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early education

Building the foundation for better early childhood care and education in Sri Lanka

Renu Warnasuriya's picture
 
Playtime of the students of the Nipuna preschool in Welampitiya, Sri Lanka
Playtime of the students of the Nipuna preschool in Welampitiya, Sri Lanka. Credit: Renu Warnasuriya / World Bank
The Little Rose preschool is situated at the base of a fifty-foot high landfill in Colombo’s Kolonnawa Division. Despite being next to one of Sri Lanka’s largest waste sites, the one room preschool is spotless. Inside, 23 children from ages 3 to 5 sit on colorful plastic chairs, dressed immaculately in ‘Little Rose’ uniforms.

Running a preschool in one of Colombo’s biggest slums isn't easy, but head teacher R. A. Shalika Sajeevani exudes positivity. “The children don’t always bring snacks, so once a week, I make lunch for all of them at my home. It’s not a big deal – I cook for my own two sons anyway, I just put in a little extra for them,” she says.

The students  are supposed to pay LKR 500 ($3.40) per month as school fees, but most are only occasionally able to do so. In spite of this, Sajeevani ensures that the preschool doors are open to all children in the neighborhood as many parents in this underserved community cannot afford to pay.

She pays her assistant and covers other expenses from the money collected and retains the rest as salary, a meagre amount of LKR 5,000 ($34) a month. Though this is barely enough to survive in Sri Lanka’s fast growing capital, she has come to work everyday for the last ten years.
 
3.	Students of the Sri Sambuddhaloka Preschool sit down to have morning snacks
Students of the Sri Sambuddhaloka Preschool settle down on the floor for their mid-morning snack. With minimal facilities, this school is currently serving 97 toddlers from one of Colombo’s many low income communities. Credit: Renu Warnasuriya / World Bank

Challenges in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE):

In a country with a well-structured free education system covering primary, secondary, and tertiary education, the state has traditionally provided little in terms of preschool education and care. However, evidence and experience has shown that ECCE improves school readiness and learning outcomes, which ultimately translates into better occupational status and earnings and yields much higher rates of return on investment.

According to the recent report, “Laying the Foundation for Early Childhood Education in Sri Lanka: Investing Early, Investing Smartly, and Investing for All”, Sri Lanka’s public spending on education as a percentage of its economy was the lowest in South Asia and its spending on early childhood education (ECE) is significantly lower than the global average.

While the country boasts of a near universal primary school enrollment rate, only about half of its 3 to 5 year-olds are enrolled in preschools which  are not primarily covered by the state. Around 60 percent of preschools are run by the private sector and 24 percent by the  other organizations and religious groups.   

Income and location are found to be among the key determinants of access to ECCE. Children from the richest 20 percent of the population are 17 percent more likely to be enrolled in preschools than children from the poorest 20 percent. Enrollment rates in urban areas is 10 percent higher than enrollment in rural or estate areas. Many centers in the country do not have adequate learning materials and quality teachers, coupled with the lack of standardized curricula and teaching facilities. Many teachers to their credit, have to depend on their own creativity to develop activities and teaching methods.    
 

Unpaved Roads Lead to a Better Future for Moldova’s Children

Victor Neagu's picture

Nearly three years ago, a large delegation was pulling in front of a newly-renovated kindergarten building in the village of Cucuruzeni, Moldova to unveil a long-awaited addition for its 2,000 inhabitants. Newly planted flowers and the fresh smell of paint constantly reminded me that this was more than just a World Bank-financed project -- it marked the beginning of better education for children of the community.
Two weeks ago, as I was driving north of Moldova’s capital Chisinau, our driver veered off on an unpaved eight kilometer stretch of road. The dusty, bumpy ride would take me back to Cucuruzeni, after three years.
My anticipation did not go unrewarded. The building was spotless.  I stopped in front of a dozen smiling, and curious three- and four-year-olds, excited to see visitors. Three years ago, this would have been out of the ordinary for me. Now, as the father of a 2.5-year-old son, I am in a kindergarten five times a week. This visit, however, was special.  

Children enjoy learning, bringing better education in Timor-Leste

Laura Keenan's picture
With new learning materials, children are more interested to come to school as learning becomes more enjoyable.

I’ve always been passionate about the need to focus on education in order to achieve lasting development and this is especially true in Timor-Leste, a country with one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world. I visited a number of schools around the country to see the benefits of two of the World Bank’s projects in the education sector: the Fast Track Initiative Bridging Project 2009 and the Education Sector Support Project, co-funded by AusAID.