A/L Technology stream proposed from next year
Prof. Dayantha Wijesekera
The GCE Advanced level curriculum is to undergo a key change filling
a void that has existed for years. A new stream of technological
subjects will be introduced to the A/L syllabus shortly. Among others,
the proposal is aimed at producing the large number of middle level
technicians the country will be needing to shoulder its construction and
economic boom projected in the post war phase.
This stream, in addition, will be a new ladder for the A/L students
to gain entry to conventional universities to pursue many popular degree
courses including IT, Computer Science, Architecture as well as Quantity
Surveying. In the private sector universities this group of students
will be allowed to do Engineering as well.
The stream, proposed by the National Education Commission was
approved by the National Institute of Education and is awaiting action
for implementation by the Education Ministry.
Tertiary and Vocational Education commission Chairman Prof. Dayantha
Wijesekera, a former Vice Chancellor of Moratuwa University, who is one
of the most vociferous champions of the GCE Advanced Level technology
stream, proposed for introduction from next year, in an interview with
the Sunday Observer however said he is exasperated that the
implementation of the new stream is taking undue delays over issues
beyond his control.
He said “I cannot imagine what the delay is because everything to set
this in motion is already there. There are already 600 A/L schools doing
science. They have the capacity to introduce the new A\L stream. NIE has
long sanctioned the new syllabus.“
“The Secretary of Education has to send a circular to schools
directing them to commence the new stream if there are facilities
available. The delay is in issuing the circular.”
The following is the excerpts of the Interview where
Prof.Wijejesekera discusses the relevance of the new stream and the
opportunities awaiting those pursuing GCE A/L in the technology stream.
In 2008 the National Education Commission took up this matter of
introducing a new stream to the GCE Advanced Level. That went through
various deliberations among the experts in the school sector, university
sector and the technical sector.
Proposals were circulated among all the stakeholders including the
UGC chairman, All vice Chancellors and DG National Institute of
Education. The copies of the circular was sent to all heads of
institutes in the Vocational sector including the DG UNIVOTECH as well
as Deans of Architecture and IT of the University of Moratuwa.
President of the Institute of Engineers and other relevant bodies
were also informed.
Late 2009 the NEC finally approved this new study stream for the A/L.
It was submitted to the Education Minister in February 2010. The plan
was to implement the new stream from January 2011 school year. President
Rajapaksa was very happy with the NEC proposal.
One reason why there had been certain hiccups is that there is this
misconception that universities will not accept these advanced
technology students. It is totally false. On one hand the GCE A/L has
been misunderstood that it is only for university admission.
GCE A/L is a public examination. It is a tool used to assess students
for university admission but all those who sit for GCE A/L do not wish
to enter university. Some make use of it as an entry point to
professional exams or a qualification to find employment.
Likewise some wanted the Technology stream to be an entry
qualification for Engineering Faculties. That is a long way ahead for
local Engineering Faculties. The three faculties, Moratuwa, Ruhuna and
Peradeniya will take sometime to accept these students to their
engineering degree courses. On the contrary a lot of foreign
universities accept advanced technology students to their Engineering
Faculties. Open University will also accept these students.
The GCE technology students can gain access to do university degree
courses at the 15 conventional universities under the University Grants
Table subjects combinations....
The grouping of the subjects have already been decided upon. Group C
are the traditional subjects. The first subject combination (group A and
C) can be called a hard technology stream.
We have restricted the subjects in the technology stream to already
existing A/L subjects so as to expedite implementation. Introduction of
new subjects will be made as we go along.
There are misconceptions that the GCE A/L technology subject syllabus
will take a long time to prepare. That is not true. These subjects that
we are referring to are already in the A/L curriculum.
The students who study this stream can gain entry to all 15
conventional universities under the UGC as well as the Kothalawela
Defence University and the National Institute of Fisheries and Nautical
Engineering (the proposed Oceanic University) to follow degree courses.
