So it is good to report that Sinhalese children, at least, will soon benefit from top-notch IT teaching thanks to an initiative involving the Cisco Networking Academy.
The initiative, taking place now at the Ruwanpura National College of Education for Information and Communication Technology, involves giving classroom teachers a Networking Academy-based crash course in IT and networking.
It follows government moves to move the country forward following the end of the war and kicked off last year, which was the year of IT and English in Sri Lanka.
The Sinhalese government feels technology skills are such a high priority for its teachers that it has made the college an IT teacher training center only, and changed its name (previously it was called the Ruwanpura National College of Education) at an inauguration attended by the President.
The collaboration between Cisco and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education has been fostered by Cisco’s part in the UNESCO Next Generation Teachers Training Project.
This aims to help post-primary teachers in the Asia-Pacific region harness the benefits of information and communication technologies to enhance teaching and learning.
The Networking Academy initially trained 32 delegates from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education in IT Essentials and the experience of the participants helped provide the impetus for the establishment of the dedicated ICT teacher-training college.
At Ruwanpura National College of ICT Education, 15 master trainers are currently completing CCNA courses run by the Vocational Training Authority, an existing Networking Academy. It is expected they will begin training teachers mid-year.
All trainee teachers at the college will complete IT Essentials and the first two modules of the CCNA Discovery Networking Academy Courses. And the Directorate of Education has obtained approval to train 30 more master trainers in CCNA.
The future teachers undergo two years of training at the college, and the annual 150-strong graduating class then moves to on-the-job training with placements in schools. The aim is for them to be able to deliver the Academy’s curriculum at these schools.
At the moment, the only thing preventing the Academy from growing exponentially from its current five locations in Sri Lanka is a lack of infrastructure.
“There are 9000 schools in Sri Lanka,” says Jagan Jothivel, Cisco education program manager for India and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. “But not all of them have PCs or broadband connectivity, which is required to deliver the Networking Academy’s on-line curriculum.”
The Ministry of Education is consulting with Cisco and others on the hardware requirements to change this, and with Sri Lanka Telecom to provide broadband connectivity.
The ultimate aim is to connect the schools with a ‘schoolnet’ which could help bring IT into the mainstream in Sri Lanka, to the benefit of forthcoming generations.