An all out effort to boost IT literacy 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cheranka Mendis

The Government has pledged to increase computer literacy by 75% by 2016 according to the Budget mandate announced by President Rajapaksa last week. In 2003 the ICT literacy was five per cent.

Senior Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Tissa Vitharana speaking at the award presentation of ‘Innovative Teachers and Students National Competition 2010,’ a competition held under the ‘Partners in Learning programme’ undertaken by the Education Ministry and Microsoft stated that the target of achieving 75 per cent computer literacy by 2016 must be realised or better yet, surpassed for the country to move towards the expected development goals. If surpassed, the country would then be in a position to utilise the maximum benefit of the ICT knowledge available in the country.

With ICT in the forefront and as a part of the general school curriculum the students can gain instant knowledge without any delays. Vitharana stated that while learning from text books causes a delay of about four to five years as the books are not updated yearly or weekly, learning via ICT can bridge that gap and could produce materials which are only days or week old. “To develop Sri Lanka the country needs to uplift the ICT standards. It should be done by encouraging more teachers and students to participate in programmes that would innovate new softwares as we see today,” he said.

The ‘Partners in Learning programme’ which is in its sixth year aims at creating a future workforce that is versed in modern technological skills which would be internationally recognised and acknowledged. For this, the programme looks at educating and developing teachers, students and schools at the rural and urban levels. Through the project, the organisers hope to reduce the digital divide in the country.

Secretary to the Education Ministry H. M. Gunasekera who was also present at the event stated that by 2016 the country would be a pioneer in school ICT within the next six years. He stated that with the government formulating plans and goals for economical augmentation and achieving the status of ‘emerging wonder of Asia’ all plans under the proposed budget must be completed. “In 2016 we are looking at a per capita income of USD 4400 with a 100 per cent literacy rate and a complete wipe out of poverty which stands at 8.5 per cent today,” Gunasekera said.

“To achieve this, local production should be increased by 13 per cent; all agro production must increase by six per cent and manufacturing by13 per cent.” In the manufacturing and industry sector 20 new business opportunity segments are expected to come up. The export sector is also expected to bring in a revenue of USD 400 billion in six years while the productivity of the service sector is set to reach extreme heights.

 “Along with this the President has given us direction to create many investment opportunities and provide the necessary resources to realise the dreams of the five hubs — naval, aviation, commercial, knowledge and energy. ICT is an important tool in realising these growth targets,” Gunasekera said.

Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager for Microsoft Sri Lanka said, “This year is truly an exceptional milestone of this event. I’m extremely proud to see all winners emerging from rural areas and from all corners of the country. The 80,000 entries received for this year’s competition goes on to prove the popularity of the competition and gives us an indication of the number of lives we have touched through this initiative alone. We are humbled by the participant’s enthusiasm and take pride in that we have contributed positively to transform the IT landscape of the country which was our objective when we launched this programme 7 years ago from very humble beginnings’.

The Innovative Teachers and Students National Competition which was initiated in 2006 started with the organisers receiving 4811 entries which gradually grew to 15,360 in 2007, 36,314 in 2008, 53,983 in 2009 and 80,000 this year. The increase can be attributed partly to the teachers competing in one more category this year, bringing the total to three. This categorisation was made in order to create a better playing field for the teachers to compete in. This year in the student competition, five winners were selected from each of the four streams with higher cash prizes on offer, whereas last year only the first place winner received a cash prize. The objective of all these efforts is to foster interest among teachers and students and encourage them to utilise ICT in learning.

The competition is open to teachers of all subjects from public and private schools, as well as international schools operating in the country. Entries could be submitted in Sinhala, Tamil or English making use of the format of a lesson plan of 40 minutes, developed in line with the national curriculum, using software available to the schools and the internet where applicable. The criteria for selection include exemplary and innovative use of technology and demonstration of an engaging and inspiring presence to motivate and impact students. The judging panel comprised of education and subject specialists, IT experts, and university lecturers.

The names of the national level winners were announced at this ceremony. Winning the 1st place in 1-8 Teacher’s category was T. G. R. Tharukaratne from Sujatha Balika Vidyalaya, Matale with R.C.P. Wijewickrama of Siri Mihindu Maha Vidyalaya, Minuwangoda in second place and H.M. Wijewardena of Rambuka Maha Vidyalaya, Rakwana in third place. In the 9-11 Teacher’s category Rasika Sampath Edirisinghe of Siddhartha Maha Vidyalaya, Weligama was awarded the 1st place whilst W. Chamath Abeygunawardana of All Saints’ Central College, Fort, Galle was placed 2nd and D. Priyankara Godage of Siddhartha Maha Vidyalaya, Wellwaya was placed third. In the 12-13 category M.G.N.S. Jayasekara of Ananda Balika National School, Hingurakgoda, Polonnaruwa was awarded 1st place whilst D.M.L.D Senevirathna of St. Joseph’s College, Anuradhapura was awarded 2nd place and U.G.P Sirikumara of Darmadutha Maha Vidyalaya, Badulla was awarded 3rd place.

In the students 1-8 category Ananthitha Johnson of St. Mary’s College, Trincomalee was awarded 1st place whilst D.M.M.B. Dissanayake from St. Mary’s Maha Vidyalaya, Kegalle was awarded 2nd place along with M.D.S.P.S. Dasanayake of St. Mary’s Maha Vidyalaya, Kegalle being awarded the third place. In 9-11 students category J.A.D.H. Aseka of Katukenda Sri Sangabodhi Central College, Dankotuwa was awarded 1st place whilst B.A. Bhagya Chathurangani Swarnasinghe from Ananda Balika National School, Hingurakgoda, Polonnaruwa was awarded 2nd place along with R.P.H.K. Ruwanpura of Weddagala South Maha Vidyalaya, Kalawana winning the 3rd place.

In A/L Maths category, Muditha Bandara Arambepola of Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa came 1st, U. Manikya Udayanga Senarathna of Ananda Maha Vidyalaya, Elpitiya 2nd and W.M.A. Sandamali of KudaKusum Maha Vidyalaya, Bandarawela came 3rd. In A/L Bio category K.G. Rivindu Nishshanka of Pitabaddara Maha Vidyalaya , Pitabaddara received 1st place while W.W.M.M.T. Madushan Bandara of Keppetipola Maha Vidyalaya, Keppetipola received 2nd and M.N. Fathima Shihara of Tamil Girls’  Maha Vidyalaya, Badulla was awarded 3rd place. In the A/L Commerce category R.A. Dasun Chamara of Narandeniya National School, Kamburupitiya came 1st along with T. Thivanika of Sri Shanmuga Hindu Ladies College, Trincomalee in 2nd place and N.D.G. Shalika of Tissamaharama Maha Vidyalaya in 3rd place. In the A/L Arts category T.G.D. Sandaruwan of Kahagolla Maha Vidyalaya, Diyatalawa was placed 1st while Abdul Azeez Fathima Sasna of Mutur Muslim Ladies College, Mutur was awarded 2nd place and H.A.S.M. Hettiarachchi of Delwala Maha Vidyalaya, Delwala received 3rd place.

Winners of the national level Teachers Competition will have the chance to represent Sri Lanka and compete at the Asia Pacific regional event which will be held in Thailand in 2011. This will, indeed, be a great opportunity for local teachers to meet, share experiences and interact with their regional counterparts.

Another special highlight of this event was the handing over of special certificates of recognition to the Provincial Project Managers in appreciation of their dedicated service and commitment towards the modernisation education spearheaded by the Ministry of Education.