Identifying the importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for the efficiency of internal school administration in the secondary schools in Sri Lanka.
In the present era of modernization Information Communication Technology plays a vital role in every aspect of the society. It is often used in the education sector in order to enhance the quality of education all around the world. Since Information Communication Technology has become an essential part of our day to day lives its integration in education is inevitable and unavoidable (Ghavifekr, Afshari, Siraj & Segar, 2013). It is because “using ICT in education has become a very effective factor that involves in school improvement” (Tosun & Baris as cited in Ghavifekr, Afshari, Siraj & Segar, 2013, p.1344). Ghavifekr et al. (2013) further declare ICT for school improvement does not implicate teaching and learning processes only but also the administrative processes within the school too. Administration in a school is the strand that creates and fosters effective learning environment for students. The education system in Sri Lanka is lagging behind in its quest of obtaining the globally recognized outcome of education due to many reasons. Failure in using ICT for the purpose of efficient school administration is one among them. In this essay the importance of Information Communication Technology for the efficiency of internal school administration in the secondary schools of Sri Lanka will be discussed by identifying and analyzing the key issues and challenges faced by those schools to attain this prospect. Further, reviewing literature with relevance to the ICT application in the school administration and comparing this particular issue in Sri Lanka with a few other counties the necessity of implementing an educational policy amalgamated with ICT for the purpose of administration based school improvement will be emphasized.
What is ICT?
According to Pelgrum & Law (as cited in Noor-Ul-Amin, n.d.) the term “computer” was replaced with Information Technology because computer technology facilitated storing and retrieving information and thereafter it was named Information Communication Technology when e-mail and communication facilities became available. ICT is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, that is connected to other such devices via wired or wireless networks (“Global Disseminator of Knowledge,” n.d.). “ICTs cover Internet service provision, telecommunications equipment and services, information technology equipment and services, media and broadcasting, libraries and documentation centres, commercial information providers, network-based information services and other related information and communication activities” (United Nations report as cited in Noor-Ul-Amin, n.d.). Thong and Yap defines (as cited in Onn & Sorooshian, 2013) information Communication Technology as computer software and hardware that is used to support the management and operations of an organization in order to uplift the productivity of the organization. Further emphasizing Thong & Yap’s definition Attaran’s overview (as cited in Onn & Sorooshian, 2013) indicates information Communication Technology is the capabilities offered to organizations by computers, software applications and telecommunications to deliver data, information and knowledge to individuals and processes. The definition of Boar (as cited in Sarosa & Zowghi, 2003) indicates Information Communication Technologies includes the technologies engaged in the operation, collection, transport, retrieving, storage, access presentation and transformation of information in all its forms. Sarosa & Zowghi (2003) further illustrates ICT is the technology that includes hardware (printer, scanner, computer etc) and software (operating systems, office application etc) and telecommunication devices which is used to collect, process, disseminate information in all its form. Ivu &Ilk (as cited in Bemidele, n.d.) categorize the use of ICT into five efficient and effective services as Sensing Technologies, Communication Technologies, Display Technologies, Analyze Technologies and Storage Technologies.
In accordance with the aforementioned definitions and views of various scholars the term ICT covers a wide range of process that is used to process, collect, store, retrieve, communicate, transmit, disseminate and operate all kind of information to elevate the effectiveness , efficiency of individuals and organizations. ICT can be positively used to enhance the productivity and performance of an organization.
Administration and management in generally mean “control and verification of system and the process of organizing and managing resources of all kinds in sufficient quantity and quality to ensure that set objectives are reached” (Sushmitha &Allan as cited in Ghavifekr, Afshari, Siraj & Segar, 2018, p.1345). When the same process is applied to the school system it is called educational administration or school administration (Amadi, 2008). Hoy & Miskel (as cited in Oyedemi, 2015) defined Educational Administration as the process of implementing principles, methods and practices in educational institutions aiming the development of those institutions along with reaching the expected goals. Amadi (2008) further defines Educational administration is the process in which human and material resources are brought together for effective and functional teaching and learning in the school.
