By Cassandra Mascarenhas
Facilitating the growth of the next generation of IT professionals in Sri Lanka, SLASSCOM held a one-day workshop for IT faculty members at all state regional universities on ICT curriculum development. The aim of the workshop was to discuss how to develop curricula in order to enhance student learning that also meets the needs of the workforce.
Held last week, the workshop was sponsored by John Keells Computer Services (JKCS), a member of SLASSCOM.
SLASSCOM, which has been working towards creating awareness on new IT related trends and upcoming employment opportunities over the past couple of years, has geared itself towards driving Sri Lanka to reach the national goal of becoming the number one industry to lead the country to being a knowledge economy while achieving the target of $1 billion in revenue and employment in the industry to over 100,000 by 2015. One of the key prerequisites for this growth to be realised is the acceleration of human resource capacity development in the industry.
The workshop was a collaborative effort between the industry and academic institutions as both are independent on each other for providing knowledge and was well attended by vice chancellors and heads of IT departments from many state universities as well as leading members from the IT industry.
“Human capital is essential in order to further develop the IT industry. The demand for IT students is very high but the number one problem is the lack of resources in state universities. There are not enough teachers but the Government has its limitations when it comes to increasing salaries as this is a free education system,” explained the Chief Guest at the workshop, the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education Dr. Sunil J. Nawaratne.
He urged the heads of state universities to think out of the box and to use the workshop as a means of finding answers to many problems and called on the assistance of the private sector in this endeavour. Furthermore, Nawaratne implored universities to submit proposals to improve the current systems to the Ministry of Higher Education so that the institution in turn could go about recruiting more lecturers and assisting in obtaining other lacking resources and for professors and deans to be more proactive.
There are currently 5,000 IT graduates graduating from state universities each year, however the current demand of the industry requires 7,000 graduates per year and demand is expected to increase in the near future.
“There needs to be a proper balance in our university IT curriculum between topics that are topical and timely and topics that are timeless which cannot be seen in the current system. Our graduates although are well-versed in theoretical subjects and the mechanisms of the industry lack the understanding of people in order to be able to work in a team and also require more common sense in order to be employable,” stated the SLASSCOM Chairman Sujiva Dewaraja. “There needs to be balanced curricula to have the right mix of all aspects.”
In addition to creating awareness about the industry, it was emphasized that it is vital that all IT degrees are aligned to be of the same standard by updating the curricula taught at all state universities. This has been highlighted as one of the main reasons for the unemployment of IT graduates from state universities. The workshop aimed to bring together the industry and academia leaders to accelerate the building of the Sri Lanka knowledge economy and to ensure that the IT/BPO industry stays relevant and competitive in the global market.