Gateway College became the first school in Sri Lanka and the South Asian Region to introduce the South Australian Certificate and Education (SACE) to students by officially inaugurating the programme in a ceremony this week. The Sunday Times spoke with Mr Matt Clarke, Manager of Business Development at SACE International and Ms Virginia Thompson, Faculty Manager in Education Services at the SACE Board, about the initiation of the programme at Gateway College and its’ impact on students.
SACE is an international education programme comparable to the Edexcel and Cambridge International Advanced Levels already established in Sri Lanka. While initiated in the State of South Australia in 1874, it has been delivered internationally since 1982 and is well-established in many countries, including China, Malaysia and South Korea. Matt Clarke explained that a SACE certificate is recognised by Universities and institutions around the world. SACE graduates have enrolled in the top 50 Universities in the US, Russell Group Universities in the UK and Group of Eight Universities in Australia.
There are many avenues for higher education through SACE, he explained, including in the Medicine and Engineering fields among others. He also emphasised that the certificate received by students in Sri Lanka is the same as those received by SACE students in Australia. Virginia Thompson explained the educational system of SACE and how the programme prioritises students over exam-centric learning. SACE is done in two stages, the first stage where students can choose to do 5 to 8 subjects is completely assessment based, wherein the second stage, 70% is done through assessments and 30% through a final external examination.
The SACE learning process decreases the stress students notoriously undergo in Sri Lanka facing final exams, while consistently testing students throughout the school year to give an accurate evaluation of their performance in school. While schools that teach the SACE programme have to comply with SACE standards and the curriculum planned by the SACE Board, schools and teachers have the flexibility to adapt certain aspects of the curriculum as they see fit for their students. Ms Thompson said the SACE Board recognises the importance of teachers and their experience with students and gives them the opportunity to tailor the curriculum for the benefit of their students.
Speaking on their experience of Gateway’s implementation of SACE, Ms Thompson said they received positive reactions from Gateway teachers, who were keen to adapt to the different approaches of SACE education that centred their involvement in the curriculum. She also said the pilot project of eighteen Gateway students in the programme has given positive feedback, with students valuing the freedom and agency to make decisions that SACE gave them over other education programmes, while also being assessed through real-world situations. Mr Clarke said the future of SACE in Gateway College is bright and hoped the partnership between SACE and Gateway would be long-lasting. He explained that after establishing SACE in Gateway College Colombo, it would gradually be introduced to other branches of Gateway College to give access to students island-wide. Gateway Colombo will be accepting new students to the SACE programme for the January Intake of 2023.