Sunday, 28 April 2002  
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Sri Lanka links up with World Bank for distance education

Sri Lanka has become the first country in South Asia to be linked with the World Bank's Global Development Learning Network with the establishment of a distance learning centre in Colombo.

Located at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA), the centre is funded by a Learning Innovation Loan of Two million US dollars from the World Bank and counterpart funds of one million US dollars from the Government of Sri Lanka. It will use a combination of four main technologies - Video Conferencing, the Internet, CD ROM and Print - to conduct training and skills development for senior civil servants and corporate executives.

The project will be managed and operated by Distance Learning Centre Ltd. (DLC), a public limited liability company which is a collective enterprise of the government and private sector. The company's Board of Directors represents both the public and private sectors.

"The Distance Learning Centre assumes special significance as Sri Lanka is poised for an economic turnaround, and in the context of the renewed possibility of peace," DLC Chairman Armyne Wirasinha said. "It will facilitate the transfer of international best practice in public sector management, and corporate governance, which is critical to strengthen the environment for policy reforms in Sri Lanka and build capacity in the public and private sectors."

He said the company, which is expected to achieve self-financing status by 2005, would offer a demand-driven, fee-based course curriculum based on a training needs assessement and market survey. The courses would range from global dialogues linking experts in several countries for an exchange of ideas to half day programs or courses of longer duration on many subjects. These courses would be sourced from the Global Development Learning Network, which would link at least 52 countries, as well as other leading international educational institutions.

DLC CEO Russell Kerkoven said a key advantage of the Distance Learning Centre was its ability to provide access to information and training at a fraction of the cost of sending people overseas. The centre could also provide training to up to 30 people at a time, adding to the cost effectiveness of its services.

The core of the Distance Learning Centre comprises interactive video classroom that enables interaction between local course participants, remote instructors and international participants, and a computer laboratory consisting of two rooms with 40 personal computers for independent Internet-based interaction among peer groups and instructors. Connectivity is provided by a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite link with the World Bank in Washington DC.

A proposed future link up between the Global Development Learning Network and the British Council Network as well as JNet (the Japanese educational network), would further enhance the centre's access to information and training resources.

The centre plans to conduct four to six global dialogues each month, Kerkoven added.

The Board of Directors of Distance Learning Centre Ltd. comprises Armyne Wirasinha (Chairman), Charitha Ratwatte (Secretary Treasury), Mahen Dayanada (Chairman Tea Tang Ltd), Faizal Salieh (Chief Operating Officer NDB Housing and Finance) H. N. Thenuwara (Deputy Director Central Bank) and T. M. K. B. Tennekoon (Director SLIDA). 

Crescat Development Ltd.

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