Education: The move towards a hybrid learning model | Daily News

Education: The move towards a hybrid learning model

Education guarantees lifetime income, and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led government, exactly got the point. Education amongst the pandemic was one of the pressing challenges the current government had to face.

Sri Lanka had no efforts or at least have done a trial run on online education, and even the word 'online education' caused a grave fear in youth as well as parents.

However, during his tenure as the president, 'Nenasala, ' which was an initiative by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was a massive support hand during these crucial times. Under then, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's watch 'Nenasala' was launched, nurtured, and spread across the country, benefitting rural youth. Although 'Nenasala' was neglected for some time by several governments, it was revived by the present Government with upgraded centres islandwide.

In addition to that, e-thaksalawa plays a massive role during the pandemic. Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth and Sports, State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development, instructed to accelerate the project to provide educational opportunities free of charge through e-Thaksalawa to all children in the country who are engaged in studies through the online methodology due to the Covid pandemic, without internet service charges. By July 21, as the first phase, free online classes were commenced for 200 schools through e-Thaksalawa. Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has expanded the technological infrastructure within the state cloud and has provided access to a larger number of students at once.

E-Thaksalawa contains 65,000 lessons, and about 250,000 people enter this site per day. During the last month, over 3.5 million people have entered it. Additionally, logging into E-Thaksalawa is entirely free, highlighting that free education is still active during the pandemic.

The Opposition criticized that the Government has not utilized television or radio channels for the education sector during the pandemic. Debunking the criticisms, the State Ministry of Education Reforms, Open Universities and Distance Education Promotion has already obtained frequencies for such television and radio services. Accordingly, Minister Namal Rajapaksa called on the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, the Independent Television Network and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation to use the existing infrastructure to implement the relevant services.

Presently, the Gurugedara programme is operated through 'Channel Eye' of Rupavahini in Sinhala medium and in Nethra channel in Tamil medium. This program is active 16 hours per day five days of the week, and so far, nearly 5,000 lessons have been recorded for grades from 3 to Advanced Level.

Additionally, the Education Minister asserted that television programmes and online platforms allocated for continuing education are created under complete standardization by the 'Education Quality Development and National Institute Education.'

The endeavours of the present Government to uplift the online education system does not end there. Provinces, divisions, schools, and grades execute a significant number of programmes using social media networks and printed media under the supervision of appropriate subject directors. However, access to all of these services has become an issue for up to 12% of the population in the nation.

Furthermore, the current Government is paying attention to every nook and cranny of the country and is bringing solutions for children who are helpless in the face of lack of Internet coverage, economic hardship and lack of tools in accessing online education in addition to long-term measures including the construction of new communication towers.

Pertaining to that, Minister Namal Rajapaksa took steps to provide mobile phones for economically suppressed students to engage in online learning mechanisms.

Moreover, the current Government did not pause their endeavours in strengthening online education. The Education Ministry established 2,096 'Regional Learning Centres' (RLCs) at multiple locations, including schools, for students who are unable to engage in online education activities. Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris inaugurated the programme at the Dodampapitiya Primary School and the Omattha Settlement Primary School in Matugama in June.

Every RLC is equipped with computers, tabs, laptops, internet facilities and other equipment required for online learning. According to the Education Ministry sources, it is scheduled to keep these centres open from 7.00 in the morning till 3.00 pm. Each centre must be equipped at least with ten laptops and tab computers. These centres will be activated with the coordination at the zonal level and monitoring and guidance at the provincial level, the Minister of Education has noted.

Additionally, moving to the higher education sector, the current Government continued the programme of the previous Government to provide laptops for university students. The programme was re-implemented under the patronage of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The project is carried out jointly by the Ministry of Higher Education and Highways, Ministry of Finance, University Grants Commission and Universities under the UGC. Singer Sri Lanka has partnered with two banking giants, People's Bank and Bank of Ceylon, to give Dell and Singer X-Series laptops to university students through a specific interest-free loan plan arranged by the Ministry of Higher Education. The laptops would be provided with an internet connection, a software package and a four-year warranty. The value of such a laptop is Rs. 80,000.

The University Grants Commission announced that students enrolled in Sri Lankan universities would be eligible for low-interest loans to acquire laptop computers to help them with their studies.

The loan scheme would allow students to settle repayment within six years after they are employed. During their university education period, the students would be required to pay a sum of Rs. 500 each month.

It is paramount to provide online education facilities for university students in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. And currently, university students have started embracing online education as it offers facilities such as recording and replaying, which will enhance the value of education. In addition, while continuing higher education, most university students have moved to the working sector, too, as online education opens several opportunities and passages in life.

The Government takes all these moves to accelerate and reinforce online education in Sri Lanka. Although as a developing country, Sri Lanka has reached many standards within a short period of time, establishing that the current Government functioning under the 'Vistas of Prosperity' is taking Sri Lankan education to greater heights.

The Vaccination programmes in Sri Lanka are going on par with world giants. Schools will gradually commence, yet the legacy kept by the pandemic' online education' will still remain in society. Thus, a hybrid teaching-learning process will be witnessed in the near future, the same term that we feared just one year back.

The world is ready for a hybrid system, an amalgamation of both e-learning and physical education. Beyond a shadow of doubt, hybrid education will become a new lifestyle.

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