‘The Partners in Learning Innovative Teachers Competition’ in its 4th consecutive year once again recognized the exceptional talents of innovative teachers and students island wide and rewarded them at the National Awards ceremony on the 26th of January 2009, at the Galadari. The event was presided by the Minister of Education Honourable Susil Premjayanth and graced by Mr. M.M.N.D. Bandara the Secretary, Ministry of Education, Additional Secretaries, Ministry of Education Officials, Microsoft representatives and other dignitaries.This joint initiative by the Ministry of Education, The Secondary Education Modernization Project II (SEMPII) and Microsoft Sri Lanka is held across the country on an annual basis. The competition is designed to help motivate and recognize all teachers and students who actively use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their teaching and learning, to create effective and productive learning experiences in their classrooms on a day to day basis. The main objective of this competition is to jumpstart the use of ICT in schools, so that children become aware of the potential of IT from a young age and also to encourage educators to adopt ICT as part and parcel of their teaching methods.
These goals are especially relevant this year, following H.E President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s declaration of 2009 as the Year of English and ICT. The competition hopes to provide a platform for these Teachers and Students to set the right example for the wider teacher and student community.
In 2008, based on the tremendous appeal and far reaching impact of the Teacher competition, The Secondary Education Modernization Project II of the Ministry of Education partnered with Microsoft Sri Lanka to enhance and bring to light the Student component of the competition for the first time. The students’ competition requires participants to demonstrate their ICT skills by creating a lesson plan based on a subject of their choice, thus encouraging students to adopt ICT in their schoolwork as well as motivating them to integrate different mediums such as the Internet and varied productivity tools into their lessons. Having expressed his sincere gratitude to Microsoft Sri Lanka and SEMP II, Minister of Education, Hon. Susil Premjayanth said “Education is key to creating the 21st century society. Our youth are entering a world that has been characterized by constant growth in the volume of information, increase in the speed of information transmission and ever – growing connection between people facilitated by global communication and social networking. The Sri Lankan Government has continued in their educational reforms with the aim of realizing a lifelong learning society and cultivating creative talents. It is widely recognized that the adoption of ICT in education is the most important driving force and basis for enabling such educational reforms.”
The national winners of the competition were announced on the 26th of January. In the Teachers 1-11 Category Mr. T.G.R. Tharukarathne from Sujatha Balika Vidyalaya came first, whilst Mr. R.M.S.P. Rajapaksha from Viharamahadevi Balika Vidyalaya came second and Mr. H.M. Wijewardane from Rambuka Maha Vidyalaya and Mr. P.A. Gunasekara from Ehalape Vidyaraja Maha Vidyalaya were jointly awarded third place. In addition, the Teachers 12-13 Category saw - Mr. W.A.M.K. Abeysinghe from Nikawewa Dewanampiyathissa Central College in first place, Mrs. C.Karunasekara from Katuwana National School and Mrs. L.L. Piumi Perera from Devi Balika Vidyalaya in second and third place respectively.
In the Students competition, overall winner of the A/L category was H.M.G. Dilhani Marabage from Kaluvilasena Maha Vidyalaya while 1st place of the categories: A/L Arts, A/L Science, A/L Commerce, A/L Mathematics, Grade 1-8 and 9-11 were awarded to T. Nilmini Ariyawansa of Kaluvilasena Maha Vidyalaya, D.A.D. Dodangoda of Bandarawela Central College, N.A.P. Dharmapriya of Lunugala Maha Vidyalaya, H.M.C.D. Bandara of Mahiyanganaya Central College, R.P.H. K. Ruwanpura of Weddagala South Maha Vidyalaya and Udayanga Senarathne of Elpitiya Ananda Central College respectively.
“Microsoft believes that education in ICT can be a powerful catalyst to improve teaching and learning efficiency in all parts of Sri Lanka. Ultimately, education changes lives, families, communities, and even nations. During this important year of ICT Microsoft’s ‘Partners in Learning’ programme will be firmly behind the government’s efforts to deliver the promise of transforming education, by inspiring, identifying, sharing and scaling practices and behaviors that can improve learning outcomes through the use of IT. Competitions such as these play an important part in transforming both the Teacher, and Student landscape” said Microsoft Sri Lanka’s Country Manager, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne.
