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Sri Lanka can employ ‘ed tech’ to make education more equitable: study

ECONOMYNEXT – Despite having achieved near-universal participation in education, Sri Lanka has a long way to go in achieving equitable education for vulnerable groups, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) said, proposing ‘ed tech’, or education technology, as a possible solution.

A blog authored by IPS Research Assistant Himani Vithanage noted that children with disabilities, out-of-school children, school dropouts, migrant workers’ children, and children from minority communities are among those that do not receive equal access to education in the island nation.

“A recent regional study conducted by IPS highlights examples from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Asia on how technology can be used to bridge these gaps. However, the study reveals that compared to several other lower middle-income countries analysed within South Asia, Southeast Asia and MENA, Sri Lanka is not fully catering to the diverse educational needs of vulnerable children through its use of technology,” the author wrote.

Explaining ed tech, Vithanage said it is the use of technology in education to facilitate the teaching and learning processes and encompass hardware, software, infrastructure, and other digital content used for educational purposes. Examples of edtech include E-learning platforms, learning management systems (LMS), virtual classrooms, educational apps, educational games, educational television channels, and education management information systems (EMIS).

The uptake of edtech has grown over time, particularly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic which highlighted the important role played by technology in strengthening the resilience of education systems to crises and emergencies. After the pandemic in particular, wrote Vithanage, with technology becoming more accessible to users, new edtech initiatives have been developed while expanding the coverage of existing ones.

Several edtech initiatives in the MENA region are being deployed to improve access to education for underrepresented and vulnerable groups. For instance, the UNRWA eLearning Platform is a digital learning hub that provides access to remote learning material and resources specifically for Palestinian refugee students. This platform was developed with the aim to ensure continuity of learning, especially during times of crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and is an ideal example of the use of edtech in improving the inclusivity of education, the IPS research assistant noted.

‘Sghartoon’ in Tunisia is a digital teletherapy platform that is designed to help children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, through educational games. This platform enables therapists to manage the therapeutic path of children through its digital game library, patient management and calendar management tools.

Similarly, Asia boasts several successful initiatives like the ‘Basic Education Equivalency Program (BEEP)’ in Cambodia, an online programme, that targets young Cambodians who have dropped out of lower secondary school and supports them in completing their basic education online without disrupting their work.

In Pakistan, the ‘WonderTree’ programme provides therapeutic exercises for children with special needs through Augmented Reality (AR) based games, catering to the educational needs of children from various spectrums of motor and cognitive difficulties including Autism, Down Syndrome, and Global Development Delay. This is an instance of using edtech as a technology-enabled behavioural intervention that enhances the psychological well-being of students, illustrating the significant contribution that edtech can make to learning beyond conventional classroom settings.

While lack of access to education infrastructure in rural schools in India is an ongoing challenge, ‘OLabs’ (online labs for schools) is an initiative that targets children from underprivileged schools by making lab resources available readily (anytime) and remotely (anywhere) to students with no access to physical labs or where equipment is not available in their schools due to scarcity or cost. This initiative serves as an example of using technology to improve access to education infrastructure in rural schools.

There has also been a recent emergence of offline tech in certain countries, where some edtech programmes have been specifically developed to reduce the digital divide in education. Such edtech programmes do not require internet or electricity. One such example is the ‘Class Saathi’ initiative in South Korea and India which uses Bluetooth clickers to provide students and teachers from underprivileged areas lacking proper ICT infrastructure (internet and electricity) to access online content using offline and wireless technology. Such initiatives are innovative solutions that would enhance accessibility to edtech.

While Sri Lanka still has much to achieve in terms of inclusiveness and equitability of education, Vithanage wrote, these regional examples demonstrate how edtech can be used to capture the varied groups of vulnerable children including children from various spectrums of learning disabilities, out-of-school children, school dropouts, migrant workers’ children, children from minority communities etc. Therefore, she said, the focus should be directed towards developing targeted edtech initiatives that are specifically designed to address the needs of particular groups of children to ensure the inclusiveness of quality education through edtech. Some progress has been made in this regard, although there is a long way to go.

