Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It calls for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people and the planet.
For sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonise three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. These elements are interconnected, and all are crucial for the well-being of individuals and societies.
Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. To this end, there must be promotion of sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, and promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action, to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started a global effort in 2000 to tackle the indignity of poverty. The MDGs established measurable, ‘universally agreed’ objectives for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, and expanding primary education to all children, among other development priorities.
The SDGs came into effect in January 2016, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has planned to continue to guide the world to accomplish the SDGs in 2030.
In 2015, Sri Lanka pledged commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs along with 192 other Member States of the United Nations. The 2030 Agenda has helped Sri Lanka to enrich its path to sustainable development through an approach that harmonises economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development.
Sri Lanka’s potential for the successful implementation and achievement of the SDGs is reflected in its performance under the MDGs, especially with regard to health, education, and poverty. In addition, Sri Lanka is ranked under the category of countries with high human development, recording a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.77 (Rank 76) in 2018. This signifies the country’s strong basis in terms of social development.
The SDGs are vastly ambitious. The inter-linkages among the 17 SDGs and the cross-cutting themes embedded in its framework have resulted in a complex global agenda for development. As such, achieving the SDGs requires a coordinated action across policy areas. All government institutions need to act in collaboration.
As per the initiatives provided by the Government and in accordance with the global conception towards sustainable development, NSB too, has adopted new initiatives which impact the local communities with a sustainable approach, such as the islandwide Grade 5 Scholarship Seminar Campaigns and Art Competitions, Flood Relief Campaigns for affected schools and the distribution of crop plants.
SDG No. 4 for Quality Education
In the SDG ‘priority list’ by the UNDP, Quality Education ranks at the fourth place signifying the importance bestowed upon having a complete formal education to an individual. Achieving inclusive and quality education for all, reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.
According to a preliminary study, the Bank identified that the English Language is the subject which has the lowest pass rate at the Ordinary Level examinations, even below Mathematics.
As per the initiatives provided by the Sustainable Development Act, the Bank has extended its CSR drive to a new dimension with the scope to achieve SDGs by proposing to conduct a pilot project in order to enhance the English language proficiency, selecting national schools with a pass rate below 50 per cent for English Language at the GCE (O/L) Examination in 2017. As an international language and basic requirement for many professions, the project will encourage the academics, parents and school children in the area to take up the subject with confidence.
Why NSB selected the English Language for its SDG initiative
Low Pass Rate at the GCE (O/L) Examination for English Language:
Recognising the critical need for strong English language skills in today’s context of ever-expanding globalisation, technological advancement, and modernised labour markets, NSB will implement the project ‘English is Simple’ with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education.
As stated above, providing a better future for our next generation through quality education is one of our key Sustainable Development Goals for 2019. Preliminary research by the Bank identified that the statistics of the Department of Education had indicated that the English Language has the lowest pass rate in the GCE (O/L) examinations.
Lack of English proficiency is a key constraint affecting the employability, higher education opportunities and confidence in a globalised world. Although teaching English as a second language to all school children has been a key social policy of successive governments since the early 1950s, the Census of Population and Housing data indicates that English literacy is just 22 per cent among Sri Lanka’s population above 15 years of age.
Stakeholders of the SDG Project ‘English is Simple’
School children and teachers
School children in the selected schools of Grade 8 to 11 are the direct beneficiaries of the SDG project and upon the request of Ministry of Education the curricula will be shared amongst all the schools island wide.
National Savings Bank
Being one of the leading Government institutions in Sri Lanka, the National Savings Bank (NSB) shares a Savings culture and a heritage deeply rooted among Sri Lankans for hundreds of years. With timely technological, product and service transformations, NSB achieved an asset base of Rs 1 trillion in 2018 and earned the trust of millions of Sri Lankans.
As a State entity, NSB identified the need to acknowledge and respond to SDGs according to the Government’s directions. Therefore, the Bank with the support of the Ministry of Education initiated the project ‘English is Simple’ an English Education enhancement project for the school children in Grades 8, 9, 10 and 11 of 81 selected Schools Islandwide.
Ministry of Education
As the Government authority responsible for the education of school children, the English and Foreign Languages Branch (EFLB) of the Ministry, heeded the call of NSB in designing a separate curriculum, teacher-training, and performance-monitoring
Launch of the project took place at the Ministry of Education on 7 September 2022 with the participation of Minister of Education, Susil Premajayantha, Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Nihal Ranasinghe, Chairperson, NSB, Keasila Jayawardena, GM/CEO, NSB, Ajith Peiris and DGM (Marketing & Recoveries) M. Lal Karunatilaka.