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Friday December 9th, 2022

Sri Lanka tech campus drives online exams in Covid-19 lockdown

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, a fee levying tech campus said nearly 10,000 students sat for exams online during a Coronavirus lockdown.

Over 95 percent of students from the faculties of Computing, Engineering, Business, Humanities & Sciences, Graduate Studies & Research, School of Architecture, School of Law, School of Hospitality and Culinary had sat for the online exams.

“It is unprecedented in Sri Lanka’s higher education system, for such a large number to complete the full stretch of exam papers,” The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Nimal Rajapakse said.

“The papers were divided into multiple-choice, short answer questions, and the longer 3 to 4-hour papers which had to be answered on paper, then scanned and uploaded to our servers.

We had lockdown browsers and other tools and methods to ensure the integrity of examinations.”

He said Eduscope, a tech start up led by Malitha Wijesundera, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences had played a key role in online delivery of lecturs and exams.

The exams, which were conducted over a period of thee weeks, had each student sat for between four to six subjects.

The institute had to invest heavily in its IT infrastructure to handle the online delivery of lectures and examinations. “We see the value of this investment and plan to do more to give the best learning experience to our students,” says the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

“Like any other institution, we had some concerns because it’s the first time something like this was being done on this scale locally,” Rajapaksa said.

“Even international universities with sophisticated online tools had faced challenges, so in that sense, we had some worries – that there could be technological problems, low rates of participation which are issues that cannot be disregarded in a virtual environment.

“In a physical examination, students would raise a hand to clarify something which was not a possibility with online although we had hotlines managed by staff taking queries on the phone.

“Many of the exams had vivas and both academic staff and students had to put in a lot of work to do these online.”
The process had to be designed to treat everyone equally and their performance during the entire academic year could be judged fairly.

In some courses there was 100 percent participation, but in others there had been power outages and connection problems.

Those students would be given another opportunity to complete the exams. For pass/fail grades the choice of writing a regular in-class exam during the next semester would be given.

“We looked at student concerns and international best practices and designed the system around them, taking care not to create any disadvantages to students,” Rajapaksa said.

“They were sitting for exams from all over the island, so we had to consider that. We created a hotline where a student facing an issue such as a technical glitch, power outage, or any other, could call us and register the problem.’

SLIIT Vice Chancellor, Lalith Gamage, the institute had gained knowledge and experience. SLIIT is looking use know-how to enhance online learning and expand portfolio of courses to reach a wider section of society.

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Sri Lanka shares fall on profit taking after nine sessions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares slipped on Friday after gaining for nine straight sessions reverting from its highest gain in more than seven weeks on profit taking, brokers said.

“Bourse regressed to red ending the 9-day winning streak as investors resorted to book profits in blue chip counters,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed 0.54 percent or 47.84 points lower at 8,843.90.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.6 billion rupees, lower than this year’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The market saw a net foreign inflow of 1 million rupees. The total net foreign inflow stood at 22 billion rupees so far for this year.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis.

The government is in discussions with Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank to get loans of 1.9 billion US dollars after a reform program with the International Monetary Fund is approved.

A policy loan now being discussed with the World Bank may bring around 700 million US dollars, Coomaraswamy told a business forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The Asian Development Bank may also give around 1.2 billion US dollars most of which will be budget support, he said.

In the last few sessions, market gained after the Central bank governor said interest rates should eventually ease despite the fears of a domestic debt restructuring as inflation falls, increased liquidity in dollar markets, and the inter-bank liquidity improves.

The more liquid index S&P SL20 closed 0.59 percent or 16.77 points lower at 2,827.72.

So far in December ASPI gained 2.2 percent.

The ASPI gained 0.5 percent in November after losing 13.4 percent in October.

It has lost 27.6 percent year-to-date after being one of the world’s best stock markets with an 80 percent return last year when large volumes of money were printed.

John Keells Holdings pulled the index down to close at 1.5 percent lower at 147 rupees.

Aitken Spence lost 2.0 percent to close at 141 rupees and Commercial Bank closed 1.4 percent down at 50.50 rupees a share. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

 

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Sri Lanka bond yields end higher, kerb dollar Rs370/371

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bonds yields ended up and the T-bills eased on active trade on Friday, dealers said.

The US dollar was 370/371 rupees in the kerb.

“The bond rates went up, however more interest was seen in the short term bills by the investors” dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.90/32.20 percent on Friday, up from 31.25/70 percent at Thursday’s close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 30.30/31.30 percent steady from 30.30/31.00 percent.

The three-month T-bills closed at 30.75/31.30 percent, down from 32.00/32.25 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar unchanged.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.78 and 372.00 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.78 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Dec 09/2022)

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Foreign minister, US ambassador discuss future assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — In a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung discussed ways in which the United States can continue to support Sri Lanka going forward, the Ambassador said.

Chung tweeted Friday December 09 afternoon that the two officials had reflected on the “twists and turns” of 2022, at the meeting.

Minister Sabry was recently in Washington D.C. where he US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A foreign ministry statement said the two officials held productive discussions at the Department of State on December 02 on further elevating bilateral relations in diverse spheres, including the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations which will be marked in 2023.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka also celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British in 2023, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given himself and all parties that represent parliament a deadline to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue.

The US has been vocal about Sri Lanka addressing concerns about its human rights record since the end of the civil war in 2009 and was a sponsor of the latest resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Unlike previous resolutions, this year’s iteration makes specific reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis and calls for investigations on corruption allegations.

In the lead up to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Minister Sabry Sri Lanka’s government under then new president Wickremesinghe does not want any confrontation with any international partner but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

On the eve of the sessions on October 06, Sabry said countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who led the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

These pronouncements notwithstanding, the Wickremesnghe government has been making inroads to the West as well as India and Japan, eager to obtain their assistance in seeing Sri Lanka through the ongoing crisis.

The island nation has entered into a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility of 2.9 billion dollars to be disbursed over a period of four years, subject to a successful debt restructure programme and structural reforms.

Much depends on whether or not China agrees to restructure Sri Lanka’s 7.4 billion dollar outstanding debt to the emerging superpower. Beijing’s apparent hesitance to go for a swift restructure prompted Tamil National Alliance MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam to warn of possible “go home, China” protests in Colombo, similar to the wave of protests that forced the exit of former pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA will be a key player in upcoming talks with the Wickremesinghe government on a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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