According to Daresh (2006) Principals are the instructional leaders of the school management, but it does not mean that the administration is centralized to the role of principal. The school based administration is characterized by a clear hierarchy of authority as principal- staff- student relationship (Amadi, 2008). As mentioned in Education First Sri Lanka (2013) in Sri Lanka too the principal is the head of the school who is responsible for the efficient and the effective management of the school. Even if there was a bureaucratic control over the school administration earlier, situation has changed very recently after the school-based management (SBM), Program for School Improvement (PSI) and School Development Committees were introduced. There is a school management committee selected among the teachers to assist the principal (Education First Sri Lanka, 2013). Even if the principals are appointed as the leaders of internal school administration, administration has been further decentralized as Vice Principal (Administration), Vice Principal (Education Development), Head of Division, Subject Head and class teacher (Hetti Pathirage, n.d.). Hetti Pathirage (n.d.) states the school administration system is decentralized with the participation of the School Prefect, Deputy Prefect and Class Leader.
Powers and responsibilities of the school administration according to “Roles and Duties of Principals and Vice Principals” (1994) includes programming, school organization and staffing, professional development, staff supervision and evaluation, student control and supervision, student evaluation and reporting, communication and public relations, budgeting and buying and health, safety and plant supervision. Oyedemi (2015) summarizing the aforementioned functions, says, to achieve an effective administration in a school, following subsystems must operate on a set of rules and procedures which are followed by the staff. Those subsystems are reporting subsystem, planning subsystem, document processing subsystem, knowledge management subsystem, communication subsystem and decision making subsystem (Oyedemi, 2015, section 1, para.3).
Application of ICT for Efficient Education Administration and Management
Many studies done in the recent history reveal and emphasize the need of ICT in the school administration. Information communication technology definitely plays a major role in supporting powerful, efficient management and administration in education sector (Karnataka State Open University & Commonwealth of Learning [KSOU & CL], 2016). When observing the literature regarding this matter it becomes obvious that the subsystems stated by Oyedemi (2015) are to be applied with ICT applications in order to achieve an effective administration.
Ghavifekr et al (2013) identify three main groups in the school administration who can apply ICT for their administrative purposes. They are Administrative Head, Administrative Teachers and Administrative Staff (Ghavifekr et al, 2013). Administrative head is the principal of the school. He is the instructional leader and his responsibilities encompass giving in- house training for the staff, preparing announcements, reports, letters for the parents and other government bodies and staff and teacher employment and student registration (Ghavifekr et al,2013). According to Ghavifekr et al (2013) administrative teachers on front line are directors or chiefs of all departments. In Sri Lanka, Subject Head teachers and Section Head teachers are considered the administrative teachers who play a major role in preparing notes, teaching learning resources and handling examinations. They are responsible for keeping overall student records. Student records may include cumulate records, formative evaluation, summative evaluation etc. Administrative staff of a school usually handles financial work including pay sheets, salary slips, audit reports, non salary grants, balance sheet etc, keep records, process documents, collect data and evaluate all kinds of reports (Ghavifekr et al, 2013). These administrative groups in the school can use ICT effectively in order to carry out their responsibilities in an effective way. For instance Principals can use power point presentations to deliver instructions and to give in-house training for the staff in an attractive way. This urges to build a tight rapport between the principals and the staff members. Teachers have more favorable attitude toward the instructions given in this way.
KSOU & CL (2006) reveal the ways ICT can be used for student administration, staff administration and general administration. The possibilities of using ICT for student administration include usage of electronic media by students to apply for admissions, usage of computers for student enrollments, availability of time tables/class schedule in electronic form and usage of computers for maintenance of attendance. The possibilities of using ICT according to KSOU&CL (2006) for staff administration are usage of computers for recruitment and work allotments of staff, usage of e-media for communication with the staff, availability of e-circulars regarding official matters, automation of attendance and leave management of staff members and the usage of e-kiosks. ICT can be used for general administration by using e-media for scheduling/allocation of halls for examinations, dissemination of information through e-kiosks etc ((KSOU & CL, 2016).
The use of ICT to carry out these responsibilities and duties assigned to these administrative bodies in the schools will be discussed in a broad way in the following paragraphs.
