By Usha Perera
Sri Lanka’s education sector, still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, now faces acute challenges due to the current political and economic crises. The sudden imposition of curfews and the lack of transportation have resulted in school closures and students being deprived of structured and systematic in-school education. In Sri Lanka, closing schools for just one day causes a loss of 25 million learning hours and 1.4 million teaching hours. Alongside this, private tutoring has gained greater importance. This blog discusses the issues faced mainly by Ordinary Level (O/L) and Advanced Level (A/L) students in attending tuition classes based on an IPS study. The study findings are derived from a sample of about 340 students, and 16 teachers and tutors across Sri Lanka.
Affordability of Private Tuition Classes
The surge in the cost of living with wages failing to keep pace with inflation and loss of income generation channels have been unbearable for parents of school-going children. The IPS study found that students who belonged to family income levels below LKR 30,000 spend approximately LKR 3,000-Rs. 7,000 per month while students whose family income was above LKR 200,000 spend approximately LKR 18,000- LKR 20,000 per month on private tuition depending on the grade of the student. This scenario is illustrated in Figure 1.
Further, most O/L and A/L level students spend more than LKR 2,000 per month on data packages for both school and tuition online classes, while most students who spend more than LKR 2,000 per month are concentrated among the higher family income categories. If LKR 2,000 is spent on monthly data packages, it would approximately account for 1% of whose family income is above LKR 200,000, and more than 7% of whose family income is below LKR 30,000. All this highlights the perceived importance of private education, especially among O/L and A/L grades, and the financial burden it imposes on a family’s household income.
These affordability concerns were partly offset by the introduction of free online classes during the pandemic, which has provided considerable relief for financially vulnerable students according to students interviewed for the IPS study. Affordability concerns were further allayed by reduced class fees by some tutors. The fees reductions were made accounting for the structural changes of administrative and operating costs of an online setting applicable based on the scale and intensity of operations of tutors. Financial issues faced by the families experiencing household income losses during the pandemic were also considered in fees reduction.
Accessibility to Online Classes
Online platforms were the sole medium for conducting classes during the pandemic while it becomes an option in the current context considering the social unrest, curfews and travel constraints due to fuel shortages. However, many students faced accessibility issues in joining online classes. The issues faced were poor signal coverage, high data costs, lack of necessary devices, and affordability concerns in the context of lost household income during the pandemic. Most of the students who belonged to a family income level above LKR 200,000 used a laptop/tablet while most of the students who belonged to a family income level of below LKR 30,000 relied on a smartphone. Smartphones were found to be less user friendly for academic use. In addition to the above issues, the ongoing power outages also present impediments to online education.The accessibility issues are mainly experienced by students from families with comparatively lower income levels, and those who had to rely on a smartphone for academic purposes. This implies a close positive relationship between household income and the quality of the education received; financial strength being the primary determinant of accessibility.
However, these accessibility issues were partly offset by the divergent opportunities experienced by students, especially in the context of online platforms. These prospects included the ability to join online classes conducted in distant locations that would otherwise have been restricted due to travel constraints and increased time available due to school closures. As a result, they increased the duration of tuition classes using the saved travel time.
While private tutoring became a way of bridging the gaps in the education system during the crisis, learning losses for the most vulnerable groups have further widened with accessibility and affordability issues. Since these issues were mainly observed among O/L and A/L student groups, there is a higher risk that vulnerable student groups would be highly challenged during their most decisive years leading to higher education and career development. Thus, it is necessary to address the affordability issues, focusing more on the vulnerable student groups. Financial assistance could be provided in terms of a certain number of free hours of teaching for selected financially vulnerable students and allocating a selected proportion of students to be taught at a concessionary rate.
To address the accessibility issues, recording the lessons and distributing the notes on different platforms will help to a certain extent. Providing digital equipment and networks for selected tuition centres and schools could also be considered since the lack of facilities and resources was identified as major accessibility issue for distance education. These would require collaborative efforts among the government, tutors, parents, non-government organisations and any other well-wishers.
Ceylinco Life now offers cash rewards to Family Savari winners
Ceylinco Life has announced that going forward, it will reward winners of its popular ‘Family Savari’ promotion with cash prizes in a response to the mercurial economic situation in the country, ensuring that policyholders continue to receive the same values corresponding to the prizes they win.
Now in its 15th year, the Family Savari promotion has since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic been rewarding winners with gold instead of overseas holidays and local excursions. However, due to the foreign exchange issues in the country, the company said it hopes to provide the full value of the prizes through cash rewards.
“In the current context, we believe that our Family Savari winners would appreciate receiving the full value of their prizes in cash,” Samitha Hemachandra, Ceylinco Life’s General Manager – Marketing said. “Now, each first prize winner at the bi-monthly draws will receive Rs 1 million in cash, while another 75 winners will receive cash prizes totaling Rs 3 million.”
In all, more than 1,000 policyholders will be rewarded when ‘Family Savari 15’ concludes in August 2022, with a prize bag worth over Rs 30 million. This includes supermarket shopping vouchers with a cumulative value of Rs 6 million as consolation prizes.