One important example in Sri Lanka is the ‘Nenasa’ programme which makes educational content available to rural students through its TV programmes, developed to reduce the urban-rural gap in access to educational material. Implementing such targeted initiatives would be a vital step in the progress of Sri Lanka’s education system.

“As there is mixed evidence on the role of technology in reducing disparities in education, especially because of the digital divide, promoting the use of offline tech is also a possibility for Sri Lanka as evident from the Class Saathi initiative.

“Despite the government’s recent efforts to improve access to technology in facilitating edtech, that solely is insufficient and ineffective in improving inclusiveness in education. Rather, targeted, strategic and innovative measures should be taken to ensure that the implementation of edtech is effective in promoting inclusiveness in education for marginalised and vulnerable groups of children in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, in addition to introducing such targeted edtech initiatives, it should be followed by providing adequate teacher pre-service and in-service training to ensure the effective incorporation of technology in education.” (Colombo/Jan26/2024)

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Sri Lanka discussing giving extra land, water for Chinese oil refinery

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in discussions with China’s Sinopec to give extra land and assure water supplies after the company decided to expand the capacity of a planned oil refinery in Hambantota, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“There are concerns on how the water supply is going to be provided for the refinery,” Minister Wijesekera told reporters Friday.

The refinery will need more land and also revise conditions in a Board of Investment agreement, he said.

Read more
Sinopec to double capacity of new refinery in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota

Recommendations and decisions from Sri Lanka’s side had already been sent and Sinopec is expected to revert back in May.

“We are hoping to sign the agreement once everyone has agreed,” Wijesekara said.

The principle agreements are expected to be signed by June, he said.

The refinery could sell up to 10 percent of its output in the domestic market.

“There is no commitment by the government to purchase anything,” Minister Wijesekera said. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 302.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 302.00/50 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Friday, down from 301.50/302.00 a day earlier, dealers said.

There was increased demand for dollars after the central bank bought 715 million dollars from forex markets. In the previous two months it was buying on average about 200 million US dollars, leaving market participants and bank in a ‘oversold’ position.

There were some official dollars sales Friday dealers said.

READ Sri Lanka rupee quoted wide to US dollar as peg inconsistencies flare up

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 11.30/40 percent down from 11.35/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.95/12.05 percent up from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed stable at 12.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.30/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed stable at 12.40/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down, banks trade down

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed down 0.38 percent, or 44.80 points, at 11,753; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.53 percent, or 18.46 points, at 3,456.

Turnover was at 1.4 billion. The diversified financials (Rs366mn) and banks (Rs266mn) sectors continued to see selling pressure.

“This was possibly due to uncertainty around the bond discussions,” market participants said.

With the exception of Sampath Bank Plc (up at 77.50) all other banks traded down in the day. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc was down at 104.50, Hatton National Bank Plc was down at 188.50, and DFCC Bank Plc was down at 77.00.

LOLC Finance Plc saw the most trades and closed up at 6.40. Another LOLC company, Browns Investments Plc, also saw high traded volumes and closed up at 5.60.

Softlogic Capital Plc was up at 7.00, and Softlogic Holdings Plc was up at 11.20. A trading suspension imposed on SHL.N0000 was lifted effective today as the company submitted the annual report for the year ended 31st March 2023.

However, shares of the Company will remain in the Watch List “due to Qualified Audit Opinion and Emphasis of matter on going concern in the Independent Auditor’s Report in the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31st March 2022.”

Dialog Axiata Plc, which announced its merger with Bharti Airtel Thursday, saw its share price close up at 11.90.

“There was some traction on index heavyweights,” market participants pointed out.

Top contributors to the APSI included Aitken Spence Plc (up at 134.50), Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc (up at 1,245.25, and Lion Brewery (Ceylon) Plc (up at 1,048.50).

There was a net foreign inflow of 5 million. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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