- ICT for Effective and Efficient Communication
There should be a good communication system in a school for the overall effective administration. According to Bamidele (n.d.) communication of an organization could be for internal and external information acquisition and dissemination. In a sense school communication can occur between the staff members, students as well as parents and other external government bodies. Daresh (2006) reveals, less than 25 years ago, inside the school a public address system or two way radios to contact assistant principals and other important personals related to school administration is used by the principals as the most advanced forms of technology based intraorganizational communication. External communication with government bodies, parents and other communities functioned by using a good type writer or a skilled secretary and plenty of memo paper and a regular school newsletter sent out to parents (Daresh, 2006). Daresh (2006) further says telephone is also used to receive the concerns and questions of the community. Various kinds of updated information have to be communicated between the administrative staff, teachers and students. It can be about staff meetings. Circulars, school based programs, curriculum, teacher training programs etc. Schools are also expected to communicate with parents and inform them about the progress of their children and also parents are expected to participate in school activities for the betterment of the school and involve in decision making (KSOU & CL, 2016). Nevertheless things have changed rapidly during the last few years that the schools are also investing much money for the means of efficient and effective digital communication. Both educators and parents are provided access to electronic communication (KSOU & CL, 2016). “Technology allows nearly instantaneous responses to questions, and enables school leaders to communicate rapidly-changing information to teachers, students, parents, and community members” (Daresh, 2006, p.34). This technology includes facsimile machines, telephone, electronic mail, telecommunication system, teleconferencing, electronic bulletin boards, website or blog, Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), social network, SMS and instant messaging, Online groups and forums etc (Bamidele, n.d., KSOU & CL, 2016).
Internet based communication processes such as email, forums and social network can be considered as a fast way of disseminating messages and information to individuals and groups and according to Ghavifekr (as cited in Ghavifekr et al., 2013) this type of communication improves the performance of the organization. VLE is also a new trend of ICT worth given a brief introduction. VLE is an internet based software and can be used for communication through discussion boards and have its own inbuilt communication modules to interact with the learners which in turn can be monitored by parents at home. VLE can also be used for paper marking, peer assessment, administration of student groups, uploading content, organizing student grades etc (KSOU & CL, 2016). When communicated important information for the staff members ICT can be used very effectively. For instance Daresh (2006) comments most teachers traditionally dread the thought of lengthy staff meetings in boring rooms with boring presenters. If technology can be used for presentations and information processing with the help of power point and multimedia projectors teachers can engage in active participation.
- ICT for Record Keeping and Document Processing
School records are official transcripts or copies related to certain processes of actions, events and other matters which are kept by school administrators and preserved for future use and reference as authentic documents (KSOU & CL, 2016). These records include admission and withdrawal register, attendance register, log book, the visitors’ book, staff and students’ personal files, cumulative record folder, student progress reports, lesson plans/ notes, record book, staff attendance register, staff transfer and leaving records, library records and inventories, stock register, cash register including financial matters, pay sheets etc (KSOU & CL, 2016). Daresh (2006) says it was not so far in the past this record keeping was done by hand and those confidential and non-confidential records were recorded in books and were locked in the school vault. This actually requires much manual labor that consumes lots of time. Technology has created a vast revolution in record keeping in school administration making it easier, accurate and efficient. Hardware applications such as photo copy machines, scanners, hard drivers, laptops, CD drivers etc and software applications such as MS Office, tally play a vital role in school record keeping nowadays. Internet and web based applications can also be used for the purpose of retrieving information, tracking originality of the documents and records etc. A famous application used in schools these days for collect, store, process, analyze and disseminate information is EMIS, the abbreviation stands for Education Management Systems (Ghavifekr et al., 2013). Daresh (2006) further explains technology is not only used for record keeping but also to safeguard these pieces of data preventing breaches of confidentiality and other abuses that often happened in the past practices. Because of using technology for the purpose of record keeping management becomes more efficient and effective due to effective handling of data, quality of data, access to data, improved presentation, quality of work, reduction of workload, easy adaptation and editing and sharing (Selwood, n.d.). Moreover using ICT for record keeping reduce office cost and improve reusability. “Document storage in computers saves a lot of space as physical files are replaced with electronic files (Kawade & Mwalongo as cited in Ghavifekr et al., 2013).
