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Bridging the Education–Employment Gap in Sri Lanka

  • Project Name: Education Sector Development Program
  • Region/Country: South Asia/Sri Lanka
  • Sector and Themes: Education
  • Year: 2013-2019
  • Project Leaders: Herathbanda Jayasundara
This first ever results-based loan helped upgrade school classrooms and laboratories and improved teacher training in science and technology.

My engagement with IT opened up more opportunities for me, and I could enhance my skills by using new knowledge.

—Kavindi Madushika, graduate, Rambuka Maha Vidyalaya High School, Pothupitiya

Development challenge

In the 1960s, Sri Lanka was mostly rural with high rates of poverty and low rates of education and literacy. The challenge was to bridge the gap between education and employability. It was important to produce graduates with science and technology skills who would be sought after by employers and encourage participation from female students in this sector.


To help Sri Lanka make the transition from a labor market to a knowledge economy, ADB approved the Education Sector Development Program in 2013. This was the first ever results-based loan (RBL) that targeted upgrading school classrooms and laboratories and improving teacher training in science and technology. The loan had clearly defined indicators—number of improved schools and trained teachers—that ensured the loan was targeted to achieve maximum benefit.

Knowledge products and services delivered

The project introduced several initiatives to improve the quality of training in science and technology. In particular, the project introduced technology courses that allowed secondary school graduates to move more easily into vocational courses, thus supporting their future employability. It also upgraded 255 rural secondary schools to offer science and commerce streams for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level with required teacher training and capacity development of school management.

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The project introduced technology courses that supported the future employability of secondary school graduates.

Impact and results

This was the first ever successful RBL. It helped educators and school administrators improve the financing, management, and planning at schools. The technology stream opened the education system by showing students a wider range of opportunities and has aligned schools more closely to the labor market. Skills and competencies were developed in teachers through the teacher training programs. Upgraded secondary schools provided 5,381 GCE Advanced Level students with the opportunity to study science when they might not have done otherwise. The enrollment numbers increased, and it is hoped that with time the new GCE Advanced Level science schools will become better established and quality of education will improve.

Lessons for Replication

An RBL, if designed appropriately, can support improving the classrooms, training the teachers in science and technology, introducing new and interesting vocational technology courses, and ensuring the effective use of funds to produce the right results. However, the monitoring framework for such loans should be kept simple, so that the indicators are monitored regularly and with ease, and documents streamlined for consistency.

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Through the project, enrollment numbers increased.

I wanted to try engineering technology, even though the majority who chose the course were males. I like that subject a lot. If males can, why can’t we?

—Female student from Rajarata University