Education Minister Dr. Susil Premajayantha has revealed that a pilot project for the digitization of education is set to be launched in March.

Speaking at a briefing held at the Presidential Media Center (PMC) on Monday (19 Feb.), Premajayantha noted that Microsoft is slated to aid the initiative with regards to training teachers for the said purpose.

The Minister also confirmed the dispatch of school textbooks for the year 2024 for distribution, elaborating that all school textbooks pertinent to the year 2024 have been dispatched to distribution stations, ensuring complete coverage. 

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), plans are in place to finalize their distribution at the school level by the first of March, with an expenditure totalling Rs. 12 billion allocated for this purpose.

Furthermore, the Minister highlighted the collaboration with the Chinese government, which has facilitated the acquisition of 80% of the required cloth for school children’s uniforms, amounting to Rs. 05 billion. Distribution of these materials is currently underway, with the remaining 20% expected to arrive imminently.

Additionally, efforts are underway to prepare school timetables and term notes for the current year. The Minister affirmed that arrangements are being made to conduct the G.C.E. (A/L) level examination as scheduled by the end of the year. 
Schools will receive detailed instructions regarding these activities via a circular within the next two to three weeks, the Minister said.

Various individuals have raised concerns about children’s absence from school, citing data from the Ministry of Health indicating a decrease in school enrolments due to a decline in the birth rate, amounting to 0.17%. This trend highlights a significant factor contributing to the issue.

Additionally, the Minister of Education addressed the shortage of teachers, attributing it to legal proceedings. One such case involves a restraining order halting teacher recruitment, resulting in a delay of up to 10 months in filling vacancies. Should the court reach a decision within the next two weeks, there is optimism for expedited resolution and swift filling of the 20,000 teacher vacancies, significantly impacting children’s education.

Moreover, there are 13,500 provincial-level teacher vacancies due to educators leaving the service and relocating abroad. Legal proceedings, however, have impeded recruitment efforts, with a case filed in the Court of Appeal regarding these vacancies. Pending a court decision, authorities express readiness to swiftly address the issue and proceed with necessary recruitments.

Furthermore, as per the teachers’ service constitution, examinations for science and technology level vacancies are scheduled for the first week of March, with recruitment expected to conclude by the end of the month. Additionally, a budget allocation of Rs. 16 billion has been earmarked for school lunches, complemented by agreements signed with USAID to provide meals to 200,000 children.

Moreover, initiatives have commenced to engage parents through class meetings, beginning today, aimed at offering guidance. These consultations focus on raising awareness and ensuring protection, covering topics such as road safety, drug prevention, and safeguarding against various forms of abuse.

Furthermore, plans have been put in place to launch career and technology guidance courses from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. across 300 centers nationwide, coinciding with the release of Advanced Level examination results.

Additionally, preparations are underway to commence a pilot project for the digitalization of education in March, with support from Microsoft for training teachers for the said purpose.