- ICT for Decision Making and Planning
According to Kamphaus & Synder (as cited in Daresh 2006) the greatest managerial advantage of modern technology may be that it offers an opportunity for the principals and school leaders to engage in true data-based decision making. New technologies can be used to plan and make decisions on the basis of accurate and readily available facts (Bamidele, n.d.). A study conducted by Visscher (1995) reveals that the schools can use ICT for the purpose of policy making. First the administrators should be able to decide which information they need for decision making and then they can retrieve data by means of a menu query language. Thereafter they can interpret retrieved data in order to use the resulting information for decision making and then use the information to develop, implement and evaluate school policy (Visscher, 1995).
Use of ICT for Efficient Administration in the Schools Worldwide
Visscher’s study (1995) on Computer Assisted School Administration (CASA) reveals USA established itself as a pioneering country that uses computers for school administration effectively. The study further argues that the first computer applications in USA schools were initiated in 1960s when the first school business applications were implemented. Visscher’s study (1995) shows, by the mid 1980s four countries had reached the integration stage of CASA and they were Australia, Great Britain, USA and Netherlands. Visscher (1995) declares Australia at that moment was one of the leading CASA nations. Malaysia as a fast developing country has already designed ICT strategies and policies for the education administration and management (Ghavifekr et al. as cited in Ghavifekr et al., 2013). One of the major concerns of Malaysian Education Ministry is the application of ICT to enhance the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of education administration. For that purpose ministry had provided computers, ICT based tools, wireless connections for all the schools nationwide (Ghavifekr et al., 2013).
The situation in Sri Lanka is completely different when it is compared with other countries mentioned before with reference to the ICT application in school administration. ICT is rarely used for school administration purposes in Sri Lanka. Instead Sri Lanka is using very traditional methods to perform the duties assigned to school administrators. In this essay four cases will be discussed with relevance to ICT applications in the secondary school administration. A school teacher in a Sri Lankan government school explained her experience related to internal communication in the school as something terrible. She said that in her school, students are going errands delivering messages from the principal to teachers. Students are often not in the classroom when the teacher comes to the class and when asked they say someone from the office had asked them to deliver messages to teachers. She further added some students deliberately bunk classes in the pretext of delivering office messages to the staff. Delivering messages using students and other irresponsible people results in teachers and students to get inaccurate and delayed information. Another teacher explaining her experience revealed that the school communication book is the most formal material in the school used for the communication purposes. The communication book is sent with an office assistant or with a student to the staff members. She said that in large schools, for example the schools that exceed 5000 students, this becomes very inappropriate as it consumes a lot of time. The person who carries the book often has to spend a lot of time searching for the teachers to whom the messages have to be delivered. Another shortcoming of this method is when the exhausted person who carries the communication book comes back to the office without delivering messages properly; teachers miss very important information related to staff meetings, teacher training programs etc.
For my own experience I identify another drawback of using Public Address System (PAS) in the schools for communication. PAS is used in Sri Lanka in large and popular schools only. As a former student and later a teacher in two large government schools in Sri Lanka I witnessed the PA system is used with lots of disturbances for the purpose of communication. The announcements are disseminated with disturbances and often are not heard to distant buildings. Once I could not hear an announcement properly about a staff meeting scheduled to be held in that afternoon and I could not participate in it because of that reason. The PA system is not a successful method of disseminating information in schools since its one directional. The principal or the administrative staff can only communicate through the PA system and the one who gets the message cannot communicate back which is an integral part in the process of communication. As a teacher I have never noticed the parents are regularly communicated about their children’s progress, the programs held at the school where parents participation or permission is important and other school matters unless in a parents meeting.
As per my experience as a secondary school teacher I have never enjoyed teacher training programs or staff meetings because of the traditional style or the methods used by the presenter. Principals I have worked with never had knowledge to use technology to conduct presentations. According to many teachers the meetings and programs held for teachers are dull and monotonous.
