.6 billion leaves the country on a yearly basis because of this. This year, however, I don’t think such a large sum can be afforded. Owing to the country’s current state, the most talented students are left stranded as they are unable to enter into local universities and are being rejected by foreign universities due to the dollar crisis”, Sabry said, questioning how much longer Sri Lanka is going to aid this catastrophic issue.

“I will continue to stress on the critical need to reform higher education in Sri Lanka”, he asserted, adding that Sri Lanka should become “globally competitive”.

“We have in our country what we need to become an education hub in the region. This will require some planning and a new way of thinking, but it certainly can be done and it should be done”, Sabry said, sounding hopeful.

Earlier this month, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, too, stated that Sri Lanka has the potential to become a regional hub for education.