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Education and Technological Change for Rapid Economic Growth

Sunday, 9th of June 2024

The setting

Sri Lanka, like many other nations, is adjusting to the digital age known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This era, marked by automation and artificial intelligence, requires a populace equipped with strong technological skills, closely tied to education levels. A tech-savvy workforce can leverage digital tools for enhanced productivity, creativity, and innovation. Education plays a pivotal role in this transformation, viewed as essential for Sri Lanka’s long-term economic growth. To fully embrace digitalization, a holistic approach is necessary, involving improving teachers’ ICT skills, updating teaching methods, and creating suitable software and course materials.

Sri Lanka’s education system must prioritize integrating technology into the curriculum, endorsing online learning, and offering personalised learning experiences. Technological education can also address accessibility issues by reaching remote areas, contributing to a fairer distribution of educational resources. Recognizing technology’s role is vital for bridging the digital divide, ensuring equal access, and empowering marginalised communities. Strategies like blended learning, interactive tools, and gamification are crucial for developing skills such as digital literacy and collaboration, preparing students for the evolving workforce demands.

Outcome-Based Learning with Flipped Classroom

Flipped learning, a transformative pedagogical approach, involves students acquiring initial knowledge at home and engaging in advanced cognitive activities during classroom sessions. This fosters a student-centric environment. To effectively implement this method in Sri Lanka, teachers should follow the following practical steps,

Mindful Use of Technology: Utilise digital platforms for pre-lesson content, creating accessible video lectures aligned with the curriculum.

Collaboration with Peers and Parents: Establish open communication with parents for home support and encourage student collaboration through online forums.

Customising Content for Local Relevance: Tailor pre-lesson content with examples pertinent to Sri Lanka, enhancing students’ understanding.

Teacher as a Facilitator: Shift from a traditional lecturer to a facilitator, promoting critical thinking and collaborative learning during class time.

Assessment and Feedback: Integrate formative assessments, offering timely feedback and addressing misconceptions for an interactive learning environment.

Professional Development: Provide teachers with necessary skills through workshops, seminars, and collaborative opportunities, fostering continuous growth.

Adaptation to Local Resources: Design a flexible flipped learning approach acknowledging resource variations across regions in Sri Lanka.

Continuous Evaluation and Improvement: Regularly assess effectiveness through student feedback and metrics, refining the approach based on insights gained for a dynamic and responsive instructional method.

Problems associated with Technology in Education?

Sri Lanka’s embrace of technological advancements in education comes with challenges that demand attention for the development of a robust digital education system. Addressing the digital divide is crucial, with disparities in access and limited infrastructure hindering widespread adoption. In 2023, Sri Lanka had a 66.7% internet penetration rate, with 40.3% digital literacy and 28.3% computer literacy, emphasizing the need for initiatives to expand connectivity and provide devices across socio-economic backgrounds. Technological proficiency remains a hurdle for both students and teachers.

Comprehensive training programmes are essential to empower educators and learners, ensuring effective utilisation of educational technology. Ongoing support and professional development are vital for sustaining proficiency. While technology enhances inclusivity, it also risks widening inequalities. Targeted interventions are required to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds, ensuring equal opportunities for all. Persistent digital literacy gaps, as defined by the Department of Census and Statistics as “a person (aged 5-69) is considered as a digital literate person if he/she could use computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone on his/her own”, hinder effective student engagement.

A broader definition is needed to encompass the full spectrum of skills. Privacy and security concerns are critical with increased technology usage, requiring robust policies to safeguard student privacy and protect against cyber threats. Pedagogical adaptation is necessary. Educators need support to shift instructional methods for active learning and engaging online experiences. The financial burden of implementing technology is a significant concern. Sustainable funding models, including public-private partnerships and government initiatives, are crucial for equitable access. Addressing these challenges in Sri Lanka’s education technology landscape necessitates a collaborative effort from educators, policymakers, and the community.

Key components of technological education

A good education in technology is important for dealing with the changing digital world. To make sure everyone can benefit, we need to focus on improving the infrastructure and internet access, especially in rural areas. It’s crucial to teach basic computer skills and online safety early in school. Using flexible learning platforms is also important, as they can meet the needs of different students. Teachers should be trained well to use technology effectively in their classrooms. Including content in multiple languages can help students relate to the material. Providing educational resources that are free and accessible can make sure everyone has a fair chance to learn.

