News

More elements to distance learning

  • Home-based edu programme to be launched from August
  • Engaging students through assignments and activities

By Sarah Hannan

To enrich the learning process of schoolchildren who are homebound due to the ongoing pandemic, the State Ministry of Education Reforms, Open Universities, and Distance Learning Promotion, along with the National Institute of Education (NIE), has announced that a home-based education programme will be launched from August onwards.

According to State Minister for Education Reforms, Open Universities, and Distance Learning Promotion Susil Premajayantha, the programme will look at engaging students through assignments and activities.

“Today, distance learning in Sri Lanka is only recognised through online lesson deliveries. However, online lessons are only one element of distance learning. In Sri Lanka, only about 40% of the student population has the required facilities to access online lessons; therefore, amidst the pandemic, we have been using TV and radio channels to deliver lessons to children, using the Gurugedara education programmes, to cater to children who are unable to follow lessons online. In addition to that, we also have all lesson modules added to the e-Thaksalawa website as well, which can be accessed at any time by students, parents, and teachers alike,” Premajayantha explained.

However, recognising that there had not been a system in place to gauge how well students are grasping these lessons, the State Ministry and the NIE has developed workbooks for Grades One and Two and then designed assignments based on subjects for Grades Three 13, which are to be distributed to provincial and zonal education offices that will have to disseminate it to its respective schools.

Speaking about the home-based education programme that is to be launched, Premajayantha noted: “The objective of the home-based learning programme is to create an environment where a student will be guided through a lesson rather than be taught. The plan is to give the students assignments/activities which they would have to complete individually or as groups with the guidance of the teacher.”

The State Minister also added that a tool will be introduced to the e-Thaksalawa website where the teacher and the student could interact if any clarification is needed while they complete the assignment/activity for the week.

Commenting further on the upcoming programme, Secretary to the State Ministry of Education Reforms, Open Universities, and Distance Learning Promotion Dr. Upali Sedara noted that with the introduction of the home-based education programme, the State Ministry plans to iron out the regional discrepancies experienced over online education.

“Implementing the home-based education programme will provide equal access to education to all students. The programme will disseminate a series of weekly activities to students in each grade, and the relevant activities will be made available in print copies and we hope to cover the entire curriculum through these activities,” Dr. Sedara elaborated.

“This can be considered a rapid learning approach. The activities currently being prepared by the NIE to be given to students are now finalised. They will be examined by a standardisation committee and distributed to the provincial directors of education. The provincial directors of education would then print them and send them to the zonal education offices,” he further explained.

According to Dr. Sedara, the activities will then be distributed to the principals through the zonal education offices, after which the teachers would distribute them to the students. Dr. Sedara emphasised that the activities completed each week should be handed over by the students to the teachers every Friday and that the teachers would then mark them and maintain the relevant records and reports. These records and reports will in turn be forwarded to the zonal education offices through the principals and finally to the provincial education offices.

Commenting on the programme that will be introduced, a teacher from the Western Province, under the condition of anonymity, noted that the provincial/zonal education offices started to send activities/assignments to them during the second Covid-19 wave in 2020.

“The students already have to complete the exercises that we assign them after each lesson and scan and send their work to us through WhatsApp. However, we did not want to burden them to complete and send the activities and assignments that were sent from the provincial/zonal education offices immediately,” the teacher noted.

According to the teacher, they had requested the students to look at completing the weekly assignments over the weekends if possible, and for the completed activity sheets/assignments to be filed and then brought into school once school commenced.