Sri Lankan secondary schools hardly use technology when it comes to record keeping. The school record keeping activities are usually done by hand. In large schools usually there are two or three office assistants to complete these writing tasks related to record keeping. A teacher works in a secondary Sri Lankan school of less than 500 students revealed that they do not have an office assistant to handle clerical activities in her school and the teachers have to do record keeping tasks when they are free. These important hand written documents are filed and piled in cupboards and often damaged by pests. In May 2017 a large flood in South Sri Lanka ruined many schools in the area and many important documents in these schools were destroyed. In the schools the class monitors are assigned the duty of bringing the class register from the office and taking it back to the office when marked by the class teacher. For my own experience as a class teacher once I underwent a critical situation having lost my class student attendance book. If these documents were typed and kept as soft copies in safe places these disasters could have been avoided. Financial documents are also processed at schools by the clerical staff. So many times the calculations of these documents are proven wrong when checked later. Moreover record keeping by hand requires much manual labor and consumes a lot of time. Hand written documents require much space in school offices too.
Even though the biometric technology is used to keep staff attendance in most offices in the island the system is not in use in Sri Lankan schools. The teachers have to sign and mention the time in the staff attendance register whenever they report and leave the work. Anyone can deceive the administration of the school coming late and declaring an earlier time because of this method. Further, if teachers can use computers, photocopy machines, scanners and printers to prepare notes for students, the teaching process will be easier for teachers and would not be boring for students.
Using ICT for efficient school administration in Sri Lankan secondary schools has become impossible due to various reasons and barriers. Lack of infrastructure and facilities in schools is one among them. To use ICT in schools for efficient administration there are some basic facilities that need to be available in schools. These facilities include electricity, internet and email facility, computers and laboratories and some other hardware devices. According to the statistics of a census which was conducted under the census ordinance of the Department of Census and Statistics in Sri Lanka the availability of electricity in all schools and pirivenas (Buddhist educational monasteries) is 76% (Satharasingha, n.d.). The statistics further reveal that the schools with less number of students are less likely to have electricity. According to Satharasingha (n.d.) internet availability in all schools and pirivenas is 6.4% whereas the availability of email facility is 4.1%. Only 17% of schools have computer laboratories. Availability of hardware facilities is also assessed in the Census and the statistics demonstrate that overall availability of desktop computers within schools is not more than 29.6%. Most of the hardware facilities are available in national schools. 26% of schools have printers in working condition, 5.8% of schools have scanners, 2.3% of schools have multimedia projectors and 0.5% of schools have laptop computers (Satharasingha, n.d.). Wi-Fi facility is not widely used in Sri Lanka. By 2016 only 26 public locations around the country had the free Wi-Fi connection (Freedom House, 2016). So it is obvious that schools are not facilitated with Wi-Fi connectivity.
The other impediment as identified by the researchers in implementing technology in schools is that the lower computer literacy rate of those who work in the education sector. The overall literacy rate in Sri Lanka is approximately 91% (Freedom House, 2016). But when it comes to digital literacy it appears to be very low. Approximately 20% of population is comfortable using computers (Freedom House, 2016). Older age groups have a lower rate of digital literacy. Only 8% of the government sector’s staff uses email for official communication in Sri Lanka (Dissanayake, 2011). Satharasingha (n.d.) in his article on Computer Literacy of Teachers reveals that the self reported computer literacy of teachers in all schools in the country is 32.3%. Computer literacy usually goes hand in hand with English language literacy and as revealed the self reported English language literacy of Sri Lankan teachers does not exceed 53.7% (Satharasingha, n.d.). Lack of teacher training programs on computer literacy, the difficulty in accessing technical devices and cultural circumstances that condemn modern technology can be identified as the major issues that cause this situation.
As per my experience as a teacher I identify the generation gap as a barrier for those who work in the field of education when utilizing technology. The teachers and education administrators of old generations are less likely to use technology to accomplish the duties assigned to them and they hold a negative attitude towards the younger generation who are familiar with the modern digital appliances such as mobile phones. More often they are more likely to find fault in people who use social media and other networks to disseminate or retrieve data and information. These negative perspectives and the generation based grudge towards technology and modernity has become an impediment when implementing technology at school level.
The workers in the education sector in Sri Lanka are paid less in comparison to other professions. This issue has been identified as another hindrance that disengages the teachers and principals from technology. A monthly salary of a government teacher/ principal in Sri Lanka is approximately 40000LKR (332.14 AUD) including allowances. Therefore most teachers usually cannot afford a laptop computer or a good smart phone with the little salary they get.
