Sri Lanka must find its own balance between free education and fee-based education, particularly in the field of tertiary education in order to bring maximum benefit to the wider economy, according to Global President of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Sir Paul Judge.
“The benefit of education comes in two parts. Firstly, to the person who receives education, which gives them a direct benefit in terms of better career prospects and this in turn benefits the economy and society at large,” Sir Judge stated.
“While it is generally recognized that education should be ‘needs-blind’ and it does not favour people based on their wealth, naturally not everyone can afford an education. So the question clearly isn’t whether or not there should be free education because a well educated population leads to a stronger economy. Instead we should ask what is the ideal mix that allows for a sustainable, quality education system,” he pointed out.
Sir Judge is in the country on a fact finding mission commissioned with a view to forming a development plan for Sri Lanka towards the year 2030, with a particular focus on the country’s education sector on an invitation extended by Cabinet Minister of External Affairs, Prof G.L. Peiris.
As part of his mission, Sir Judge will be meeting with officials from the Ministries of Education and Youth Affairs as well as visiting education institutes across the island.
Sri Lanka’s own commitment to free education and the welfare state model itself has seen a steady decline with government allocations to the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and to the Provincial Councils amounting to only 1.51 percent of the GDP.
The downward trend reflecting a reprioritization of government spending on welfare, including free education and health is however not a new development, having first commenced in 2006.
Noting that Sri Lanka had made remarkable strides in its post-conflict economic growth, Sir Judge nevertheless stated that a long-term development plan based on the projected requirements of the country would play an important role in ensuring cohesive development for the country going forward. “As I understand it, the Sri Lankan government has put forward some ambitious growth targets already and I think that is a very sensible move because if you can keep the growth between 6-8 percent, you can double the per capita wealth over a relatively short period of time,” Sir Judge observed.
“The government cannot create wealth, only private enterprise can do that.So, the government’s role then is to facilitate private enterprise. A good education system is certainly one of the most important prerequisites for this. Certainly, it won’t be easy with limited resources and there will be difficult decisions to be made and that is where a healthy consultation process with good public participation is important,” Sir Judge stated. A close supporter of the United Kingdom’s ruling Conservative Party, Sir Judge is on the panel of senior advisors to the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and has served as the President of the CIM since 2008. He has previously acted as an Independent Advisor to Togo, Kenya and South Africa, whilst also acting as the Chairman and Managing Director of Schroder Income Growth Fund PLC, a European equity-focused investment trust.