Microsoft’s global initiative ‘Partners in Learning’ focuses on the development and sustainability of three main pillars in the education system, namely; Innovative Teachers, Innovative Students and Innovative Schools.
The Innovative Teachers programme is built on the understanding that informed and empowered teachers and students will be at the heart of the constructive and powerful teaching and learning process. Innovative Teachers, enables teachers to learn from one another and work collaboratively on new approaches to learning through national or region-wide portals. Educational technology is not, and never will be, transformative on its own. It requires teachers and educators to integrate technology into and across a curriculum, and embed ICT into the manner in which students learn and absorb knowledge. Hence the need to foster an innovative teaching and learning culture is imperative, especially in the light of the emergence of a knowledge economy.
"Creating a learning environment that prepares students for the realities of 21st century social, cultural, economic and political life requires a combination of thoughtful policy reform and appropriate technology. While the policy development is best left to education subject matter experts, innovative technologies can benefit the future generations" said Project Director, Secondary Education Modernization Project II of the Ministry of Education - Mr. Anura Dissanayake.
All submissions for the competition are judged by a panel of IT experts and Academics, in each province, using a set of predefined measurement criteria. The criteria for selection included, exemplary and innovative use of technology in teaching, educational talent as evidenced by instructional practices in the classroom, demonstration of an engaging and inspiring presence to motivate and impact on students, and the optimum use of technologies available in their school or community.
This year, the competition received close to 40,000 entries from all nine provinces (the Northern province being the latest addition), with several provinces such as Central, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern and Uva doing extraordinarily well.
Ten winners were selected in each province and were awarded cash prizes, ICT training vouchers and certificates for their efforts. All those who participated received a certificate of participation, as a token of encouragement to continue to submit entries for the competition in the future.
Winners were also recognized at a Provincial award ceremony, motivating them to continue their endeavors and also act as ICT mentors in their respective schools. Subsequent to the selection of the best entries, these lesson plans are made available via the SchoolNet facility to the rest of the schools in the country so that all schools have the opportunity to learn from the best entries which are submitted. SchoolNet is an initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Asian Development Bank funded Secondary Education Modernization Project which has established a wide-area network (WAN) connecting most of the senior secondary schools and other related organizations in the country.
The 1st and 2nd place winners from each category in each province were then entered into the National award round of the competition. In this round the top three winners in each category were selected and then ranked from 1st to 6th place in the Teacher category. The judging panel was selected by the Provincial Director of Education and consisted of IT specialists, Subject Specialists, University Lecturers etc.
Teachers who are placed 1st and 2nd in the 12-13 category and the 1st place winner in the 1-11 category also received the opportunity to attend the global summit which will be held in Malaysia later this year. Participation at the global summit will be an unparalleled opportunity for the local winners to be exposed to, and gain from, global standards of innovation in connection with the use of ICT in education.
“As a teacher, this competition has allowed me to do work that benefit my students while also adding to my abilities as a teacher. I am now able to share all the knowledge I have gained, with my young charges and stay abreast of the latest ICT innovations. This experience has not only widened these students’ horizons but, also their hopes for a brighter and more productive future. I’m deeply grateful to Ministry of Education, The Secondary Education Modernization Project II and Microsoft Sri Lanka for this noble venture they have undertaken to better these young minds,” said Mr. Abeysinghe, 1st place winner, category 12 -13. “I am also proud to be attending the global summit in Malaysia as I know it will broaden my knowledge even II II II further and that I will return with fresh ideas for more inspired and innovative ways to use ICT to benefit Sri Lankan students, schools and education in general”
At the National level, the top three winners in each category within the students’ competition were rewarded for their efforts. Overall winner in the A/L category Dilhani Marabage said “Let alone winning, merely having been given the opportunity to participate in a national competition such as this, has been an experience of a lifetime! The exposure and knowledge I was able to gain via this initiative is immeasurable, as is the extent to which my awareness on ICT has been enhanced. I would like to thank Ministry of Education, The Secondary Education Modernization Project II and Microsoft Sri Lanka for creating a way for us students to develop our IT skills and get ahead in life. I would also like to express my gratitude to my teachers and school for their guidance, support and inspiration”