Sri Lanka’s benchmark bank extends its commitments in the education sphere with a ground breaking new website
A new educational website that will bring the universe of knowledge closer to Sri Lankan children has been launched by the Commercial Bank of Ceylon as a community initiative that builds on the bank’s on-going commitments on a national scale, in the spheres of IT literacy and online education.
A unique pilot project linking ‘Sipnena’ the new website, with 10 schools in diverse regions such as Jaffna in the north, Beliatta and Matara in the south, Minneriya, Kegalle and Kalawana in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa, and Nawalapitiya in the hill country, has been launched by the bank as the first phase of this initiative.
Registered under the .lk and .com domains, and to be hosted free on the Microsoft Cloud by Microsoft Sri Lanka, the Sipnena website will offer students free access to content carefully selected to support their educational needs, in line with local curricula, via the IT Labs donated by the bank to these and 152 other schools around the country.
Commercial Bank Chairman Dharma Dheerasinghe, the bank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Jegan Durairatnam, Microsoft Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Imran Vilcassim, H One Chief Executive Officer Samath Fernando and senior officials of the bank at the launch of the ‘Sipnena’ educational website
Commenting on this latest initiative by the bank’s CSR Trust, Commercial Bank Managing Director/CEO Jegan Durairatnam said: “Our objective is to create an environment that integrates technology as a natural part of the educational experience and provides all learners with the skills to access knowledge that will be a foundation for their future. As a bank that is ahead in technology and a pioneer in technological advancements, we are keen to give the same technological edge to our future generations.”
He said the launch of the Sipnena Educational website is the logical progression of the bank’s innovative online education program, under which more than 60,000 children from 66 schools are currently accessing carefully selected mathematics and science lessons via a specially created web platform, to supplement their regular lessons in these subjects.
“We believe that the best resources should not be reserved for those who can afford them, but should be made available to everyone, everywhere, without cost. Using the power of the Internet, this goal is possible,” Durairatnam added.
For the launch of Sipnena the Commercial Bank has brought together the expertise of its own IT team headed by the Chief Information Officer; H-One, a leading IT Solutions company; Microsoft Sri Lanka, which has agreed to host the website on the Microsoft cloud free of rental; the Group Leaders of the Service Learning teams of the University of Colombo who will categorise the web-based lessons in accordance with the respective grades; and the Bank’s CSR Unit, which will coordinate the project.
Apart from providing cloud space for the Sipnena website, Microsoft Sri Lanka will also join hands with the CSR Trust of Commercial Bank in the near future, to train school children by experienced trainers on industry based courses in Business Process Outsourcing, Agriculture and assisted services, Tourism/Hospitality, Apparel and Media and Journalism. Both Commercial Bank and Microsoft Sri Lanka are engaged in rural empowerment and Microsoft works closely with the Ministry of Education on a number of programs to uplift IT Literacy, with a view to making Sri Lanka a future ICT hub in the region.
Overcoming the public’s conventional views on technology could be difficult
Speaking about the Sipnena launch, Microsoft Sri Lanka Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Imran Vilcassim commented: “Sipnena Online Links offer immense potential for increasing exam success, decreasing the cost of education, and providing expanded options for learning. Still, overcoming the public’s conventional views on technology could be difficult. For instance, despite lots of media and industry buzz about the personalised nature of online instruction, the majority of teachers and parents still view traditional, classroom-based education as better tailored to each individual.”
H One Ltd., a Hirdaramani Group venture, is Sri Lanka’s leading full service IT solutions vendor, recognised as the nation’s No 1 ranked Microsoft Tier 1 partner, Large Account Reseller, Microsoft Dynamics partner of the year and Premier Cloud Accelerate partner, voluntarily contributed to this initiative and handled the designing and content management of the Sipnena website. H One serves the largest number of Enterprise Agreement Customers and is the trusted IT partner of top enterprises in Sri Lanka.
H One Chief Executive Officer Samath Fernando expressing his views on the Sipnena Educational Website said: “The internet is even able to capture a lot of the same activities students partake in while learning in traditional classroom settings. For example, video-conferencing in real time allows students and teachers to interact visually, and chat rooms and message boards help build relationships, make it convenient for students to help each other, and improve a teacher’s accessibility.
“And these tools and classroom resources developed through Sipnena are always at a student’s fingertips, so that they can view past lectures, pour over message boards, and interact with other students when it’s convenient for them. This ensures that students never miss out on a lesson or lecture or fall behind, as class information and resources are available at all times online.”
Additionally, Headstart Ltd will facilitate the usage of ‘guru.lk’, an educational website developed by the company, which offers access to a wide range of subjects belonging to the local curriculum. Sipnena learners will also be able to access the web content of thathu.com, the Khan Academy and free British Council English lessons.
The 10 schools participating in the pilot project for ‘Sipnena’ are Meewanapalana Maha Vidyalaya – Horana, Sri Parakrama Maha Vidyalaya – Aruggoda, Denagama Maha Vidyalaya – Hakmana, Beliatta, Nagalakanda Navodya Maha Vidyalaya – Minneriya, St. Thomas’ College – Matara, Jaffna College – Jaffna, Rambuka Maha Vidyalaya – Kalawana, Agamathi Balika Vidyalaya – Panadura, Hiriwadunna Maha Vidyalaya – Kegalle and St. Andrew’s College – Nawalapitiya.
Installation of equipment
The next phase of the project will include the installation of equipment such as LED TV screens and web cameras to provide video conferencing facilities, enabling teachers to carry out interactive teaching and learning sessions for the school clusters, the bank said.
Education is given pride of place in Commercial Bank’s extensive portfolio of CSR initiatives, which also encompasses healthcare, culture and heritage, environment, assistance to war heroes, disaster relief and other community needs.
The bank’s flagship CSR initiative of donating fully-equipped IT laboratories to schools across the country has to date donated 162 IT labs, and benefited more than 160,000 students. The schools are also provided accessories such as computer tables, printers and chairs, and the Bank provides assistance to maintain and upgrade these computer labs when necessary to ensure that the facilities benefit many batches of students.
Other initiatives of Commercial Bank’s CSR Trust in the sphere of education include presenting scholarships and laptops to undergraduates annually, providing English education to rural school children, and a project in partnership with Cisco Networking Academy to offer a comprehensive ‘IT Essentials’ course for teachers and students free of charge, via the bank’s online education program.
The only Sri Lankan bank to be ranked among the Top 1000 banks of the world for four consecutive years (2011-2014), Commercial Bank operates a network of 242 branches and 610 ATMs in Sri Lanka. The bank has won multiple awards as Sri Lanka’s best bank over several years, and was adjudged one of the country’s 10 best corporate citizens by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in 2013 and 2014. The bank has been rated the Most Respected Bank in Sri Lanka by LMD for the past 10 years, has been the second Most Respected Corporate entity in the country overall for the past four years, and been rated No 1 in Sri Lanka for Honesty in 2013 and 2014 by the magazine.