National and Educational policies on ICT and suggestions for policy reform
The ICT policy in Sri Lanka is extremely comprehensive and converse wide range of areas. Dissanayake (2011) states currently six programs are implemented under the supervision and coordination of ICTA (Information and Communication Technology of Sri Lanka). The key policy components of this program includes re-engineering government, building the national infrastructure, Developing ICT human resources, ICT investment and private sector development, ICT for development and E-society ( Dissanayake, 2011). According to Dissanayake (2011) the main objectives of the second policy related to the development of national infrastructure encompasses providing modern telecommunication networks to supply competitive and affordable telecommunication services for citizens and appropriate channels for the purpose of successful delivery of citizen services. National policy on Information technology in school education also highlights necessity of establishing Information Technology Education Resource Centre for Professional Development of Management of Education (Withanage,2007). Sri Lanka’s national policy of developing ICT human resources aims to develop ICT enabled industries and general education services at the schools in order to enhance the quality of education by bridging the digital divide (Dissanayake, 2011). One of the strategies proposed for this includes equipping government employees with appropriate ICT skills and competencies needed to manage and administer government services (Dissanayake 2011).
As mentioned by Withanage (2007) The National Policy on IT in School Education (NAPITSE) is followed by an action plan which mainly focuses on the use of ICT in Education and the use of ICT in the management of the education system. Further the policy emphasizes the importance of upgrading officers in the education system to handle ICT related activities competently and with ease (Withanage, 2007).
The proper execution of the ICT policy will surely mitigate the difficulties encountered by the school administrators when using ICT for their professional practice. Nevertheless, it is evident that the government has to invest a lot of money for development of ICT related infrastructure while implementing and practicing these policies. As a developing country Sri Lankan government should better focus on facilitating the schools with ICT related infrastructure with minimum expenditure. The government’s concentration is still focused on developing cable/wired network coverage all around Sri Lanka to ease the telecommunication purposes. Wired networks on one hand have the complexity of running physical cables from place to place that actually requires labor and it add an additional cost too. When it is practiced at school level the authorities will have to bear the expenses of computers and related hardware devices as well. Yet, at the school administration level wireless technology becomes more practical than wired technology due to various reasons. “Wireless communication in administration augments the add-on facilities such as e-services, e-participation and enhances the delivery of services” (Pai &Meenakumari, 2014, p.17). When Wi-Fi towers and zones are established in schools teachers and principals can use their own smart phones, laptops, iPods, tablets or any kind of portable communication device for the purpose of communication, retrieve or disseminate information since they are more affordable and common nowadays. Mobile penetration in Sri Lanka is estimated as 120% by 2017 (Harpur, 2017). Using a smart phone is easier than using a computer and its functions are more similar to a computer. Mobile phones are useful for internal communications at schools as text messages and voice messages are possible even without the internet connection. Therefore the national and educational policy makers should focus on implementing wireless communication technologies at schools to achieve an efficient school administration. The school principals should encourage their staff members to use and own smart phones and similar devices when planning the school policies.
In conclusion, it has been already proven that the ICT is important for the school administration purposes and activities in order to carry out them effectively, efficiently and with a quality. Sri Lankan education system gives less priority in using ICT for school administration in comparison to other countries. In fact schools in Sri Lanka are still using traditional methods for administrative purposes due to various reasons as analyzed in the previous pages. This has to be changed as soon as possible since the world is moving very fast towards development and the globalization has become an unavoidable phenomenon. To move on with the fast developing world we all have to embrace technology and it is assured that it changes and develops our lives rapidly. Even if the policies are planned and strategies are implemented to enhance the IT education in Sri Lanka a sufficient attention is not given to the implementation of ICT in school administration. Sri Lanka needs further research regarding this subject area that influences policy makers, school administrators, educators, teachers and other responsible authorities and personalities to use technology for efficient school administration. Moreover the national policy makers should concentrate on the execution of wireless technology in the schools rather than expensing a lot of money to develop wired network coverage and further research should be carried out based on this issue. The issue which has been selected to analyze in this essay needs further attention of the responsible personals since improving the use of technology in the school administration not only increases the efficiency of services, but also enhances the quality of education which in turn enhances the lives of the individuals and the community.
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