Issues with connectivity, content, capacity gaps, at present, have been identified as major obstacles in school education in the new normal, and will not be so for long. Speaking at a well-attended two-day workshop jointly organised by the Ministry of Education and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Ministry of Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera emphasised the importance of equity and equality in education through digital technologies and the vision to create a sustainable ecosystem. He also highlighted the important role of a sustainable digital education policy in upcoming education reforms.
This workshop was to bring all relevant stakeholders together to contribute for formulation of a comprehensive digital education policy and guide on sectoral master plans for general, vocational and higher education sectors. It was also attended by the high-level delegates from ICT related industry bodies including Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM), Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS), Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) and the ICT Skills Council. The proceedings were carried out in a participatory manner where everyone was given an equal opportunity to present one’s observations and views.
ICTA CEO Eng. Mahinda B. Herath presented the overall digital architecture of the Government of Sri Lanka and explained in detail the avenues of engagement available for the Government. The presentation also highlighted how this effort will contribute to achieving the national digital economy strategy by the pillar currently led by ICTA Chief Digital Economy Officer Anura De Alwis.
Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka Director General Oshada Senanayake revealed TRC’s ambitious and extensive plans with telecom providers to provide fibre and 4G connectivity to schools and develop the underlying infrastructure to assist digitising education for both delivery and consumption. This will be done recognising the foremost role of education in building the future of the nation, even if that might not bring immediate financial returns.
Though, several attempts were there in the past to formulate a digital roadmap, this was the first time all major education thrust areas have come together to develop overarching policy to address the targets set by the national vision outlined in the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’.
State Ministry of Education Reforms Additional Secretary Niel Gunadasa and Ministry of Education Additional Secretary – Educational Quality Development H.U. Premathilaka, who spearheaded the general education digital transformation too highlighted the necessity of having a consolidated digital education policy.
The industry representatives including CSSL President Damith Hettihewa, FITIS Chairman Abbas Kamrudeen, National ICT Skills Council President Chinthaka Wijewickrama, and representatives from the board of SLASSCOM pledged their fullest support in assisting the efforts of making digital education adopted in the education sector. This will also contribute significantly to achieving the required supply in making a 300,000+ ICT workforce which is associated with $ 3 billion IT export revenue.
ICTA, the joint facilitator of the workshop reiterated the importance of uplifting the capacity of the entire ecosystem including students, teachers, administrators and most importantly, creating awareness among parents who are direct enablers of the students entering and exiting the education system in Sri Lanka.
The intended policy aims at identifying major issues faced by the general. Vocational and Higher education sectors and through active participation also found solutions to some issues. This three stage consultative workshop series will ensure that at the end of the series an actionable, time bound set of activities are set in place strengthened by a policy to push the broader vision of a digitally inclusive prosperous Sri Lanka. In line with that a list of short-term initiatives also have been identified and to be implemented in collaboration with various stakeholders by end of 2021. This list of initiatives is expected to make rapid development in the digital education sector.
Wrapping up the session, ICTA Director Capacity Building Sameera Jaayawardena highlighted that ICTA will continuously facilitate and work on getting industry with all major state entities on education sector work in collaboration achieving national digital transformation agenda.
Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission Director General Janaka Jayalath, National Institute of Education Director General Dr. Sunil Jayantha Nawarathna, UCSC Director
Prof. Hewagamage, and Department of Information and Communication Technology Head Dr. Nalaka Lankasena too actively contributed to the deliberations.