Friday, 2 August 2013 00:00
Everyone is talented
Parents send their children to school to be well educated. They learn many things during their childhood. But not every one of them obtains excellent GCE (O/L) and (A/L) results. Yet some who did not pass their examinations well have flourished in various careers later on. Most of these individuals showcase their talents at vocational training institutes, technical colleges, etc.
Some even follow higher education courses and obtain degrees and post graduate qualifications. Some become successful entrepreneurs creating employment opportunities even for doctors, lecturers, professors in their own institutions.
The important thing to understand in these circumstances is that some of our inborn talents cannot be measured through GCE (O/L) or (A/L) examinations.
For example, the ability to accurately coordinate one’s limbs (kinaesthetic intelligence), the knowledge to judge and think about oneself (intra-personal intelligence), the social skills or people skills such as being a good team leader (inter-personal intelligence) the knowledge to work caring and protecting the environment and nature (naturalist intelligence) are some of the intelligences which cannot be assessed at O/L or A/L examinations. This inability to showcase and assess hidden talents of a child even though he/she is not successful in science and mathematics is a shortfall of our education and examination system.
A true change
In recent times, one of the most important changes to occur in favour of most Sri Lankan children who have the talent of ‘doing’ apart from ‘knowing’ or theoretical knowledge, is the introduction of technology subjects stream to the GCE (A/L) curriculum.
Credit pass in mathematics and science is not a prerequisite
A child who has passed six subjects including mathematics, science and mother tongue at GCE (O/L) with credit passes for any three subjects can select this A/L technology stream. The idea here is to believe and highlight the child’s hidden talents.
Compared with the theoretical knowledge obtained from a conventional university, this technology stream can create real people with not only the ability to think but also the ability to perform.
Technology and aptitudes to enter the ‘world of work’
This is a study path with a difference. Here we learn theory and how to apply that theory in to work. We learn about real ‘world of work,’ through working ourselves. This is a study path with two possible options. One can proceed along either; based on one’s talents/skills.
The chart shows the two options.
The 10 subjects recommended are as follows. Students can select a subject of their preference out of the ones available in their schools.
Communication and Mass Media Studies
Information and Communication Technology
Initial phase – 250 schools only
These subject streams will be initiated in 250 schools at first. Each electorate will have at least one such school. Therefore those students who select this subject stream for A/L will have to enrol to the nearest school where these subject streams are taught. The number of schools teaching this stream will be gradually increased.
The subjects engineering technology and bio-systems technology include theory and practical training as well as skills development component. The students will be taken to the nearest Vocational Training Institute or Technical College for practical work/activities. By end of 2014, a complete ‘Technological Studies Unit’ with class rooms, workshops, laboratories and green houses will be built in each selected school with a US$ 200 million soft loan granted by Asian Development Bank. Instead of staring at the school blackboard all day, these students will get the opportunity to learn in a new dynamic learning environment, in this unit. These changes will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the students and the country. The students will be graded on this practical work as well. Other two subjects will be taught in the school and they too will include activities.
A collaborative effort
It is not only the Ministry of Education which plays a part in planning and implementing this subject stream. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development will significantly contribute to this as it is the body that supplies teachers for the engineering technology subject and provide vocational training facilities for practical training and also evaluates the students’ practical activities. Therefore the child benefits from the valuable services of both these Ministries.
The method of assessment
At the end of two years a theoretical examination will be held for the subjects of engineering technology and bio-systems technology with 75% marks allocated for theory. 25% marks will be awarded for the work done at the respective training institute or ‘Technology Studies Unit’.
Therefore this is not only a subject stream evaluations the knowledge, but also skills. This would mean that students who score high marks have assimilated proper practical skills. Other two subjects will be assessed as any other A/L subject.
Roads to success
If the students pass the A/L examination with high grades through these subject streams, they can enter a conventional university and read for a Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech.) degree. The University Grants Commission has already decided to inaugurate a Faculty of Science and Technology in each and every university by 2015 for the said purpose. Also those students who pass this subject stream can enter the ‘University Colleges’ to be newly initiated by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development. Students will have the opportunity to obtain a Diploma, Higher National Diploma or a B. Tech. degree which incorporate both theoretical and practical components relevant to the industry.
Students can apply to many other Degree or Diploma awarding institutions like German Tech, etc.
Failure at exam does not lead to failure in life
Assuming that a child fails at the GCE (A/L) examination in the Technology Stream, it does not mean that the child will fail in life. On the contrary, these students will receive the Level III National Vocational Qualification (NVQ III) from the Ministry of Skills Development for their practical knowledge. NVQ III qualification means they will be suitable for employment. They can proceed to obtain NVQ IV by enrolling in a Technical College or a Training Institution providing this qualification. Thereafter, the B. Tech Degree can be obtained through a newly established University College. Thus there are many paths one can choose for success. All that is needed is a ‘can do’ attitude and the encouragement from loved ones.
“Out of 340,000 students that leave the school system annually, only about 23,000 enter university. Of these, 35% follow the Arts stream. Many of these graduates are faced with limited job opportunities. On the other hand there is a scarcity of candidates to fill the existing job vacancies in the country. There is no relevance. What happens to the children of this country?” This is one of the major accusations aimed at our education system. The introduction of the Technology stream is the answer to these accusations. Now there is a new path. A new path is available to all Sri Lankan children. All those who have participated and continue to participate in the planning and implementation of this new stream will be paid in gratitude when our children blaze this new trail and when Sri Lanka begins to reap the benefits of a new, highly-skilled workforce. It is my belief that in the not so distant future, the rest of the world will hail Sri Lanka as a knowledge hub and a beacon of progress.
(The writer is Monitoring MP, Ministry of Education/Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development.)