First Technology Faculty at J’pura University | Sunday Observer
A turning point in education:

First Technology Faculty at J’pura University

One of the top priorities of the Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is to enact swift transformations in the education sector. As he has often said, the Information Technology (IT) sector represents a tremendous growth opportunity for Sri Lanka. There is a vibrant technology sector in the country and Sri Lanka should increase the scale of the IT industry to gain more opportunities. At present it is a one-billion dollar industry but with some effort, we can raise it to a three billion dollar industry, President Rajapaksa said recently.

The immediate requirement is to build a resource base of youths skilled in modern technology. The state-of-the-art Faculty of Technology at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura will be opened by President Rajapaksa tomorrow (April 16), marking a significant turning point in the higher education of Sri Lanka.

In taking the initiative to begin the Faculty of Technology in 2016, the Sri Jayawardenapura University became the pioneer University in the country to enroll students of the newly created Advanced Level stream of Technology, marking a new era of advanced technological studies, thus fulfilling a long-felt imperative requirement of the country. However, there was no place to house the Faculty and it functioned in a few rented houses. With assistance from the Asian Development Bank, the new state-of - the -art Technology Faculty has been built on a 20-acre land at Pitipana in Homagama.

Technology has always been the founding stone of all fields of human endeavour. The first tool of pre-historic man was the first technology of the world, it is the forefather of all tools of convenience from the pen to massive machinery, and everything which can be considered as technology. However, it was hitherto considered only peripherally. In an era where technology has come to the forefront, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has been keeping abreast with the times, to enhance the technological skills of the students to create a better future for the nation and the world.

The 21st Century is widely acknowledged as the ‘Knowledge Century’. New technologies and innovations are now changing the way the world works, at an increasingly rapid pace.

Technological advances in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics, 3-D Printing, Bio-engineering, The Internet of Things, and Nanotechnology are poised to bring about sweeping transformations across global commerce and industries. Sri Lanka must not be left behind with these changes. We must, instead, strive to make use of the opportunities these changes will provide in our quest for rapid economic development.

Achieving rapid economic development through the broad opportunities afforded to us by these two trends of rapid technological change and the emergence of Asia as the world’s most significant market place demands novel approaches. We need short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies at a national level as well as at sector-specific levels to make the maximum use of these opportunities. These strategies need to be supported by significant changes to underlying enablers such as education, the legal and regulatory framework, the financial system, and infrastructure.

We need to provide high speed broadband access to every part of Sri Lanka so that anyone, no matter where he or she is can reap the full benefits of internet connectivity.

The internet can be an incredibly powerful tool for learning. Today, the young people around the world are able to develop a considerably high level of skill in virtually any field by learning from their peers on on-line platforms. Sri Lanka needs to rapidly enhance the number of personnel working in the IT industry. While setting up technology faculties in universities will ensure building a large reserve of IT managers, it is also essential to make available short-term training to youth, in specific areas such as Coding, Programming without requiring them to follow time-consuming degree programs. Internet could be very effectively utilised to train large numbers essential for the well-being of the IT industry.

It is imperative to move fast towards an education system to provide skills to the younger generation in a technology-driven global economy. The need to break away from the exam-oriented educational system and create an environment to relieve the unbearable burden placed on children is a long felt need.

President Rajapaksa, during his recent meeting with education ministers and officials, highlighted the importance of taking decisions by educationists instead of politicians. He said that immediate steps should be taken to train unemployed graduates to fill vacancies.

The country should have more students qualified in science and mathematics streams. The President said that it is vital to absorb the students who study arts subjects by giving them the opportunity to pursue information and communication technology. Steps must be taken to address the issue of the shortage of teachers and to ensure that there are no unfilled vacancies in schools.

The formulation of a national policy for the education sector within a year was also discussed.