Sri Lanka as a country has heavily invested in the free education system since 1945 and maintains the glory of the highest youth literacy rate (98.77%) in South Asia. However, at the tertiary education level, this trend entirely reverses relative to other comparator countries in the region due to a lack of opportunities to meet the demands. Only 43% of the Sri Lankan student population is offered free tertiary education opportunities in the local universities and vocational training institutes; the remaining 47% migrate for studies and/or enter the workforce without proper job-oriented skills training. To exacerbate the matter, 88% of Sri Lanka’s local graduates who received the free tertiary education will also migrate overseas (22% migrate to the U.S.) for postgraduate education and employment opportunities. Among these individuals, 38% are STEM graduates. This significant diaspora tradition creates turmoil jeopardizing the economic growth of Sri Lanka and stagnating the annual growth rate at 6%-7%.
SLAKE was founded with the main objective of creating a conduit that reverses brain drain by being the virtual platform that reinjects expertise in science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, mathematics, and medical (STEEMM) fields to rejuvenate the professional environment and economy of Sri Lanka. SLAKE gathers students, researchers, professionals, and organizations in Sri Lanka and of Sri Lankan origin in the U.S. and directs their expertise towards the development and enrichment of scholarly projects and professional ventures, such as local businesses and entrepreneurial initiatives, by carefully partnering knowledge and technological demands with matching expertise. Among the expected benefits SLAKE will bring are opportunities for knowledge sharing, professional connections leading to international collaborations, and support to increase the entrepreneur cohort in Sri Lanka, which is currently only 18% of the labor force.
- World Education News and Reviews. (2017). Education in Sri Lanka. https://wenr.wes.org/2017/08/education-in-sri-lanka
- Sri Lanka’s Ministry for Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare. (2008). National Labour Migration Policy for Sri Lanka. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/migpractice/docs/268/Policy.pdf
- Gunawardena, C. and Nawaratne, R. (2017). Brain Drain from Sri Lankan Universities. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences, 40(2), pp.103–118. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljss.v40i2.7541 https://sljss.sljol.info/articles/abstract/10.4038/sljss.v40i2.7541/
- Fernando, M. (2019). Migration and Mitigation of Effect from Migration. International Journal of Scientific Research and Management, 7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336897809_Migration_and_Mitigation_of_effect_from_migration
- International Labour Organization. (2019). Future of Work in Sri Lanka: Shaping Technology Transitions for a Brighter Future. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/—ilo-colombo/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_677979.pdf
- Asian Development Bank. (2020). COVID-19 Impact on Job Postings: Real-Time Assessment Using Bangladesh and Sri Lanka Online Job Portals. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/606711/covid-19-impact-job-postings-bangladesh-sri-lanka.pdf