Policy Dialogue #3: Access to Distance Education.

Posted by on May 19, 2020  /  0 Comments

Held on May 16, 2020, via Zoom.

Video: https://www.facebook.com/EduForumLK/videos/726016001268499/ 

Presentation (Who has Access?): https://lirneasia.net/2020/05/e-learning-opportunities-in-the-asian-global-south-presentation/

Summary: https://www.educationforum.lk/2020/05/an-overview-of-distant-education-for-school-children-in-sri-lanka-in-the-time-of-corona/



Since school closure on March 12, education delivery to students has been through a mix of lessons delivered through television (Grades 5, O’level & A’level), through, PDF via social apps on smartphones, online teaching through google classrooms, Microsoft teams, etc. The policy dialogue on May 2, 2020, addressed those issues. For details please see:


  • 29% NGO
  • 24% Corporate
  • 24% Academics/Researchers
  • 18% School Educators
  • 6%  Government

Participation of an officer each from NIE and NEC is appreciated.


1.   What percent of children don’t have Internet?

Presentation by Ayesha Zainudeen and Tharaka Amarasinghe from LIRNEasia. (Presentation available at https://lirneasia.net/2020/05/e-learning-opportunities-in-the-asian-global-south-presentation/)

  • 48% of households with school-age children own a smartphone or other device for accessing the Internet but only 34% access the Internet; Nepal is ahead with 47% accessing the Internet
  • We have some idea of barriers from the more general survey. For example, of those who do not own a smartphone in the population aged 15-65, when asked why they don’t buy a smartphone, 60% said they don’t need it. (23%-Don’t know how, 10%-Not allowed and 2% -not affordable, 5%-Other reasons)

 Source:  LIRNEasia. (2019). After Access: ICT access and usage surveys [dataset]. Colombo: LIRNEasia. 

2.    Overview of ALL Tools Available for Distance Learning

Data For all households, 2018

  • Textbooks  – 100% (Grades 6-13)*
  • Postal services – 100%
  • Mobile phone – 96%
  • TV – 91%
  • Radio – 71%
  • Smartphones – 46%
  • Internet connection – 33% 
  • Pay TV – 21%
  • Computers (desktop, laptop and tabs) – 20%

*Note: Grade 12 and 13  textbooks are beginning to be introduced. Not all available right now.

Source:  LIRNEasia. (2019). After Access: ICT access and usage surveys [dataset]. Colombo: LIRNEasia.

3.   Participant Contributions

  • There is a need for developing an online education pedagogy
  • Online learning guidelines for teachers and students already developed ST. Thomas’s Mount Lavinia
  • Blended learning is needed
  • In schools lack of oversight by principals on online classes while in universities overview by administration is seen surveillance
  • Stewardship of teacher or adult is important
  • At a private university where not all attended the online session, the recording is made available for listening at any time
  • Supplementary materials essential
  • Headstart has developed an e-textbook for Grade 12.
  • NIE is not open to corporate initiatives to develop content.
  • Offline content needs to be developed for 66% of households with school-age children without Internet access.
  • Ministry is working with UNICEF to develop supplementary materials. They have already posted a workbook for all Grade 1 and 2 children
  • Teachers need ideas for activities linked to the curriculum; Otherwise, they send notes from textbooks and question and answer papers
  • COVID-19 has offered an opportunity for educators to re-think and re-imagine education: to shift from teacher-centered education & memorization to student-centered learning, for developing problem-solving skills with innovation & creativity.

4.   EFSL initiative

EFSL has initiated focus group discussions with teachers from three districts (Colombo,  Gampaha, and Kandy)  who are engaging with students these past few weeks on lesson material delivery.  A parent survey is already underway with help from Ishara Madhushanka of Youth for Sustainable Development. The data from such surveys will be presented to the NIE as part of a Policy brief under preparation.

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