The Secretary to the Ministry of Education Sunil Hettiarachchi (3rd from left) at the presentation of the Champion Smart School Award to the Principal of Bandaranayake Central College Veyangoda S.A.L.B. Sirimanna (4th from left) in the presence of teachers of the school and officials at a ceremony to mark the completion of the project
Guru.lk joins with Commercial Bank, Microsoft and provincial Ministry of Education to prepare schools for digital learning
Guru.lk, Sri Lanka’s leading eLearning portal, has announced the completion of a multi-stakeholder initiative to convert 65 schools in the Western Province into ‘Smart Schools’ capable of deploying digital learning protocols.
The company collaborated with Commercial Bank of Ceylon, Microsoft Sri Lanka and the Western Province Education Ministry over a six month period to complete the transformation of schools, including training and helping the teachers to embrace technology for the use of the hardware and software required for digital format education.
The project involved providing the schools with content to use on computers, a learning management system, Microsoft Office 365 licenses, technical support and training on working with technology for education, the company said.
The objective of the project was to expose traditional classroom based teachers and students to the latest digital based learning technology and systems, stimulating wider use of existing IT infrastructure in schools. This would enable students to make the best use of tablet computers proposed to be introduced to the government schools system in the near future.
The Commercial Bank of Ceylon supported the project by funding the creation of the ‘Sipnena’ website registered under the .lk and .com domains, and hosted free on guru.lk servers. The website offers students free access to content carefully selected to support their educational needs in line with local curricula, via more than 170 IT labs donated by the bank to schools around the country. The Bank made substantial investments to develop lessons for all subjects in the GCE Advanced Level Mathematics and Bio Science streams and for Grade 10 Mathematics, Science and English. The bank also made investments to create an online Maths Lab, Mathematics Revision lessons and even a section dedicated to vocational training.
Microsoft Sri Lanka provided its world class software to schools free of charge and also invested on teacher training for the project.
Guru.lk and its owning company Headstart Ltd. provided the student Learning Management System free of charge, provided content, conducted teacher training and coordinated the implementation of the project. The company was also responsible for monitoring progress and activation at ground level in the 65 schools in the Western Province.
Commenting on the successful creation of 65 Smart Schools, the Secretary of the Ministry of Education Mr. Sunil Hettiarachchi said:”Amalgamating technology for learning is a challenge as many teachers belong to a generation that did not use computers for their day-to-day activities. We are pleased to be associated with this programme where the private sector partnered with us for technological transformation. We are thankful for the support given by the project partners and happy to see how teachers have progressed.”
Commercial Bank’s Chief Financial Officer and Trustee of the bank’s CSR Trust Nandika Buddhipala said: “Promoting IT Literacy on a national scale has been one of our priorities in the journey towards uplifting the level of education in the country. We have provided 170 computer laboratories to deserving schools and institutions during the past few years. Now we have reached the next stage of growing the knowledge economy of the country by converting such infrastructure into meaningful usage with the encouragement and the support of our other partners.”
On behalf of Microsoft Sri Lanka, the company’s Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Brian Kealey added: “Microsoft was happy to support the smart schools project because we believe there is immense potential in digital format education to increase examination pass rates, reduce the cost of education, and provide expanded options for learning.”
According to Guru.lk, the process of transforming schools under this program has resulted in teachers learning more about the Internet and email and handling computers confidently, selecting learning content available on the Internet, creating learning courses for students with tools like MS Sway, and teaching students with tools such as interactive white boards which are essential to keep pace with technology. Teacher competitions were held and each teacher achievement was rewarded with Microsoft badges which enabled them to compete with regional countries.
“Any digital education initiative, irrespective of the technology, needs to be supported by teachers for it to be successful. Making teachers comfortable with technology is a challenge we confronted and successfully overcame, which is evident by the achievements of schools, which were awarded at the closing ceremony recently,” the company said.
Headstart Ltd. has been developing content for the ICTA/Ministry of Education on school curricula since 2009. The company was a tech start-up with a project named ‘Vidunena’ under which the GCE A/L Science curriculum was provided to schools in an E Learning format, through an ICTA grant. The company now owns the largest E Learning content portal www.guru.lk in Sri Lanka with more than 235,000 learners and 1,000 plus lessons to choose from. The content knowledge pool includes university academics, teachers, business leaders, corporate trainers and soft skills trainers, and is the largest such education-related talent pool in Sri Lanka.
The company also provides E Learning content and platform solutions to corporates, institutions, the government sector and the general public under the brand name Guru.lk.