LIRNEasia recently participated at Education Forum Sri Lanka’s Policy Dialogue on Education Post-Pandemic (#20) held on Saturday, 26 March 2022. I drew on our 2021 nationally-representative survey to discuss students’ access to technology and education during early pandemic-induced school closures.
We found that only 63% of students enrolled in primary and secondary education had access to online education in Sri Lanka. Online education could range from students participating online real time classes through applications such as Zoom, Google Meet or Teams, or getting notes/activities from WhatsApp groups.
Impact of exams on access
Our survey showed that students due to sit for Advanced Level and Scholarship examinations were most likely to have studied online. This was lesser amongst students due to sit for their Ordinary Levels. While this may indicate which exams were perceived as most critical, the time of survey implementation may also have coloured the responses.
We also found that students in urban areas had more access to online education. This is to be expected, as urban households also had more internet connectivity. However, children from urban households were also more likely to have been left out of the education system altogether. Children from rural areas, though less likely to be online, had more access through purely offline methods. This includes teachers sending physical notes to students, and sending instructions to watch/listen to educational TV and radio programmes.
Education for students from unconnected homes
Internet connectivity in homes was a key facilitator of online education during school closures. However, also worth noting is that 35% of students in unconnected households also had access to education at this time. This may indicate that students gathered in areas outside their homes with connectivity. Although these children had access, we can’t make claims about how often they engaged in education or the quality of education they received. If authorities are to pursue digitally mediated education (through blended learning models or otherwise), all homes should have internet connectivity to give students the option to connect from home if such a need arises once again.
The full slide-set presented can be found here: Digital for Education in Sri Lanka (Presentation)