Microsoft, together with the Ministry of Education is bringing about the winds of change to the ‘Reawakened East!’ Having identified the East as a key priority area in upgrading the skills of teachers, knowledge delivery will be via the globally acclaimed International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) course, which is comprehensive, and provides participants with a well rounded knowledge of basic IT skills.
In keeping with the Government’s primary objectives to develop underprivileged areas of the country, the East has now been earmarked as an area for resources to be invested in. Thus, the Eastern Province is one of the key focus areas of the Government and a sustainable social and economic integration of the province has been one of the primary policies of the Government subsequent to the liberation of the East from terrorism.
The main objective of the programmes launched in the East is to bring about rehabilitation and reconstruction to its residents in order to improve their quality of life, in turn resulting in economic prosperity. Thus, in uplifting the quality of life in the East, quality, relevant and up-to-date education plays a pivotal role in empowering its citizens to be on par with the rest of the world. Moreover due to the era of digital inclusion, IT education too takes on great importance across the country, and more so in provinces that are less progressive and resource constrained such as the East. In bringing about the much needed heightened levels of IT literacy in the East, Microsoft, together with the Ministry of Education is embarking on an initiative to equip teachers with the (ICDL).
“We firmly believe that the knowledge of Information and Communication Technology must be improved to take the students and teachers to the knowledge society of the 21st century. So, with the worthy partnership of Microsoft Sri Lanka under the ‘Partners in Learning Programme,’ we jointly launched the ICDL training course to teachers in the East. Once they are armed with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) qualification, I am sure it will spread throughout the education system with a rapid growth in ICT literacy and related activities,” said Mr. Anura Dissanayake, Project Director, Secondary Education Modernization Project II.
Under the Isuru Schools Development Programme, the Ministry of Education has started developing physical infrastructure of 19 selected schools, by providing new teaching appointments in the Province, whilst at the same time empowering them with necessary new knowledge. Since the Eastern Province was liberated from terrorist activities, the Government has initiated many development projects under the Eastern province re-awakening programme. Many humanitarian projects are in progress to resettle the displaced back in their homelands, and the schools which were used as refugee camps, are now restarting their day to day teaching/learning processes. Under this programme, the Ministry of Education has given its best contribution to strengthen both the physical infrastructure development and human resource development capacities of the educational facilities of the schools in the Eastern province.
In order to fulfil the goal of empowering the Eastern province, students and teachers capacities alike need to be upgraded on ICT. The Ministry of Education and Microsoft have started providing ICDL training to 1300 teachers in the East, in line with the objectives of the Government. This special ICDL scholarship programme came under the partnership between Secondary Education Modernization Project II of the Ministry, and Microsoft Sri Lanka. It is also a part of the Microsoft ‘Partners in Learning’ programme, which is integral to creating innovative teachers.
"This was a long felt need of the Eastern province, especially as both teachers and students of the province had very limited access to ICT, under the previous insecure conditions. Now the Ministry of Education has started developing both the physical and academic infrastructure of the province. Also, in order to make this programme more meaningful, the Ministry of Education along with Microsoft Sri Lanka provided ICDL scholarships to nearly 1300 young teachers. I admire this timely support of Microsoft, and hope these scholarships will make a positive difference on the Eastern ICT knowledge base," said Mr. K. Kalanithy, Eastern Provincial Project Manager, Secondary Education Modernization Project II.
These trainings will be held in Microsoft certified training centres located in IDM and Gateway in the Eastern Province, which are part funded by Microsoft, and fully coordinated by the Eastern Provincial Office of Secondary Education Modernization Project II. The trainings will be carried out in locations such as, Kalmunai, Batticaloa, Akkraipattu, Trincomalee and Ampara.
The impact of the training will be measured by the Ministry of Education on using several quantitative and qualitative criterion such as the increase in computer literacy, number of entries submitted for ICT competitions in the province, in the percentage of the GIT pass rate in the province, and the overall increase in the quality of education. This assessment will add an important dimension to the course as it will be able to quantify the precise benefits that ICDL has imparted to raising IT knowledge unlike many other educational courses both IT and non-IT, which do not take recourse to any such valuable follow-up studies. An impact assessment of this sort makes it possible to further fine tune the course to meet the changing demands of the workplace.
By empowering the teachers and students of the east, the Ministry of Education hopes to pass the additional, updated knowledge on to the student community so as to ensure that they are aptly equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for the 21st century. Microsoft Sri Lanka emphasises the need to start at the grass-root level in terms of providing technology access to those in underprivileged areas. The importance of ICT cannot be undermined, and needs to pervade the entire country in being as vital as the knowledge society. This is one more of Microsoft’s efforts at bridging the digital divide that exists between the urban and rural populations. ICDL is a golden opportunity that will transform the future of rural youth forever.
“Seeing as it’s a long overdue awakening for the East as it is, Microsoft Sri Lanka feels that this initiative is quite timely and would be of great benefit to residents of the East. Particularly as people in this area don’t have adequate access and resources related to ICT, this programme will open many doors for them and give them the much needed exposure and knowledge they require. We are confident that as we also have the support of the Ministry of Education, this initiative will eventually be replicated throughout the island and reach as many people in need of such a programme as possible,” elaborated Yashinka Jayasinghe Alles, Academic Progammes Manager of Microsoft Sri Lanka.
The ICDL is an internationally recognized qualification in IT literacy and is the international version of the European Computer Driving License (ECDL), which was launched in Sweden in 1996 and after that rolled across Europe and beyond. The ECDL Foundation is the global governing body of the world’s leading end-user computer skills certification programme, European Computer Driving License (ECDL), which is known as the International Computer Driving License (ICDL), outside Europe. The course has met with profound global success and reflects the superior nature of course contents that students can expect from it.
The ECDL Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping to raise the general level of computer skills in society, and provide access to all in the Information Society.
ECDL Foundation supports the European Union’s i2010 strategy – a European Information Society for growth and employment.
ICDL has resulted in raising the IT training, the IT skill levels in the industries across Europe. ICDL is the world’s largest end-user computer skills certification programme, with more than 7 million candidates in over 148 countries. It is the global standard in end-user computer skills, offering candidates an internationally recognized certification that is supported by Governments, computer societies, international organizations and commercial corporations globally. ICDL is a test of practical skills and competencies which consists of seven several modules which covers theory as well as practice. A certification of this nature will empower the students to access employment opportunities that would otherwise not come their way. The universal acceptance of ICDL offers them multiple benefits into the long term.
One of the main aims of ICDL is to raise the general level of competency in IT. In order to obtain the ICDL certificate an individual must pass 7 modules which covered the areas of Basic IT concepts, using the computer and managing files, word processing, spreadsheets, database, presentation together with information and communication etc., Tests are delivered on-line at Accredited Testing Centres, and the result will be made known immediately after taking the test. Microsoft is confident that ICDL is the ideal IT tool to enhance the IT capabilities of students in the Eastern Province who have been denied access to the latest technological advances in the realm of ICT thus far.