FEATURE STORY

The School Family Works Together to Improve Sri Lankan Student Learning Experience in Public Sector Schools

May 15, 2015

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The “Global Knowledge Cart” is an innovation of this school to enrich student learning experience by providing as shared computer. It is a solution to expose students from poor regions to computers in classrooms. The “cart” with wheels was made by a parent using scraps of wood and material from discarded school furniture.

Photo Credit: Dhulan Malaka

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 4 million students study in approximately 10,000 public sector schools at primary and secondary levels in Sri Lanka.
  • The World Bank supported Transforming the School Education System as the Foundation of a Knowledge Hub Project (TSEP) aims to improve access, quality and governance of the Sri Lankan education sector using a results-driven approach. The Program for School Improvement (PSI) is a development initiative carried out by the Ministry of Education with support from the World Bank TSEP. It brings together school officials and local communities to invest in improving student performance.
  • Up to date 6,500 schools have introduced and implemented the PSI program benefiting 2.6 million students.

May 15, 2015 – Today is International Day of the Family. School is often referred to as the second home where children become global citizens. In addition to gaining knowledge and skills required for the job market, values and moral standards are instilled in children through interactions at school. A school family includes parents, teachers, students, and education specialists. The Ministry of Education with support from the World Bank introduced a new development initiative in 2012 called the Program for School Improvement (PSI) to empower schools and local communities. It aims at building Sri Lanka’s human capital to promote shared prosperity in the country.

The Challenge of Human Capital

Sri Lanka is a lower middle income country that is aspiring to become more prosperous. The greatest asset is its people. The country faces the challenge of developing its human capital with limited public investment in education.

Sri Lanka has approximately 4 million school children, 215,000 teachers and around 10,000 schools. Public investments in education are modest when compared to countries with similar income status. More education investments are needed to improve schools to meet the demands of the modern global economy. The school family comprising officials and community are working together to improve student learning.

Bonding as a Family

Janadhipathi MV (former Anula Ballika) is a school that was built after the Asian tsunami in 2007 with the efforts of parents and community. “I value the time parents invest with their labor to improve the school” said Mrs. Gamage, the recently appointed principal of the school. “Together, we have been able to organize many fundraisers such as school concerts to support the school development activities,” she said. Parents frequently participate in school improvement activities such as cleaning and painting. These are opportunities for parents to bond and to get to know other parents. 


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Parents work together to clean the school environment

Photo Credit: Dhulan Malaka

" “When I first arrived at this school, I found it to be disorganized. The first awareness program I conducted was in the 5S system of management.” "

Dinesh Hettiaarachchie

The Principal

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An improved school environment where children learn to manage a home garden while learning good manners and English language as a skill to communicate.

Photo Credit: Dilinika Peiris-Holsinger

Mrs. Gamage, with approximately 20 years of experience in education, described the value of bonding as a school family to deal with modern day challenges facing school children. While the officials, parents and community have supported the school activities from its inception, the training and capacity building initiatives carried out through new school development initiatives have helped her and the school officials to get into a better management culture, said Mrs. Gamage. “We are now better equipped with planning, monitoring and evaluating skills to drive for results in improving children’s learning outcomes,” she said.

The school, which has 2,500 students, has just 10 working computers right now. The principal and school development committee are working towards filling the gap. “I have been requesting for an Advanced Level IT teacher for this school and still have not filled the vacancy,” she said explaining the shortage of IT teachers in the country working in public schools.

Jayawardena Mahavidyalaya school is the second home to around 300 students and 34 teachers. “It is the only family experience for some students who come to school from orphanages in Galle area,” said P.L. Iresha Upamali a teacher who had recently followed a school-based training program in psychology and counselling. She explained that most children in the school are from low-income family backgrounds. Some parents have completely abandoned their children due to various reasons. These children find refuge in the school and often seek psychological support from teachers. A training for teachers in counselling and psychology was organized through the initiative of the School Development Committee (SDC) to respond to psychological needs of the students.

“When I first arrived at this school, I found it to be disorganized. The first awareness program I conducted was in the 5S system of management,” said school principal Dinesh Hettiaarachchie. He is creating a work plan to improve the learning outcomes of students and carry out more School Based Teacher Development programs. The school has successfully created a safe and clean environment for students to learn practical skills.

“Someday I wish to be an engineer,” said 14 year-old Mohammed Azmi, a student, explaining his passion to study math and IT.

“Children in this school have many dreams, just like others. But whether they will be able to achieve them is doubtful. The main reason is lack of family support due to the low income status of parents,” said Iresha Upamali, stating that her only wish is for these children to become good citizens and not a burden on society one day.

The Program for School Improvement

The objective of the Program for School Improvement (PSI) is to empower schools to carry out relevant management decisions to strengthen school performance and improve student learning. The PSI has a cycle of school planning, implementation, reporting of results, monitoring and evaluation and annual updating of the school work plan. It is implemented by the School Development Committee (SDC) and School Management Committee (SMC) that work in partnership under the leadership of the principal to effectively execute all elements of the PSI cycle. 6,500 schools have completed the PSI cycle from 2012-2014 out of 10,000 public sector schools in Sri Lanka.


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