Government to consider early childhood-centric budget proposals

The Government is to include a set of proposals from a UNICEF-led meeting on early childhood development in the 2019 budget, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said today.

Speaking at the ‘Building Brains – Building Futures’ high-level meeting held today on early childhood development in Sri Lanka, Samaraweera said that he had received a set of proposals related to the subject and it will be considered in the next budget.

In a landmark event, marking Policy Makers Day of National Early Childhood Care Week 2018, Building Brains, Building Futures, the Sri Lanka Early Childhood Development (ECD) High-Level Meeting presented early childhood-centric budget proposals to Samaraweera for his consideration in the 2019 National Budget.

Investing in health, nutrition, education and protection from birth through to age five – known as Early Childhood Development – enables all children to reach their full brain capacity, and is one of the most effective and proven drivers of sustainable economic growth.

Budget proposals focussed on Health and Nutrition, Protection and Early Childhood Education were presented by the Ministries of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Women and Child Affairs and Education, to the Minister of Finance and Mass Media for his consideration in the National Budget for 2019.

Samaraweera said that a fundamental principle of this Government’s economic development policy is the economic empowerment of Sri Lanka’s citizens.

“We want to create an economy where citizens are able to take their economic destiny into their own hands, without relying on the state for jobs and handouts. This entails the development of entrepreneurship and small business, which is supported by our recently launched Enterprise Sri Lanka scheme. At the heart of empowerment is education. It is education at all levels that endows people with the necessary skills to actively participate in the economy. Sri Lanka has long taken pride in its strong human development outcomes, particularly in education,” he said.

The Minister said that several decades of extensive state investment in education has yielded good results in terms of access to education and near universal literacy.

However, he said there is much more that needs to be done to keep up with global educational standards.

“One such important area of focus is Early Childhood Development. Early Childhood Development (ECD) is of great importance to Sri Lanka as it has the potential to improve school learning outcomes, which can have long lasting effects on the well-being of the population. As Sri Lanka positions itself as a highly competitive knowledge-based economy, robust cognitive development from an early stage becomes essential,” he said.

The Minister said that given the huge benefits that improving learning outcomes can have on promoting human development and boosting economic growth, the Government is committed to increase investment in enhancing education quality.

Samaraweera also said that in 2014, the previous Government spent only 1.46% of its GDP for education but today, the current Government has increased this percentage to 3.5%.

“Our aspiration is to allocate 6% of the country’s GDP for education by 2025. I would like to reiterate this Government’s commitment to investment in education, with renewed focus on Early Childhood Development. We will commit the necessary resources to support such programmes,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)


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