Getting the community involved, like through tech hubs, can encourage teamwork. Government policies that support technology and allocate resources are important too. Making sure there’s diversity in STEAM fields is necessary for a fair and inclusive tech world. We also need to teach about cybersecurity and work with both public and private groups. Adding cybersecurity to the regular lessons helps students stay safe online. Partnering with tech companies gives students real-world experience. In Sri Lanka, a good education in technology should focus on including everyone, making it accessible, and teaching digital skills. By doing this, the education system can prepare students for success in the digital age, helping the country move forward.

In Sri Lanka, it is crucial to address the digital divide and provide affordable technological education for underserved communities. A collaborative approach between educational institutions and the government is necessary. The strategy involves comprehensive infrastructure development, expanding broadband in rural areas, and ensuring reliable internet for schools. Providing low-cost devices to students from low-income backgrounds through government collaboration and public-private partnerships is essential. Advocating for affordable internet, negotiating with providers for educational packages, and prioritizing teacher training programmes are key steps. Integrating digital literacy into the curriculum ensures equal opportunities for all students.

Public-private partnerships, especially in technology infrastructure, device provision, and training, can bridge the digital gap. Community engagement is vital, understanding local needs, gaining support from leaders, and fostering commitment. Advocacy campaigns with the government can raise awareness about the digital divide. Establishing monitoring mechanisms in collaboration with the government ensures the effectiveness of initiatives. Through these efforts, Sri Lanka can progress in making technological education accessible and affordable for all, especially in marginalised communities.

Development of a skilled tech workforce to meet the demand for Technological Education?

Addressing the shortage of qualified technology educators in Sri Lanka necessitates a comprehensive strategy involving collaboration among the government, educational institutions, and industry stakeholders. Firstly, increased investment in education is crucial to enhance the quality of technology-focused learning from primary schools to higher education. This funding would support the establishment or improvement of schools and programmes dedicated to technology, identifying and nurturing tech talent early on. Simultaneously, specialized teacher training programmes are essential to upgrade the skills of current educators in technology-related subjects. These programmes, developed in collaboration with private tech companies, offer practical training and exposure to industry trends. Industry collaboration is pivotal to ensuring the curriculum aligns with technological advancements, involving partnerships between educational institutions and tech companies. Providing scholarships and financial incentives for students in technology education and extending grants to professionals transitioning from industry roles to teaching would attract a diverse pool of educators. Promoting STEM education, incorporating extracurricular activities, and facilitating flexible certification programmes for individuals transitioning into teaching roles are vital. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of technology education programmes, informed by student and industry feedback, are indispensable for ensuring effectiveness. These collective strategies aim to propel Sri Lanka towards developing a skilled technology workforce and addressing the shortage of qualified technology educators.

Lifelong learning in a rapidly changing economy

In Sri Lanka’s fast-changing economy, lifelong learning is crucial for upskilling and reskilling individuals to acquire essential technological skills. A comprehensive strategy, involving government interventions, is essential for this. Policies encourage sustained skill development and fostering public-private partnerships can address specific technological needs collectively. Joint funding for training programmes can be established by the government, private sector, and educational institutions. Specialized programmes focusing on emerging technologies, including workshops and online courses, cater to current and future workforce demands.

Platforms like Coursera provide everyone easy access to education. Industry-specific training, on-the-job opportunities, and upskilling partnerships promote a learning culture within organizations. Financial barriers are mitigated through subsidies or tax incentives for technology-related training. Community learning centers with computer access bridge gaps in rural education. Awareness campaigns highlight the benefits of continuous learning, reshaping societal perspectives. Professional associations and networks support learning by providing networking, mentorship, and industry trend information. Flexible learning options, such as part-time courses and online programmes, cater to diverse schedules.

The emerging trends and challenges in providing foundational technological education

In the ever-changing world of technology, foundational technical education is facing new trends and challenges. The integration of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things into industries poses a challenge for educators to update their teaching. The focus is on ensuring students learn both traditional technical skills and modern technologies. Flexible and adaptive learning models are becoming more popular, requiring investment in digital infrastructure and teacher training in online teaching methods.

Soft skills like critical thinking and communication are now considered essential for workplace success. Personalised learning pathways, guided by data analytics and artificial intelligence, are changing how education is delivered. However, there is a risk of technology becoming outdated quickly, so collaboration with industry partners is crucial. The digital divide, caused by unequal access to technology, is hindering educational progress for some demographics. Initiatives like providing affordable devices and improving internet access aim to address this issue. Equipping educators with skills for the evolving technological landscape is an ongoing challenge, emphasising the need for professional development and collaboration. Balancing technical proficiency with soft skills is crucial, urging educational institutions to incorporate practical learning and real-world applications to prepare individuals for success in a rapidly changing digital world.

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