‘The Partners in Learning Innovative Teachers and Students Competition’ in its 5th 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 14th December 2009, at the BMICH. The event was presided by the Minister of Education Honourable Susil Premjayanth and graced by Additional Secretary Mr. S.U. Wijerathne, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Education Officials, Microsoft representatives and other dignitaries. This joint initiative by the Ministry of Education, The Education for Knowledge Society Project (EKSP) 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. Microsoft’s goal in the Innovative Schools Programme is to help communities around the world improve teaching and learning, while igniting the imagination of students everywhere. As a key Partners in Learning component, Innovative Schools delivers models that any school, any system, can use to help students achieve their full potential. Working with governments, educators, and students around the world, Microsoft’s Innovative Students program aims to provide students with access to programs and curriculum that help fully integrate technology into the learning process, both in school and at home.
Having expressed his sincere gratitude to Microsoft Sri Lanka and EKSP, Minister of Education, Hon. Susil Premjayanth said “The role of IT in education is essential in building a knowledge economy. Our achievements are impressive in the field of education. We have introduced IT as a subject in the school syllabus where teachers use IT as a teaching tool. The Ministry of Education has provided IT laboratories for 3,500 schools. Our objective is to provide IT centres for 6,000 schools by 2010 and we have initiated a project to provide 1,000 IT centres run by solar power to rural schools that do not have access to electricity. I commend Microsoft for empowering our future, students and teachers in our country”.
The national winners of the competition were announced on the 14th of December. In the Teachers 1-8 Category Mr. D. Priyankara Godage from Siddhartha Maha Vidyalaya Monaragala came first, whilst Mrs. S.M.C.K. Senanayake from Ma-Eliya Maha Vidyalaya, Maho came second and Mrs. S.J.R. Emiltaine from St. Francis Xavier Maha Vidyalaya, Trincomalee was awarded third place. In addition, the Teachers 9-11 Category saw - Mr. R.S. Edirisinghe from Siddhartha College, Weligama in first place, Mr. S. Rathnakumar of St. Marry's College, Trincomalee and Mr. A. Mohamed Ersath from Al-Mazhar Girls' High School, Kalmunai in second and third place respectively. In the 12 -13 Teachers Category Mr. M.D. Sunil Rathna from Panakawa Maha Vidyalaya, Kegalle came first whilst Mr. D. M. L. D. Seneviratne from St. Josephs College, Anuradhapura became the runner-up and Ms. L.L. Piyumi Perera from Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo 07 emerged as the second runner-up.
In the Students competition, overall winner of the categories: A/L Arts, A/L Bio Science, A/L Commerce, A/L Mathematics, Grade 1-8 and 9-11 were awarded to R.B. Sameera Dilshan from Narandeniya National School, Matara, Tharindu Dulaj Koggalahewa of Sripada Central College, Hatton, W.M. Madhumali Nimeshika Munasinghe from Kaluvila Sena Maha Vidyalaya, Anuradhpura, Sachithra Wishwamal Geeganage from Walasmulla National School, Hambantota, R.P. Hasini Kalanika Ruwanpura of Weddagala South Maha Vidyalaya, Weddagala, Kalawana and D.K.M. Supun Udara Dissanayake from Rajarata Maha Vidyalaya, Polonnaruwa respectively.
“The Government of Sri Lanka declared 2009 the ‘Year of English and Information Technology’ and has undertaken a series of activities aimed at expanding the reach of ICT amongst the youth Microsoft firmly believes in transforming education through the use of advanced technologies, customized training and strong partnerships by exploring solutions in three interconnected areas, which are empowering teachers and engaging students; building vibrant educational communities and developing agile infrastructure. This awards ceremony exemplifies Microsoft’s support to the government’s vision to put Sri Lanka on the global IT map, whilst realizing its long-term objective of providing necessary skills amongst youth to meet both local and global demands” said Microsoft Sri Lanka’s Country Manager, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne.
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.
Anura Dissanayake, Project Director, Secondary Education Modernization Project II and Education for Knowledge Society Project, said "I congratulate all winners, the innovative teachers and students competition will no doubt create a positive change in the education community in Sri Lanka. As policy makers we are faced with the challenge of making our educational system relevant for the times we live in and I am confident that such efforts will help chart the roadmap towards change and innovation that will pervade not only city schools but also smaller schools in remote areas, so that the youth in the country receive equity in education and can participate on such global platforms. This is one more step forward in achieving the government’s vision to make IT accessible for all.”
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 more than 54,000 entries from all nine provinces. 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.
“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 the Ministry of Education, The Education for Knowledge Society Project and Microsoft Sri Lanka for this fine venture they have undertaken to better these young minds,” said Mr. M.D. Sunil Rathna from Panakawa Maha Vidyalaya, Kegalle, 1st place winner, category 12 -13. “I am also proud to be attending the global summit in Singapore as I know it will broaden my knowledge even 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”.
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 Education Director and consisted of IT specialists, Subject Specialists, University Lecturers etc.
At the National level, the top three winners in each category within the students’ competition were rewarded for their efforts. Winner in the A/L Mathematics category Sachithra Wishwamal Geeganage from Walasmulla National School, Hambantota said “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 Education for Knowledge Society Project and Microsoft Sri Lanka for giving us students the platform to develop our IT skills and in a global scale. I would also like to express my gratitude to my teachers and school for their guidance, support and inspiration”.
Teachers who are placed 1st in each of the three categories will receive the opportunity to attend the global summit which will be held in Singapore in March 2010. 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.