With the subject combinations in the Technology stream the students
can follow degree courses in Computer Science, ICT, Applied and Physical
Sciences, Agricultural Technology, Environment Conservation &
Management, Animal Sciences and Fisheries, Food Production and
Technology Management, Bio-sciences, Quantity Surveying, Surveying
Science, Town and Country Planning, Aquatic Resources Technology or
“Architecture is more relevant to the technology students than anyone
else. This is the point I am making.”
Once the A/L technology stream is introduced the University Grants
Commission will advertise for the degree courses that will accommodate
the technology students. If the new A/L stream is introduced by next
year then the university admission under this stream can be made by
I must also make the point that there are many institutions, where
A/L technology students can follow diploma level courses, such as
National Diploma in Technology, Higher National Diploma in Engineering,
National Diploma in Engineering Sciences and Bachelor of Education
(Tech) and Bachelor of Technology at the newly established University of
They can also gain entry to technical colleges of which the passed
out students are in high demand overseas.
There are certain reservations expressed about the academic staff, as
to how the teachers of technology can be found.
University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTECH) has a Bachelors
degree in Education (Technology), this degree is all about how to teach
Moreover, it is highly feasible to absorb the existing teachers of
science and technology to teach the A/L classes. Another avenue is the
recruitment of higher diploma holders as teachers of technology
following a training on pedagogy. They could be allowed to complete a
degree while on the job. The teachers from the technical colleges too
can be invited as part time teachers.
When the English medium was first introduced in schools there were a
lot of resistance. Many questions were asked, as to the availability of
trained staff, etc, etc. But today many schools have started the English
medium and it became a success story.
When you start something new we have to share resources, we cannot
wait till all is perfect. Some of the 38 technical colleges are
under-utilised. Even now some A/L schools cannot do physics and
chemistry practicals. Technical colleges can be utilised to give them
the practical exposure.
Moratuwa university, at the outset did not have facilities for
practicals. It was done at Maradana Technical College and other places.
When a new course starts, we must get assistance from elsewhere. The
important thing is to prevent undue delays.
The ADB funded Secondary Education Modernisation Project (SEMP) has
supported 73 schools to buy equipment at a cost of Rs.78 million to
start the technology stream.
There are four streams already in the A/L curriculum, Art, Commerce,
Bio and Physical Science. If you follow any one of these, some would get
selected to university and some find jobs. If you follow the technology
stream, it is a work oriented type of A/L stream, they could directly go
in for employment.
What I am trying to emphasize is that the chances of securing an
employment is much better for a Technology student than all the others.
Industry and private sector people will prefer these people who have
hands on knowledge, practical knowledge over others. That may drive the
Engineering faculties to change their mind about admitting these
students to their faculties.
What’s the delay?
I cannot say what’s the delay because everything to set this in
motion is there. There are already 600 A/L schools doing science which
have the capacity to introduce the new A/L stream. NIE has agreed to
include this in the A/L curriculum. Secretary of Education has to send a
circular to schools directing them to commence the new stream if there
are facilities available. The delay is in issuing the circular.
Isn’t it better to start it as a pilot project in a selected group of
That will be discrimination. But if so then the new stream can be
started in the 73 schools which were covered by the ADB project. They
have already got equipment under the SEMP. Subsequently you can spread
wings to the other schools. This pilot project may create competition
and that will be even better.
There were nine months for them to get it off the ground but nothing
happened. People know only about the GCE Ordinary Level, Advanced Level
and the 15 conventional universities. They have hardly heard about the
other myriad avenues that are available for higher education, which are
highly popular among the industry community.
The accepted norm in the Engineering Industry is that, for each
engineer, there has to be four technicians and eight at craft level.
The ratio is 1:4:8. Sri Lanka is producing about thousand engineers
per year. Are we producing 4,000 technicians? Are we producing skilled
workers of 8,000?
There is a great demand for middle level technicians. If you don’t
produce enough middle level people, we will soon be having engineers
doing the technicians work. With all these infrastructure development,
mega port, airport and highways projects, big hotels coming up and the
potential for off-shore drilling, there has to be a mechanism to produce
the skilled workforce here. If we don’t, not long before we will be
importing the human resource at high expense.