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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.

Motion

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 Commission.

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.

Architecture

“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 2015.

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 Vocational Technology.

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 technology.

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.

Resources

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 schools?

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.

 

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