The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals call for holistic education in all sectors and for all age groups. No matter what our development goals, education can give vulnerable children the knowledge and the power they need to identify their rights, fight for them effectively and succeed in the real world.
In the early years of life, an environment of nurturing is crucial to the mental stimulation, social interaction and positive life skills young children need to develop and grow. Today, Sri Lanka’s preschool sector is largely unregulated. Many children do not receive the quality preschool education they need to enter primary schools and ultimately succeed in their lives. Curricula needs standardizing and updating, and their implementation needs support. Teachers need training in age-appropriate delivery methods that develop students’ motoric, socio-emotional and cognitive competencies in preparation for school life. The Early Childhood Development Standards (ECDS), which provide a holistic vision of the skills and knowledge that pre-school children require, needs to be implemented universally.
As children pass through middle childhood and adolescence, it is important for them to continue developing the foundational and transversal competencies they need to succeed in a changing country and an increasingly global, competitive market. In certain pockets of poverty, particularly in the tea-estate areas and in former conflict-affected areas of the North and East, levels of learning remain low. Providing an education that directly prepares students for the job market can prevent school dropouts in lower and upper secondary education.
Across all age groups, the education system needs to promote social cohesion and peace by integrating these concepts more tightly with the curriculum, thereby developing a generation of young adults that understand diversity, empathy, active citizenship and fundamental human rights. Similarly, learning materials, curricula and pedagogy need to be developed and rolled out to meet the needs of children with disabilities.
Education should not be exclusive to our children either; Parents, teachers, caregivers, institutions, policymakers and other stakeholders need to be empowered so that child-sensitive practices can take root, spread and drive sustainable national growth.