The Lotus Program in Sri Lanka
This project also has a Changeshop where you can read more about its latest progress.
Go to Changeshop: The Lotus Program in Sri Lanka.
The Lotus Program creates opportunities for students, teachers and communities by promoting English as a common cross-cultural medium of communication.
About Your Organization
Partners in Micro-development Inc. (PIMD)
Country where this project is creating social impact
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for less than a year
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
In the North and East of Sri Lanka one of the important needs in the post-conflict environment is to get students back to school, and to motivate students, teachers, families and communities to work together to create opportunities for all through education. The key here is motivation - resources are few, communities are still traumatised from the war (ended May 2009) and daily life is a struggle for most. Children are their future and education is the key to that future. At the same time, langauge has been a source of division in Sri Lanka and so English has become a major thrust of both Government and donors. However there are not enough English teachers and grade teachers alck the English skills and teaching methods to teach English effectively.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
In 2004 PIMD launched a program for oral / uarla English and computer literacy for Grades 1 and 2 in 60 remote village schools in the north-east of Sri Lanka. Most of the infrastructure for this program was destroyed in the war. In 2011 we launched a new pilot program in six schools incorporating the earlier program and adding literacy (reading, writing) for Grades 3-5. We train the teachers and will measure teacher confidence and fluency as well as student progressover three years 2012-2014. We will also seek funding to expand the program as results become clear.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
First we have designed curriculum and selected teaching materials that introduce themes relating to community building and cross-cultural understanding. Second, we bring teachers together from all ethnic groups and train them in a workshop environment where they collaborate. Third, we maintain direct communication with teachers to provide support. This includes a print newsletter to which they contribute, english lessons delivered via mobile phone, and using local senior teachers who have worked with us in the past to mentor and promote collaboration within and between schools. Fourth, we focus on the school as a community of children, teachers, and over time parents who we will draw into the program through the school. Fifth we will gradually introduce technology to help students and teachers learn English but as importantly to promote collaboration. We are trying to give teachers, and through them the students, a sense of purpose, ambition and hope for the future by increasing their opportunities.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
There are a range of programs focusing on ICT and English in Sri Lanka. Most are delieverd through the Government and many sponosred by donors. These typically involve train-the-trainers or a limited number of teachers. They also focus on larger schools. The curriculum we developed for English and Computer Literacy in 2004 was two years ahead of a comparable Government curriculum and is still more comprehensive. We also target smaller, more remote village schools where teachers do not receive the opportunity for training that others do and schools are poorly resourced We focus on primary grades where most larger scale programs focus on secondary grades - young children will learn a language faster than older and will benefit throughout their schooling. We integrate computers and English.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
PIMD helps to bridge cultural barriers within and between communities combining education and technology for collaboration.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Our solution is designed to work and be sustainable in the most challenging environments - remote, underserved communities and schools.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
Our first teacher training was done in July 2011. In January 2012 we visited each school and asked teachers to do a demonstration lesson. They were all prepared and had obviously been practicing the new methods and helping each other. Each school has committed in writing to dedicate 1 hr per day per class to English using the methods and resources we have provided. Take-up on our mobile text msg based English lessons (for teachers) has gone from six out of 45 to 20 out of 45 since our January visit as their confidence has been boosted by the effort they put in and the feedback they received. We have support and endorsement all the way up the line from Principals to District, Province and the central Ministry of Education in Colombo. An important ingredient has been the involvement of senior teachers from our earlier program - they have been able to communicate more effectively with the new teachers and provide feedback to us. They are key to program sustainability.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
Across six schools and approximately 1800 students we expect to see a 50%-75% improvement in English languge outcomes by the time the current Grade 3 class completes Grade 5 in 2014. Much will depend on the teachers. We therefore aim to improve their English language fluency and literacy at least 100% (coming off a low base)so that they become confident and successfull. A importantly, we hope that the teachers will form a community amongst themselves based on mutual support, committment and collaboration and appreciate that they are not alone and not forgotten. As we are based in Australia, we intend to increase the use of mobile learning and achieve program sustainability through technology and transferring of ownership to local teachers.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
The first major barrier is teacher English which prevents them fully utilising the resources and training they have been given. We will focus on this in future training, and other support. the second major barrier is lack of positive re-inforcement to teachers and in turn to children. To overcome this we maintain direct communication with each individual teacher and promote their achievements to those higher up in their own system.Lastly, the war has taken a toll and we must create opportunities for teachers to cross cultural boundaries and to reach out to their own local community to promote the opportunity that is being opened up.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Program fully implemented and operational in all six schools
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Continue to improve teacher understanding of methods through newsletter and other resources
Implement monthly school visit program by senior local teachers to provide feedback and early warning on issues
Provide positive re-inforcement to teachers directly or indirectly to build their confidence
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Introduce technology into the program
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Supply software for learning English to all schools at six month milestone and track usage
Develop extended technology strategy focusing on m-learning future
Deploy first stage of extended technology strategy and training (may include e-readers and/or tablets)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
In 2004 our founder returned to his village in the north of Sri Lanka intending to rebuild the school but UNICEF had already done that. He found however that young members of his own family could recite poetry in English but could not hold a simple conversation. His background was ICT. Together we formed a small group of volunteers from the ICT and teaching professions to help this one school with English and computer literacy. It was the local education authorities who pointed out that training teachers from 30 schools would make an even greater contribution. That 30 grew to 60 - at their request. The war re-ignited in late 2007 and now we are back at the beginning. This time around we are much more results oriented but the core of our approach remains to build empathy with teachers at an individual level. That worked in 2004-2009 and it is working again now.
Tell us about your partnerships
We have two categories of partners. First we consider the eductaion authorities in Sri Lanka and the schools as partners in this program. Second we have donor partners who provide us with resources for schools at discounted rates. This includes levelled readers (small story books increasing in difficulty)for Grades 3-5, English language software, printing of newsletters.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
We have no staff only volunteers. Our project team consists of four primary / TESOL teachers who own the English component of the program and four volunteers with a technology background including one with extensive experience in technology in education. In addition we have four senior local teachers in Sri Lanka to maintain the on the ground presence and direct communication with the teachers acting as a bridge to us. All are totally committed and have a track record of consistent delivery in the organisation.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
We help with marketing to build a profile and attract donations. We also need people with time and skills to help us develop our social enterprise concept. We can offer intellectual property (curriculum) and the benefit of our experience to programs and organisations working in a similar space.