Sri Lanka Curriculum design and implementation for upper primary and general secondary education

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1 Sri Lanka Curriculum design and implementation for upper primary and general secondary education A. Karunasinghe and K.W. Ganasundara Estimated population Public expenditure on education as percentage of Gross National Product Duration of compulsory education (years) Primary or basic education Pupils enrolled Teachers Pupil/teacher ratio Gross enrolment ratio 17,900, ,962,498 70, : ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT In Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Education and the National Education Commission are responsible for all curriculumrelated policy making. However, the National Institute of Education (NIE) has the overall responsibility for curriculum design and development, preparation of syllabi, teacher s guides and textbooks. A council empowered to take all policy and high-level administrative decisions on matters coming under its purview governs the NIE. Its staff consists of curriculum teams of specialist officers and is augmented by teacher educators and teachers seconded for service to the respective teams. Consultation takes place during the curriculum development process and subsequent implementation, with subject specialists and professionals outside of NIE, as well as affected parties, (i.e. teachers, students, parents and prospective employers). Net enrolment ratio Estimated percentage of repeaters Estimated percentage of drop-outs School-age population out of school Secondary education Students enrolled Gross enrolment ratio ,300, Third-level enrolment ratio 5.1 Estimated adult literacy rate Source: UNESCO statistical yearbook, 1998, Paris EDUCATIONAL GOALS Sri Lanka s educational goals can be summarized as follows: l To develop and understand the cultural and religious heritage and the democratic traditions of the country, as well as an appreciation of the contributions made by the different ethnic groups to the national culture; l To develop a basic understanding of the environment and skills relevant to the needs of life and society; l To cultivate an appreciation of the arts, literature and science; l To develop attitudes conducive to harmonious relations among the different ethnic groups; l To promote moral, spiritual and physical development; l To inculcate a sense of commitment to national development; l To develop and promote a system for the acquisition of technical knowledge and vocational skills to meet the manpower needs of the country; l To promote lifelong education and knowledge renewal through programmes of formal and non-formal education; l To promote the democratization of education. 120

2 PRE-REFORM EDUCATION SYSTEM AND CURRICULUM Prior to the education reform initiatives in Sri Lanka, the formal pre-tertiary education system consisted of four stages: primary: grades 1-5; junior secondary: grades 6-8; senior secondary: grades 9-11; collegiate: grades There was a commonly prescribed curriculum for grades 1 to 11. The lower primary stage was characterized by a highly integrated curriculum (first language, mathematics, environmental studies, creative-aesthetic activities, and religion). In the upper primary stage, the curriculum was semi-integrated, with more emphasis on subject competencies. At this level, a beginning science course and English as a second language were introduced. At the secondary stage, the curriculum consisted of the following subjects, some of which were inter-disciplinary in nature: religion, first language, English, mathematics, integrated science, social studies, and history, aesthetic education and a life-skills/technical subject. At the end of grade 11 (which is also the end of general education) the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O -Level) examination is administered. EDUCATIONAL REFORM A new structure for primary education The Sri Lankan education system is now in the process of being restructured and a number of curriculum reforms are planned or are already underway. A new primary level structure intended to be more suitable to the proposed curriculum reform is being implemented. As a result of this change, grades 1-5 will constitute a SULPDU\ VWDJH VHJ PHQW. Under this framework, the primary cycle is divided into threenh\vwdjhv(ks): KS-1, grades 1 and 2; KS-2, grades 3 and 4; and KS-3, grade 5. Objectives of the reform The new, reformed primary education programme objectives listed below have evolved from the larger framework of national education goals, namely: l development of a child-centred curriculum; l development of essential as well as desirable competencies during the key stages; l training of primary grade teachers to implement the revised curriculum; l provision of adequate facilities and materials to all primary schools; l establishment of an equal opportunity network throughout the country. The new curriculum The reforms will see the countrywide introduction of a highly integrated curriculum at the lower primary stage, with the subject-area environment-related activities, which encompasses several disciplines. Another notable modification related to integration of content is the introduction of activity-based oral English in KS-1. The objective is to create a classroom environment where children and teachers use a mix of mother tongue and conversational English. Appropriate vocabulary will be developed through activity learning and games. Additionally, there is a provision for co-curricular work in all the key stages. The number of subject areas in the curriculum is now being limited to four: (1) languages; (2) mathematics; (3) religion; and (4) environment-related activities. In the languages component, the formal teaching of English, beginning with KS-2, is being introduced; as well as a second national language (Sinhala/Tamil)-from KS-3. In the past, even at primary level, the content of subjects received the greatest emphasis. However, nowadays the focus will be placed on competencies that children are expected to have acquired at the end of their general education (Table 1). This new curriculum establishes a comprehensive set of basic competencies in communications, ethics and religion, environment, learning, enjoyment and leisure. Entry competencies will also be identified, using specially designed assessment instruments, enabling the grade 1 teacher to cater more effectively to children s individual needs. Furthermore, the essential competencies that children are expected to have mastered at the end of each key stage will be identified and this information made available to teachers. Teachers will be encouraged to ensure that at the end of each KS, almost all children in their class have reached the mastery level in the essential competencies, with special emphasis on first language and mathematics. In this context, the practice will be to assign the same class teacher for KS 1 and KS 2. The new teaching/learning methodology will incorporate an appropriate mix of play, activity and deskwork, the proportion of each component varying gradually with successive grades. The new curriculum also incorporates cross-age play and activity opportunities, where KS-1 children interact with children from grade 6. There will be continuous classroom-based assessment, with increased emphasis on the use of informal methods. This represents an attempt to deviate from past assessment techniques (which encourage comparative student achievement) and move towards criterion-referenced assessment techniques. Entry competency tests for grade 1 and terminal competency tests at the end of each key stage will be developed. The remaining tasks to be carried out include: preparation of a classroom-based evaluation framework; development of training material; and the training of teachers and supervisors. A booklet will be produced on improving testing techniques. Also, a research committee will be set up to carry out action research, surveys and evaluation on special areas, such as group work, multi-grade, multilevel teaching, gifted children and on-going aspects of the curriculum development process, including teacher training. 121

