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Smart classrooms that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are to be established in 100 schools across Sri Lanka in 2020, with the backing of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon to commemorate the centenary of the country’s benchmark private bank.
Drawing synergies from several ongoing education-centered initiatives supported by the Bank, this project ventures to transform orthodox educational institutions to STEM centres, using digital learning content developed for the ‘Sipnena’ online education website also funded by the Bank, thereby giving the project its name:the ‘100 Sipnena Smart STEM Schools’ initiative.
Classrooms in the selected schools are to be provided with a computer and a multimedia projector. The computer will have access to offline digital content that consists of interactive lessons, presentations, diagrams and illustrated material, specifically developed to create a different learning experience for school children, making understanding and learning the subject matter more effective, the Bank said.
The classrooms will be renovated, furnished and equipped by the Bank which will also sponsor the training of teachers for these Smart Classrooms. Personnel from ‘Sasnaka Sansadaya' – an independent group of university lecturers and students, will be deployed to train teachers on making optimum use of the Sipnena digitised educational content. These teachers will be recognised as 'Smart STEM Teachers’ on completion of the training.
The STEM classrooms will be initially used by Grade 10 and 11 students but will cater to students from Grades one to GCE Ordinary Level later on, the Bank said.
Phase two of the project will include introducing other educational initiatives supported by the Bank such as Coding Clubs, Math Labs, CISCO hardware courses, and vocational training support, depending on the individual success, progress, performance and commitment of each school. The organising of inter-school ICT competitions and granting of higher education scholarships to top performers to study at recognised universities such as SLIIT, NSBM and ESOFT too are in the pipeline for the second phase.
To date, 23 STEM schools have been established by the Bank, starting with Walisingha Harischandra School in Mulleriyawa, Angoda.
Commenting on this project, Commercial Bank Managing Director Mr S. Renganathan said: “We envision a Sri Lanka with students well-versed in IT helping shape the knowledge economy in the digital age. The STEM subjects are crucial for higher education and increase the employability of students. With this, the Bank hopes to help reduce the number of students that drop out of the formal education system after Ordinary and Advanced level examinations and to create more Hardware Technicians, Network Engineers, Software Engineers, Software Developers, Computer Repair persons and the like with lucrative and diverse career options.”
He said students trained on coding languages can choose to become freelance software developers on the Dialog online web platform ldeaMart, or if a CISCO lT Essentials Certificate holder intends to be self employed, the possibility of the Bank providing seed capital through its Development Credit Department can be explored. The Bank can also offer a scholarship to follow CCNA (CISCO Certified Network Associate) and CCNP (CISCO Certified Network Professional) courses at the University of Moratuwa, to students that intend to become Network Engineers.
Under its education-related Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, which place emphasis on IT literacy on a national scale, the Commercial Bank of Ceylon has donated 187 IT Labs to schools and other institutions and is a partner in the government – private sector ‘Smart Schools’ project currently encompassing 65 schools in the Western Province.
Commercial Bank is also funding a 150-hour IT hardware course conducted in collaboration with SLT Campus (Pvt) Ltd. and CISCO Networking Academy in selected schools and has partnered with the Academy to offer an ‘IT Essentials’ course for teachers and students free of charge. Additionally, the Bank has supported the ‘IT Essentials-Instructor’ certificate course for teachers at the CISCO Networking Centre at the University of Moratuwa under this programme.
The first Sri Lankan Bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for nine years consecutively, Commercial Bank, which won more than 50 international and local awards in 2019, operates a network of 268 branches and 865 ATMs in Sri Lanka.
Commercial Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Representative Office in Yangon and a Microfinance company in Nay PyiTaw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.
Commercial Bank Chairman Mr Dharma Dheerasinghe (Above, 3rd from right) cuts the ribbon to declare open the first Sipnena Smart STEM Classroom in the presence of (From right) Bank’s Director Mr S. Swarnajothi, Chief Financial Officer Mr Nandika Buddhipala, Managing Director Mr S. Renganathan and representatives of the two institutions. (Below) A classroom donated by Commercial Bank.