The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced educators to drastically rethink how we teach. Immediately after cases were identified in March, schools and universities were among the very first institutions to be closed down. Since then, educators at all levels from primary to secondary to tertiary education, have been thrust into the deep end. Like their global counterparts, teachers in Sri Lanka turned to Zoom and other digital platforms.
To explore the promising opportunities presented by these technologies and overcoming their challenges, IgniterSpace together with ReadMe Sri Lanka recently held a webinar facilitating a discussion on this topic amongst a panel of veteran senior educators with a live audience of 2,000+ on Facebook.
The panel consisted of Asian International School Principal Harshana Perera, Leeds International Schools Directress Malithi Jayatissa, Alethea International School Principal Buddhika Pathiraja, SL Democratic Education Community Founder Nuwan Dissanayaka, and was moderated by IgniterSpace Co-Founder and CEO Jehan Wijesinghe, and Co-hosted by ReadMe Sri Lanka Director Enosh Praveen. The discussion highlighted how the adoption of digital technologies has offered educators a chance to explore new ideas. However, it has also forced them to learn new skills and parents to play a more active role in their children’s education.
Buddhika Pathiraja elaborated on this saying, “Education in Sri Lanka has been under public scrutiny for years, yet COVID-19 forced us to explore what technology is available to us in K12 schools. Suddenly parents turned into co-teachers and teachers became explorers to find new ways to inspire student engagement at home. It was a good discussion which would hopefully lead towards much-needed changes in Sri Lankan education standards.”
Granted, the use of technology hasn’t been without its fair share of challenges. So what would this change in education look like? Answering this question, Malithi Jayatissa explained, “Education is experiencing an evolutionary change. The use and availability of technology in education will open more opportunities to enhance teaching and learning in future. We have also become aware of the many areas that need improvement and support as a nation to compete globally. However with a positive attitude, if we face the current challenge collaboratively, I believe that the challenges faced now will be a blessing in disguise to better our education systems over the coming years.”
Looking towards the future, the panel agreed that while the pandemic may end, this evolution in education will continue, with Nuwan Dissanayaka adding, “Someday this pandemic will come to an end. When it does, things will seem normal but it will not be the same normal. It will be the new normal, and as educators, it’s our duty to design this new normal for our future generation. The ideas shared during this discussion will mark the initiation of this ‘new normal’ and it was a privilege to be a part of it.”
Reflecting upon the ideas shared during the discussion, Enosh Praveen remarked, “The pandemic has basically accelerated disruption. We never had the opportunity before to solve age-old problems and rewrite entire sectors. This is the most opportune time period to reinvent new solutions.”
In his final thoughts, Jehan Wijesinghe commented, “I’m delighted that we were able to bring together experienced educators in Sri Lanka to discuss the changes in education due to COVID-19. We witnessed participation from several curious minds and delivered valuable insights that shared how educators are tackling these disruptions and moving forward to bring about a positive evolution of the education system.”
(IgniterSpace is a creative education company which focuses on developing problem-solving and creative thinking skills of children of ages 5-18. The company offers maker kits for children to build simple products and runs a network of maker spaces in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where children are inspired to become technology thought leaders.)