ith the Christmas and New Year holiday season ending, more than 4.5 million children will go back to school today with the vast public schools network alone having 4.2 million enrolled in more than 9,790 schools around the country with a teaching staff of more than 200,000. We hope that in this digital age of creativity and innovation, inquiry and discovery, the attitude and approach will be transformed from exam-oriented education to education for life.
This transformation cannot be done by the National Government alone or the provincial education authorities. Essentially it must happen at school level with the principals taking initiatives to conduct regular training sessions for teachers so that more of the focus could be shifted to non-formal education including tapping the children’s potential for sports or music and larger issues like respect for human rights and gender equality.
The New Year began with astounding disclosures about the progress in the marvels of modern technology. Scientists are creating robots that are doing most of the work that people normally do and last year we even had a robotnaut on the international space station.
A Bombay-born scientist working in California’s Silicon Valley is developing a microchip that could act like a human brain in a mini-computer, through artificial intelligence. Though some science fiction films have portrayed dangerous dimensions where modern robots or computers with a brain could give orders to or even destroy people, we cannot reject these marvels because of possible negative effects.
With most of our children now having access to smart phone internet and its virtually unlimited spheres of knowledge, a huge responsibility rests on education authorities, principals and teachers to take education symbolically to the highest skies and deepest oceans. As in any other age of amazing discovery, modern technology also has its devastating negative effects such as pornography sites and facebook dating. Here the responsibility lies more with the parents and family members to protect their children from the negative effects and take themselves and their country to the highest dimensions in technology.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, outlining the National Government’s midterm economic strategy, told parliament on November 5 that Sri Lanka was caught in a development gap because we did not have competent people. He said Sri Lanka must therefore take action to provide knowledge competencies that are needed. The Vocational Training Ministry and the Science, Technology and Research Ministry would come together to provide the professional skills needed.
The Premier said sweeping changes would be put in place for the education process to be overhauled and developed. “In the past, we recited that what we learn will serve us in the future. But today, we must recite what we need to learn is what will serve us in the future,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
He said knowledge mechanisms would be introduced to fulfil employment requirements and encourage participation in national development.
The Premier said the number of children in a classroom would be restricted to 35. The schools would be provided facilities and access to the digital world to bring the students together in their quest for knowledge.
The approach to the development of Information and Communication Technology would be in keeping with sound business management principles and would cover areas such as software development, innovation centres, ICT and science knowledge hubs, digital infrastructural services and support investment.
The Premier said the government would ensure that there were adequate opportunities for vocational training outside Colombo. There would be a strict enforcement of standards of English teaching centres while the teaching of English would be encouraged because that international language is essential for our children to go fully and with commitment into the digital world.
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