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 organized by the Ministry of Education and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Prof. Kapila Perera, Secretary Ministry of Education 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 highlevel 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.
Eng. Mahinda B. Herath, CEO, ICTA 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 Anura De Alwis, Chief Digital Economy Officer of ICTA.
Oshada Senanayake, Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka revealed TRC’s ambitious and extensive plans with telecom providers to provide Fiber and 4G connectivity to schools and develop the underlying infrastructure to assist digitizing 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”.
Niel Gunadasa, Additional Secretary, State Ministry of Education Reforms and H. U. Premathilaka , Additional Secretary- Educational Quality Development- MInistry of Education who spearheaded the general education digital transformation too highlighted the necessity of having a consolidated digital education policy.
The Industry representatives including Damith Hettihewa (President-CSSL), Abbas Kamrudeen (Chairman- FITIS), Chinthaka Wijewickrama (President National ICT Skills Council) 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 USD 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 a 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 are expected to make rapid development in the digital education sector.
Wrapping up the session, Sameera Jaayawardena, Director Capacity Building at ICTA 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.
Janaka Jayalath Director General (Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission, Dr. Sunil Jayantha Nawarathna- Director General, National Institute of Education, Prof. Hewagamage-Director UCSC, Dr Nalaka Lankasena- Head, Department of Information and Communication Technology too actively contributed to the deliberations.