Development of Technical Education in Sri Lanka
The first Institution for formal Technical education in Sri Lanka was established in the latter part of the year 1893. This Institution was known as the Government Technical School and was housed in a renovated coffee store situated at close proximity to the Ceylon Government Railway Terminal building at Maradana in Central Colombo. The Institution consisted, of a small workshop, laboratory, lecture room and a class room and the student enrollment of the first batch was only 25.
The Technical School later became the pioneering institution for science education in Sri Lanka. Prior to the establishment of the Ceylon Medical college, Chemistry, physics, Biology & Science, for medical students were conducted at Ceylon Technical college. Courses in Science for school teachers were also provided and they too became the pioneers of teaching Science in the general Education system.
In 1906 the name of the Technical school was changed to that of Ceylon Technical College. By this time the college had started supplying technically competent people and was providing skilled workers to government technical departments. Facilities to develop Technical Education in Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering fields and also in Telegraphy, Surveying, Chemistry and Physics were provided. eventually, the science section of the Ceylon Technical College became the nucleus of the Department of Science of the Ceylon University College started in 1921.
The Ceylon Technical College was re-organized in 1933 and started preparing candidates for the external degrees in Engineering of the University of London. Until the Faculty of Engineering of University of Ceylon commenced in 1950, the Technical College continued to hold regular classes for the external degree of the University of London. The facilities at the Faculty of Engineering Workshop of the Ceylon Technical College were fully made use of, by the Faculty of Engineering from 1952 to 1960 until the faculty moved to its new premises at Peradeniya.
In 1908, the Ceylon Technical College started classes for commerce students and progressed over the years to became the centre for management and Business Studies. Evening courses in Accounting at professional level were started in 1943 and degree level Full-Time Courses in Commerce was started in 1946. In 1951 a professional course in valuation was started. In addition , classes were also conducted to provide instructions for those taking up external examinations of the British professional institutes in the disciplines of Secretaryship, Transport & banking. Middle level courses in Accountancy, Marketing and Stenography were also provided.
In the year 1953 the Arts and Crafts section of the Ceylon Technical Colleges was transferred to a new department known as the Government College of Fine Arts. In 1960,the Full-time Technician courses were transferred to the newly established institute of Practical Technology at Katubedda. This institute was upgraded as Ceylon College of Technology in 1966, and it became the University of Moratuwa in the year 1972.
The first junior Technical School was established in Galle in 1957. This year was of significant importance for Technical Education because of the introduction of Sinhala medium courses. These courses were commenced with certificate courses in Shorthand, typewriting and Book keeping. By 1963 even the Diploma courses were being conducted in Sinhala medium.
Significant feature of the growth of Technical College system is that, 31 out of 32 Technical Institutes have established after the independence of Sri Lanka, in particular from 1956 to 1998.
Technical Education Today
At present there are 38 Technical Colleges scattered throughout Sri Lanka. These institutions are managed by Department of Technical Education & Training which functions under the Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational and Technical Education.
In order to facilitate smooth functioning of administrative and academic aspects of the system, the entire structure has been divided into four Zones. The colleges in each zone have been brought under the supervision of a Zonal director.
The total strength of teaching staff of the Technical colleges is around 810. The non academic staff of Technical Colleges consists of about 900 persons at present.
Members of the academic staff are continuously exposed to local & foreign training to update & upgrade their knowledge and skills in the relevant subject areas. UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Philippines and India are some of the countries where staff training has been provided. The UNDP, the British Council, ILO, and JICA, have been providing funds to most of the scholarships. The CPSC has provided short-term workshops/seminars and in country courses to technical college staff.
The physical facilities of Technical colleges were updated in the recent past under the Technical education Development Project funded by the Asian Development Bank with technical assistance from overseas agencies such as SWEDEC, SIDA and ODA. Every effort is being made presently by the technical college system to improve the standards of Technical education to take up the technological challenges of the 21st century.
Production Units now operating in certain Technical Colleges were established in 1995 and it is now felt that this activity is timely and socially important. The production units gainfully employ some of the pass-outs from the Technical Colleges.
The primary idea of introducing production units in Technical Colleges was to enable colleges to contribute to productions and services of Private sector and Government organizations by making the optimum use of the resources available in Technical Colleges. The other beneficial expectation from production units, is the provision of in-plant training to passed out students of the College itself.
The department encourages students' unions with a view to improving academic, sports, recreation and welfare facilities of students in order to generate a corporate effort in the minds of students to join hands with administration achieving vision, mission, goals and objectives of the Technical College System.
Student Stipends & Bursaries
Full-Time students in Technical Colleges whose family income is less than Rs.7500/= per annum are paid a stipend of Rs.20/= per day(Rs.450/= per month).
In addition, a bursary of Rs.2500/= per annum is paid at present to full-time students. These have resulted in an increased number of applications for courses and a remarkable decrease in the drop-out rate.
Vocational Guidance & Counseling
At present it is felt that Vocational Guidance and Counseling Service is of vital importance in order to project into future of 100 year old Technical Education with a view to increase the productivity and efficiency. About 170,000 students appear annually at the GCE (Advanced Level) and out of this, about 12,500 students can enter the respective Universities. The balance of about 157,500 students should be provided with Technical & Vocational Training to suit job markets
Today it is necessary to have a service of Vocational Guidance and Counseling as a mean to help the youth who are depressed for not getting an opportunity to enter the universities has been realized.