Nishantha Kamaladasa CEO, Distance Learning Centre Ltd
Computer literacy and the English language skills are necessary to build a competent employee required by the corporate sector. However this competency is absent in many educated youth. This is in spite of increased government and parental spending.
These two important subject areas have not reached the expected level of achievement because they also have been taught by teachers at classes but not been learnt by the students. They did not learn English or ICT because they had not used either, in the process of learning.
This dilemma reminds us about the famous Chinese proverb which says “You forget what you hear and see, but remember what you do”.
We have been teaching computer skills and English but it had no immediate use to the learner, especially to those who live in rural environments. In such an environment it is difficult to motivate them to learn and especially motivate them to consolidate what they have learnt.
Hence if we are to promote the two subjects, within the rural community, we should find out an immediate application for those, within such communities.
If ICT and English can be used to develop the village, then there is a need for the lads to learn. If there are tourists with whom they have to transact in English they would learn English. If there are enquiries for their products from foreign countries they would learn English and ICT to communicate. If the village is benefited by information provided by the web they will look in to the web. If the web allows them to get an application form (down load) that they have to go miles to collect they will search the web. If that can be filled up and sent electronically they would gladly look for the web.
There is one particular experiment that stands out with regards to English and ICT education. This was referred recently even by His Excellency the President as well, on the topic of education. He talked of the necessity of having similar initiatives in the other villages of Sri Lanka.
The interest expressed by the head of the state on the subject has brought many to think about getting similar results. However, any replication has to be tried out after careful study about the success factors. If one is careful enough to study what had happened in Mahawilachchiya he/she will find that there was more to it than teaching ICT and English. Both those essential elements were used to transact with the rest of the world to get assistance to their village. Hence both ICT and English were used. Hence those were learnt.
What the pioneers at Mahawilachchiya did was to create the necessary environment for the children to learn English and ICT. The children had something more to achieve by learning both those; other than learning for the sake of learning. They had to use those to realize the expectations of the village and the education system that was set before them. They had aspirations to meet, which they could not without English and ICT.
More than Technology and Knowledge
To take this kind of initiative you also need a person more than an English teacher with ICT literacy. It requires a person who is environment sensitive and also with a knack for self learning.
Contents are taught at School. But you need to understand the context in which you are supposed to apply those contents. Contexts have to be self-learnt by being sensitive to the environment and by engaging with it. It is learnt in the process of dealing with it. Most of our school products fail in this experiment. They are scared to interact and learn; they expect somebody to spoon feed them as what was done in the school. But contexts cannot be taught; they are different; they are time and space bound.
Only entrepreneurship will provide this initiative of interacting with the context with view of learning it.
It is difficult to teach entrepreneurship but you can identify the potential entrepreneurs and empower them.
Entrepreneur at Mahawilachchiya
Mahawilachchiya had such an entrepreneur in the name of Nanda Wanninayaka. We need to have similar entrepreneurs in the villages that we are going to replicate the same (e-village program). Once selected, they have to be empowered. They will then join with English teachers and ICT literates to create the e-village.
Identifying and Empowering Entrepreneurs
Hence it is suggested that we put some effort in identifying these entrepreneurs in the selected villages and empower them through a facilitation program, where brain storming sessions would be the basic methodology in getting them oriented towards the initiative.
Distance Learning Centre Ltd, where I work, had undertaken two successful programs in empowering such entrepreneurs. Our experience had been that empowering entrepreneurs is not hard but identifying and selecting them is. The reason is that they are not available in large numbers given the education and training environment that exist in the country.
E-village program can meet the expectations of the educationists with this kind of intervention (identifying and empowering entrepreneurs who will use the two tools- English and ICT- in bringing a change in the village). Secondary Education Modernization Project has understood this position very much and is in the process of facilitating this process.
The same model could be applied to other subjects as well. The motto should be that one should use something if he wants to learn it.
COLOMBO: President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday urged the teaching community to serve the poor and the less-privileged students in the remotest areas of the country and thereby protect the country’s ‘Free Education’ mechanism.
President Rajapaksa was speaking at the handing over of appointment letters to Diploma Holders in Teaching to 2,599 new diplomates.
Making a symbolic handing over of appointment letters to a selected number of teachers who had successfully completed their training and qualified to receive the ‘Diploma in Teaching’ for 2007, the President asserted that his Government aims to provide equal opportunities in education to all, sans any irregularities, irrespective of one’s race, religion or region.
“A deficiency of Tamil medium teachers did exist in the past, but we took immediate steps to remedy the shortage. We appointed Tamil stream teachers in the North-East and the estate schools. Irrespective of the region you are now appointed to, go and serve happily sans any prejudice of race, religion and caste, or whether they are rich or poor.
Don’t confine them only to rote learning but identify their talents, and develop not only their knowledge but also their attitudes, and produce a creative younger generation,” the President said.
He pointed out that around 500,000 students had sat the G.C.E. O/L last year and around 25,000 had failed in all subjects they offered.
He asked why this was so and directed the Education Minister Susil Premajayantha to take remedial steps to avert such a situation next year.
“These failures are however not the offspring of teachers, who make sure that their children are through.
If that same effort is made in imparting education to all students of the school, we can make Sri Lanka one of the most literate countries of the world,” the President opined.
Recollecting the ‘success story’ of Mahawilachchiya Central College in Anuradhapura, and its teacher Nanda Wanninayaka, the President urged the teaching fraternity to emulate the exemplary teacher who has performed wonders and revolutionised the lifestyle there in Information Technology and English.
The President noted that ‘Teaching’ was per se a great service and a noble profession, instead of being only a job. He urged the new youthful appointees to refrain from seeking transfers to locations close to their homes.
The President said that whatever crises are encountered, his Government will never cut the funds allocated to education. “I view the uplift of education not as a duty but as a profound responsibility of the Government,” he added.
Chancellor of the Kelaniya University Ven. Velamitiyawe Kusaladhamma Thera, Western Province Chief Minister Reginald Cooray, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha and Ministry Secretary Ariyarathna Hewage also spoke.