3 TABLE 1. New primary stage competencies Communications: comprises three subsets: literacy (listening attentively; speaking clearly; reading with understanding; writing accurately and lucidly); numeracy (using numbers: counting, calculating, measuring systematically); graphics (making sense of line, form; expressing and recording details, instructions, ideas, with line, form and colour). Environment: comprises three parts: social (social awareness and relationships, personal conduct, rights, responsibilities, duties and obligations); biological (awareness, sensitivity and skills linked to the living world, man and the ecosystem.); physical (awareness, sensitivity and skills relating to space, energy, fuels, matter, materials and their links with human life. Also included are the skills in using tools to shape and form materials for living and learning). Ethics and religion: comprises values and attitudes deemed essential for individuals to assimilate, so that they may function in a manner consistent with the ethical, moral and religious modes of conduct. Play and leisure: related to human emotions that find expression in play, sports and various leisure pursuits essential for mental and physical well-being. They are also connected with such values as: co-operation, team work, healthy life and work competition. Also included are aesthetic and creative activities. Learning to learn: related to human needs in a rapidly changing, complex, crowded world where learning will require constant review and updating. Includes developing skills of awareness, attentiveness, and perseverance. The information revolution has rendered this competency essential. Resource materials A steering committee will decide on the content and layout of textbooks and select the panel of writers who will be registered with the National Institute of Education (NIE). Books will be reviewed by a panel and approved by the steering committee prior to publication. Additional resource materials for primary classes will be prepared at the level of the school, the resource centre and the province with NIE assistance. The Education Publication Department (MOE) and NIE are collectively responsible for printing and distributing teaching and resource materials. Implementation schedule The new primary curriculum was introduced in 1998 as a pilot project in grade 1 of Gampaha district, and introduced to the whole country during It will be progressively implemented at each grade level, terminating in grade 5 by Teacher education A profile of the primary school-teacher will be developed based on the vision of the primary school for the twentyfirst century. Essential teacher competencies and attitudes will be identified and a new pre-service teacher education curriculum and training materials developed. The staff of colleges of education and other teacher-training institutes will undergo orientation programmes. Each training college will adopt a problem-solving school in its catchment area in order to conduct field-based activities. In-service training of primary teachers will be an integral part of the reform. The Master Teacher Programme will be strengthened. School managers As the primary section forms a part of the main school in Sri Lanka, an assistant principal or a senior teacher will be entrusted with responsibility for the primary section of the main school. In schools where there is a large number of pupils, additional adequate supervisory assistance will be provided (i.e. sectional or grade co-ordinators). Anticipated school-level management tasks include: establishing a primary education development committee; strengthening parent/community relations; formalizing collaboration with neighbouring schools through the formation of school families; developing and implementing an internal supervisory mechanism for teacher self-evaluation, as well as collegial peer evaluation. Provincial administration The provincial administrative structure will also be strengthened, with a separate primary education division in the Provincial Department (PPEU) being established under a senior officer. The appointment of officers responsible for primary education at the zonal level operating under the PPEU is also foreseen, as well as the creation of primary education development committees in both provinces and zones, comprised of principals, teachers, parents and community leaders. Public awareness This will be carried out through a mass media publicity programme involving newspapers, radio and TV and targeting school staff, parents, influential youth groups as well as the general public. 122

