Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 20 March 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Innovation in teaching

Sri Lanka has nearly 4.3 million students in 10,000 or so schools. More than 200,000 teachers are employed in Government, private and Piriven schools islandwide. Teaching is a noble profession, for teachers impart not only subject knowledge, but they also mould better future citizens.

Sri Lanka being one of the few countries which provides free education right up to university level, the importance of teachers at all levels cannot be underestimated. Education is an investment for the future and teachers are the ones that make it happen.

There have been many complaints regarding Sri Lanka’s education system. One of the most obvious is the need to upgrade teaching methods and in some cases, whole curricula.

The latter is being done under the educational reforms. This should hopefully address the mismatch between job market requirements and the education system. It is no secret that most students go to additional tuition classes, believing that the teaching done at their respective schools is not adequate to pass the examinations.

They think there is a lacuna in the way subjects are taught. In fact, some teachers are known to stick to age old methods to teach a given subject, which makes it really boring to the students. These teachers do not venture beyond the textbooks - and textbook methods of teaching - to liven up the proceedings and make the lessons memorable for students.

In other words, we need innovation in the teaching sphere and innovative teachers who can find new ways to teach their subjects, be it Science, Mathematics or English. A young Lankan teacher has shown that it is indeed possible to achieve these objectives with the right attitude to teaching.

A teacher of Mathematics and Computer Science, Chamath Abeygunawardane of All Saints College, Galle has emerged the winner in the Asia -Pacific Regional Innovative Teacher Competition at the seventh Asia- Pacific Education Forum held during March 8-10 in Phuket, Thailand.

The event aimed at promoting and advocating the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Teaching- Learning methodology in schools is annually sponsored by Microsoft. This is the first time a Sri Lankan teacher won this prestigious award since the inception of the program.

Chamath has been recognized for first place assessing his innovative teaching methodology using ICT.

This year the Asia Pacific Regional Innovative Teacher Forum was participated by 64 competitors from 17 countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan and China.

This innovative teacher who has brought honour and pride to the Motherland was qualified for the international competition becoming the island’s second in a similar model competition held first at provincial and then at all island category parallel to the international competition held by the Education Ministry.

His next move is to take part in the global competition of the same nature to be held in two months time in New York. This is indeed an honour to Sri Lanka and its teachers. Chamath has proved that they are second to none in the education sphere.

Years ago, the UK teaching service ran a popular advertisement titled “Those Who Can, Teach”. The message is clear - not everybody can teach. It is a calling, not necessarily a vocation.

It necessarily requires a certain degree of innovation. In today’s computer-centric world, why not couple education with computers? That is exactly what Chamath has done. Computers are relatively affordable these days and many schools do have computer facilities. Many students have computers at home too.

Instead of devoting a separate session for computer science or studies at school, why not integrate that with other subjects ? This is especially applicable to subjects such as Science and Mathematics which are ideally suited to computerised learning.

There are many software programs that teach these subjects and an innovative teacher can always draw up such programs on his or her own. They can be games, riddles, PowerPoint presentations, graphics etc.

The education department must initiate a wider search for more innovative teachers and also introduce new teaching methods. These need not always involve computers. There are plenty of conventional yet innovative approaches that can be used in the classroom.

These are often more exciting than the textbook based lessons. This does not mean that textbooks have to be ditched, but that there are many new ways to impart knowledge to students.

This will also reduce their dependence on cramming/learning by rote for examinations.

Chamath and other innovative teachers should share their tactics and experiences with other teachers so that the students would finally benefit. It would be even more interesting, given the Pan-Asian nature of the competition to find out the methods that other award winning teachers from around Asia are using in their lessons. That international exposure will be invaluable for teachers like Chamath to further their careers and serve their students with more enthusiasm.

It is also significant that Chamath is from an area other than Colombo. This shatters the popular myth that only the best, so-called popular schools have the best teachers. It appears that good teachers are everywhere, if only we care to recognize their services and achievements. This will be a boost to other teachers in the outstations aspiring to reach greater horizons.

Innovation is useful in any profession, but it makes a significant difference to the teaching profession. After all, children and boredom do not mix well. They need new ways to learn, to explore their world. Only an innovative teacher can nurture this curiosity.

We should see more entries from Sri Lanka for this valuable endeavour in the future. Such healthy competition among teachers can only benefit the students. Chamath’s example shows that one does not have to teach in a ‘super school’ to become an innovative teacher. Proper application, enthusiasm for teaching in general and one’s subject in particular and a love for the students are essential in this regard.

They should also keep up to date on the latest trends in teaching.

Innovation is not as difficult as it sounds.


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