President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of English education and infrastructure development in the next five years. He expressed his commitment to promoting English as a national language and ensuring that teachers and necessary resources are provided for its effective teaching. The President also highlighted that the opportunity should also be given to learn languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, and Arabic and should not be limited to English alone.

 Measures to promote English as a national language
 Government’s aim is to establish an Education System Tailored for the Year 2050

These remarks were made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe during his address at the national ceremony for awarding teacher appointments to National Education Diploma holders for the 2018-2022 academic year. The event took place at Temple Trees (16).

President Wickremesinghe, who presided over the ceremony, awarded 1,729 teacher appointments for national schools and 626 appointments for the Western Province. Similar appointments were also made for the other eight provinces, resulting in a total of 7,342 National Education Diploma holders receiving appointments on this day.

Furthermore, the President emphasized the government’s commitment to establishing an education system that extends beyond the year 2050. He recognized that human resources are vital for the country’s economic development and highlighted the teachers’ responsibility in preparing the future workforce. President Wickremesinghe stressed the need to develop the export economy and make necessary changes to the education system to prevent future economic crises, despite the current economic stability in the country.

President Wickremesinghe further said;

“First of all, I would like to extend my congratulations to all of you who are receiving appointments today. I am aware that due to the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic and the political situation in the country, you had to dedicate an additional two years to your education. I would also like to express my gratitude to the deans and teachers who have provided you with this education during these difficult times.

When I served as the Minister of Education in 1985, we initiated the establishment of the Colleges of Education. It has been 38 years since the Faculty of Education was established, and during this time, significant changes have taken place. Back then, mobile phones were nonexistent, and computers were limited and mainly produced by American and British companies. Today, those companies have faced bankruptcy, and computer manufacturing has shifted to countries like China and India, where they possess the necessary expertise. This shift signifies a significant change and the addition of new knowledge.

We find ourselves in the 21st century, yet our education system still reflects the practices of the 20th century. As a government, we are committed to creating an education system that aligns with the demands of the 21st century.

We are currently facing an economic crisis, and in order to move forward and prevent future economic crises, we must improve our trade balance and generate revenue through exports. Consequently, we need to develop an education system that aligns with these objectives.
The key resource for building our economy is our human resource, which is nurtured by our teachers. Therefore, it is crucial that we enhance our teacher resources to strengthen our economy.

To address these matters, we have formed a dedicated ministerial committee for education, tasked with discussing and making decisions regarding education. The National Education Commission has already submitted a report, and a group representing various sectors, chaired by the Prime Minister’s Secretary for Education Modernization, has also been appointed.

We expect to receive all these reports by the end of August, with the aim of creating an education system suitable not only for the present but also for the year 2050, considering the changing needs and demands of the future.

We must ensure that students do not drop out of school after completing the eighth year or failing the GCE O/L examination. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to provide 13 years of schooling to every child, a commitment we have undertaken. Accordingly, adjustments should be made to school education.

Talented individuals in music and art should be given the opportunity to develop their abilities. Scandinavian countries provide such opportunities, and we should also implement similar programs that encompass not only Advanced-level subjects but also essential life skills.

There is a question regarding the necessity of conducting the Ordinary Level examination if students are to complete 13 years of education. Some argue that a general examination is unnecessary, and we can look to countries like the United States, the most developed nation in the world, where such an examination does not exist. While completely eliminating examinations may not be feasible for us, we must deliberate on how to structure them, whether it be in a different format or as a pass/fail assessment.

If we are providing 13 years of education, it is our duty to ensure that the examinations are conducted accordingly. Currently, the exam dates fluctuate, with A-level examinations taking place in different months from January to December. Therefore, it is crucial that we pass legislation mandating the A-level examination to be held in December. This way, the Examination Department bears the primary responsibility of conducting examinations within the specified timeframe.

I was 21 years old when I completed my university education, but now it is recommended to complete university studies by the age of 23. Times have changed, and there are many new subjects and fields of study available today. Among them, the English language has become incredibly essential. It is almost unthinkable for anyone to feel that they can get by without knowing English.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, many Sinhala writers and literary figures were influenced and nurtured by the English language. Prominent figures such as Ven. Sri Sumangala Thera of Hikkaduwa, E.R. Sarathchandra, and Martin Wickramasinghe all developed their talents through English education. Therefore, it is crucial that we establish a program to provide English education to all. The first step is to ensure an adequate number of English teachers. This program should not be limited to the next five years; rather, it should pave the way for English to be recognized as a national language. Despite English not being the official language, many of our documents and files are still maintained in English. However, we must not stop there. We have also created opportunities for learning languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, and Arabic.

