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Online Education in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka is one of the leading countries in providing free education from villages to cities.
Through this education system, many students have built their careers on the path of progress.
In addition, it is very useful for every student from preschool to university. Classroom
activities, direct lessons, dedicated teachers, and government regulations are the main reasons
for this achievement in Sri Lanka.
In what has been recognized as the world’s largest educational crisis, the spread of COVID-
19 has resulted in a record number of students being forced to stay away from schools and
universities. According to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, at the peak of the
pandemic’s first wave in mid-April 2020, over 190 countries had implemented nationwide
closures, affecting more than 90% of the world’s student population. However, this COVID-
19 causes many impacts on the Sri Lanka education system as well.
Online learning is the best solution to face the challenges of COVID-19. And it is enhancing
student education in this COVID -19 pandemic because there are no other substitutes. Also,
this virtual learning helps to make a good relationship between students -teachers during the
lockdown. And E-learning is an efficient way to deliver lessons via tools like PDF, Video
recording, podcasts. And it provides accessibility to time and place. Also, its affordability
means the reduced financial cost like traveling and food, etc.

In many Sri Lankan public schools, learning during the pandemic has mostly occurred via
online channels, with teachers sending large volumes of material as PDF documents to
students via WhatsApp and Viber. However, recent survey data indicate that in 2018, only
52% of Sri Lankan households with school-aged children owned a smartphone or computer
essential for online learning and only 40% had an internet connection, primarily via mobile
phones. This means that less than half of all households in Sri Lanka can benefit from e-
learning opportunities.

Quality of Distance Education
Teaching online requires specialized skills such as knowing how to conduct classes in a
virtual environment, the training for which is currently lacking in Sri Lanka. Distance
teaching also necessitates equipping students with tools to learn independently as opposed to
note-dictating methods in the absence of face-to-face interaction. Apart from problems with
the bulk transfer of material and difficulties associated with reading and absorbing content
from a phone screen, the current practice of sending large volumes of material via WhatsApp
and Viber is problematic, as it reinforces teacher-centered education, where students merely
absorb what is spoon-fed to them. In such a setting, achieving effective and relevant learning
outcomes is difficult.
Although this online education allows students to learn about new technology, it is less
effective than direct education because students will not be under the direct supervision of the
teacher. One of the major disadvantages of online education can be the lack of physical
interaction, which can make it more challenging teachers to communicate with their fellow
students and tutors. The furthermore main issue during taking online classes or lectures is
poor networking due to this so many students and teachers are affected. Many poor students
are unable to get education properly due to the absence of smartphone, laptop facilities in
their homes during this pandemic situation. Thus, education reaches only a few students.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Sri Lanka’s school system. The normal
pattern of learning has been significantly impacted due to COVID-19, resulting in
psychological concerns for both children and parents.
Online learning has also required parents to have a larger role in the learning process,
particularly at the primary and secondary school levels. As an example, parents with three children (all under the age of 16) must now have three devices at their disposal and must
monitor or assist all three children at the same time according to the scheduling, which is a
monumental undertaking. If both parents work full-time, it is even more difficult to assist
their children in educational activities during these challenging times.
Online learning necessitates a shift in perspective not only for students and parents, but also
for teachers. Traditional ‘Brick and Mortar’ educational delivery is vastly different from
online learning or blended learning. As a result, teachers and educational facilitators must go
above and beyond in their delivery methods. Some teachers have accepted change better than
the others. They are eager to learn about technology, adapt to it, and better engage their kids.
Here are some ideas that teachers and school administrators can use on a daily basis to
improve the overall educational experience during these exceptional times.

  1. Converting the entire textbook online
    SMART content is essential in online education. Students must be able to grasp key concepts
    without being overwhelmed by content. Excessive content is a significant turn off in any
    presentation deck, and the same holds true for online learning, regardless of the platform
    employed.
    Teachers must place an emphasis on optimizing content for numerous devices such as
    laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones because all of them are used in the current context
    and no student should be disadvantaged because of the type of device that they use. During
    class, some teachers read the textbook word for word. While this may be effective in face-to-
    face learning contexts, it is not effective in online learning due to the increased risk of
    boredom associated with having to listen to a class where the teacher repeats the textbook.
  2. Evaluations, tests and exams means that students are learning
    Surprisingly, some schools and academic institutions believe that the only way to ensure the
    success of online learning is to conduct regular assessments, tests, or exams to assess
    students’ knowledge. These institutions use the outcomes of these evaluations/tests to
    calculate students’ cumulative marks or results for that academic term. As we all know,
    students are severely lacking in social and peer contact, which is an essential element of
    learning. There have been numerous case studies conducted throughout the world on the

psychological impact of COVID-19 on pupils as a result of interruptions in typical schooling
patterns. As a result, adding extra pressure and stress through arbitrary evaluations is
detrimental to a positive learning environment.


Teachers and academic institutions must recognize that there is no practical need for a school
grading system to determine who is first, second, or third in class, etc. during these times,
particularly for Grades 1 to 10. The regular end-of-term tests should suffice. The goal should
be to have pupils like their learning environment while also ensuring their psychological
well-being.

  1. Engage students and encourage interaction
    When it comes to online learning, student participation is crucial. Rather of attempting to
    achieve this through evaluations or tests, teachers and academic institutions should place
    greater emphasis on providing more appealing content, establishing a joyful environment,
    and encouraging participation. Some schools throughout the world are looking into
    ‘Gamification’ to improve learning outcomes. Similarly, in a local context, teachers can use
    MCQs and other online tools to guarantee that their pupils are engaged.
    Allowing students to conduct research on specific topics and write an essay or explain to the
    class can also help them enhance their creative and speaking skills. Asking students to on
    their ‘video’ on a regular basis can also help students focus on the broader learning and
    knowledge transfer process. The majority of the less-effective teachers in this so-called ‘new
    normal’ were those who resisted change, had an unwillingness to adapt to technology, and,
    most importantly, lacked a positive outlook. Teaching is one of the most honorable
    occupations in the world. As a result, if you are unwilling to change, you are undoubtedly
    doing more harm than good to society, because these children are the future of the country
    and the authors of our economic narrative.
    Given uncertainties surrounding the complete eradication of the COVID-19 pandemic and the
    possible occurrence of future crises, distance education might be here to stay. Sri Lanka,
    therefore, needs to take rapid and decisive action in improving the delivery of equitable and
    quality remote learning opportunities.

References:-
https://www.aiesec.lk/impact-of-covid-19-in-the-sri-lanka-education-system/
https://www.iu.org/blog/studying-online/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-online-classes/
https://www.ft.lk/opinion/COVID-19-and-online-education-in-Sri-Lanka–Can-we-do-it-
better-/14-719254
https://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/2020/07/13/distance-education-during-and-after-covid-
19-long-road-ahead-for-sri-lanka/

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