4 123

5 TABLE 3. Number of periods for subjects/subject areas for grades 6 to 11 Subject Number of forty-minute periods per week Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8 Grade 9 Grade 10 Grade 11 Religion First language English Maths Environmental studies 9 Science & technology Aesthetics Sinhala/Tamil as a 2nd language Social studies/history Life skills Technical subjects 4 4 Groups activities 3 Additional subjects 4* 4* Total periods per week FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR CURRICULAR REFORM Junior secondary stage In the near future it is projected that grades 6-9 will constitute the junior secondary stage of education, thereby functioning as the upper section of the junior school. Grade 6 will become theeulgjlqjyear between the integrated curriculum of primary school and the subject based curriculum of secondary school. It will serve to inculcate the necessary study skills for secondary education while reinforcing the essential competencies to be acquired during the primary cycle, particularly in language and mathematics. The syllabi in grade 6 will be revised to meet these requirements. There will be a common curriculum at this stage, comprising 9 subjects: first language, English, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, life skills, religion, aesthetics, health and physical education. (The teaching of a second national language, i.e. Sinhala for Tamil speaking students and Tamil for Sinhala speaking students will also be introduced at this level -when teachers are available.) At the end of grade 9, a school-based examination, the Junior School Proficiency Examination, will test pupil achievement and result in the issue of a certificate. Teaching methodology will emphasize learning through projects and practical work, as spelt out in the section on practical skills education. Concepts on peace education, conflict resolution, democratic values, human rights and environmental conservation will be integrated into social studies and other relevant subject content. Implementation plan The revision of syllabi and course guides, training of teachers and provision of facilities were scheduled to be for completion at grade 6 level in 1998 and for implementation in January Reforms will be progressively introduced to grades 7 and 8 with the grade 9 curriculum revised in line with the new GCE O level curriculum. Senior secondary stage The present curriculum at this level is oriented to the GCE (OL or AL) examinations. The programme covers a period of 3 years; namely grades 9,10,11 for GCE (OL) and 2 years for GCE (AL) Collegiate level grades At present, the GCE (OL) compulsory curriculum consists of the following subjects (some of which are inter disciplinary in nature): religion, first language, English, mathematics, integrated science, social studies and history, aesthetic education and life skills/technical subjects. In grade 9, students select 1 vocational type course (out of 53 such courses). In grades 10-11, 1 technical subject may be chosen from several options. Under the proposed revisions, the time period for senior secondary education will be reduced to 2 years with classes designated grades 10 and 11. The curriculum will be made more flexible with the introduction of a number of core subjects and a number of optional subjects. Core subjects will be: religion, first language, English, mathematics, science and technology, social studies and history, aesthetic studies. Students will be permitted to select up to 3 optional subjects from the following: Sinhala/Tamil as a second language, history, geography, health and physical education, literature (Sinhala/Tamil/ 124

6 English), modern or classical languages, technical subjects (from the list of approved technical subjects). Under the reform, grade 11 remains the end of the general education for all stages. Students sit for the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE-OL) examination, which is a centrally planned, national school leaving examination. Only those students who achieve certain prescribed GCE-OL standards are permitted to enter the collegiate stage (about 25-30% of students). Improving English language teaching in Sri Lanka A special effort is being made to improve English language skills as it is realized that a better knowledge of English will improve employment opportunities and facilitate communication with the outside world. The Englisanguage teaching programme will be upgraded to provide opportunities for pupils island-wide to have equal access to English learning for comprehension and communication. Teachers of English will be provided with opportunities and incentives to improve their proficiency in English and skills in teaching English. 125

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