Furthermore, our university system needs to be modernized. We must decide whether the duration of university education should be three or four years. Additionally, our state universities should undergo modernization to meet the evolving needs of our students.

Presently, around 40,000 students enter universities each year, while some choose to study abroad, and others pursue higher education in various institutions. Consequently, we are working towards establishing state universities, national universities, and non-state universities to accommodate the increasing demand. Moreover, we have decided to provide loans with subsidized or no interest to students studying in non-governmental universities and higher education institutes.

Unlike other countries, where students have the freedom to choose their subjects, in our country, the government decides what each student should study. We need to reform this system and grant students the right to choose the subjects they are passionate about.

Looking ahead, none of us can accurately predict what the classrooms will be like in the next 15-20 years. We must explore how we can embrace technologies like artificial intelligence and adapt our teaching methods accordingly. With advancements like Chat GPT, teaching approaches will undergo a complete transformation in the future. We are currently experiencing a significant era of change, and it is essential that we embrace and move forward with these technological advancements.”

Expressing his views, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardane said;

“Starting today, I am bound by a profound responsibility and duty to contribute the educational training and knowledge I have acquired towards the development of our country. It is my role to fulfill the hopes of the new generation and nurture them with new knowledge, creating a future generation that is equipped with the necessary tools for success. This is a time where both responsibility and duty play a vital role in our education, and knowledge has become a valuable asset in fulfilling these tasks.

The knowledge that an individual acquires cannot be destroyed by any material possession. It is now my entrusted responsibility to utilize the unique training I have received and impart it to our children and students across various subjects. By doing so, I contribute to shaping a generation that will build a strong and prosperous future for Sri Lanka.

During the time when our current President served as the Minister of Education, he initiated the establishment of science faculties and provided specialized training to a generation of teachers. Today, I continue to walk this path, playing my part in imparting knowledge to the students of our nation, who will grow up to become resilient citizens of Sri Lanka.

Despite the existing economic challenges, the President has demonstrated unwavering support for the education sector and its endeavours. We are empowered to work towards a society where strong and knowledgeable children emerge from our schools. Each one of us must remain committed to striving for our desired goals in the realm of quality education.”

Minister of Education Dr. Susil Premajayanth;

“The introduction of the National Educational Institutions Act of 1985 and the Colleges Act of 1986, by the President during his tenure as the Minister of Education, marked a significant milestone. It granted us the opportunity to deploy teachers in our school system after completing a three-year training course.

Currently, there are approximately 250,000 teachers serving in 10,135 public schools across our country. A staggering 4.1 million children are enrolled in government schools, while an additional 150,000 students attend private and international schools.

The primary objective of this program was to ensure that schools are staffed with trained and qualified teachers. As part of ongoing efforts, proposals are being implemented to transform the existing three-year courses offered by 19 faculties of education into four-year programs that produce graduates instead of diploma holders. Additionally, those who have completed their training as diploma holders are now provided the opportunity to further their qualifications up to the level of graduation through institutions such as the National Institute of Education.

Furthermore, we have developed plans to facilitate the provision of necessary facilities and opportunities for pursuing postgraduate degrees.

These initiatives signify our commitment to enhancing the quality and professionalism of our teaching workforce. By extending the duration of the training courses and offering advanced educational opportunities, we aim to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their roles and contribute effectively to the education sector.”

Ministers Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Prasanna Ranatunga, Vidura Wickremanayake, State Ministers Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Piyal Nishantha, Suren Raghavan, Aravind Kumar and Members of Parliament, Western Province Governor Roshan Gunathilake, Secretary of the Ministry of Education M.N. Ranasinghe, Western Province Chief Secretary Pradeep Yasaratne, Additional Secretaries of the Ministry of Education, People’s Bank Chairman Sujeewa Rajapaksa, and Deans of the Faculty of Science were present on this occasion.

President’s Media Division (PMD)