To be eligible to win prizes at the six bi-monthly draws, all Ceylinco Life customers have to do is to continue their existing policies with the Company or maintain a minimum account balance in their retirement plans during the promotion period. Additional winning chances are given to customers who pay their premiums directly to the company and further chances are assigned corresponding to the time they have been Ceylinco Life customers.
Intended to stimulate interest in life insurance, encourage policyholders to keep their policies active, the ‘Family Savari’ programme has benefitted more than 26,600 people to date. Grand-prize winning families at previous Family Savari promotions have visited Australia, Italy, England, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and France, while other winners have toured China, Dubai, and Singapore.
Adjudged the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand in Sri Lanka’ in 2022 by Brand Finance, Sri Lanka’s Service Brand of the Year by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) in 2021 and the winner of the SLIM Kantar Peoples Award as the Most Popular Life Insurance Company in Sri Lanka for the 16th consecutive year, Ceylinco Life has been the country’s leading life insurer for more than half of the 34 years it has been in existence. Other accolades won in respect of 2021 include the ‘Most Popular Service Provider’ in Sri Lanka’s Life Insurance industry in 2021 by LMD, the ‘Most Valuable Life Insurance Brand’ in Sri Lanka by Brand Finance, one of the 10 Most Admired Companies in Sri Lanka by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka (ICCSL) in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and one of the 10 Best Workplaces in Sri Lanka’s Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector by Great Place to Work.
Ceylinco Life has close to a million lives covered by active policies and provides innovative life insurance solutions which offer protection while de-risking the goals and ambitions of the Company’s policyholders.
Fimco Estate bags Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka award
Fimco Estate is honoured to have been awarded as winners for the Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka at the Asia Pacific Property Awards for the year 2022-23 powering up its capacity to serve more in the fast-growing apartment industry.
The award winners were announced on the 23rd of June, 2022, bringing glory to the apartment industry in Sri Lanka. It’s a tremendous victory for Fimco Estate (www.fimcoestate.com) to position itself as a highly recognised real estate marketing company. The Asia Pacific Property Awards are the largest, most prestigious, and widely recognised programme throughout the region. Established in 1994, the Asia Pacific Property Awards distinguish the best in the property industry, across five sectors as Development, Real Estate Agency, Architecture, Interior Design, and Hospitality. The Awards are in their 29th year and cover over 45 different residential and commercial categories. The Asia Pacific Property Awards are judged by an independent panel of over 80 industry experts. The judging panel is chaired by Lord Caithness, Lord Best, and Lord Waverley, members of the House of Lords in the UK Parliament.
By providing unmatched marketing services to apartment developers and owners, and facilitating the apartment buying process to be much more convenient for buyers, Fimco Estate has emerged as one of the market leaders in Sri Lanka. Today, Fimco Estate has grown locally and globally as a reputed brand in the apartment industry through a range of services all under one roof. Fimco Estate is exclusively working with prominent apartment developers as their marketing and sales partner. Talking about the achievement, Raj Kaleel, CEO and Founder of Fimco Estate said “market intelligence-based approach and building a state-of-the-art technology-driven process is the secret behind our success. “It is our privilege to have been recognised with the prestigious title as winners for Best Real Estate Marketing Company in Sri Lanka, bringing honour to our nation. This recognition is evidence of the hard work of our team, who tirelessly work to build trust among our stakeholders”. Fimco Estate has reached out beyond the local boundaries to bring in foreign exchange by encouraging investment in apartments from expatriate communities and foreign investors. Entering the UAE property market is yet another recent achievement for Fimco Estate. Fimco Estate hopes to achieve more milestones in the future and would continue to strive to exceed customer expectations and maintain our level of standard.
Flash Digital Account teams up with online pharmacy Flash Health for convenient payment
The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has announced that its Flash Digital Bank Account has been linked as a convenient mode of payment, to the revolutionary online pharmacy Flash Health App to facilitate flash-fast home delivery of medicines to users.
Under this collaboration, ComBank Flash Account holders who register their Flash debit card or account as a preferred payment option on the Flash Health App can enjoy discounts of up to 20% on online prescription fulfilment, product purchases on the wellness marketplace, home-visit lab tests and online doctor consultations featured on the digital healthcare platform.
Commercial Bank is the only bank that Flash Health has onboarded as a payment partner via a local product such as the ComBank Flash Digital Bank Account. Customers only have to register their Flash debit card on the health app once to continue ordering medication online without having to re-enter their card details.
Since the Flash Health mobile application enables customers to upload prescriptions and order medicine online, it can also be used by customers employed overseas, who are unable to physically assist their family members during a health crisis, to place online orders for the prescription medicines and have them delivered to the doorsteps of their loved ones.
Flash Health was recently upgraded with a ‘Move, Burn and Earn’ feature which aims to motivate and encourage users to stay healthy by walking more. The initiative allows the health app users to earn Flash credit points while walking and then redeem them against purchases on the app.
Similarly, ComBank Flash too is an innovative and comprehensive digital banking tool that provides financial services required to manage the lifestyle of a customer across aspects such as daily living and utility expenses, budgeting, saving, financing, eCommerce, environmental awareness, and investments. It was the winner of the award for the ‘Digital Banking Initiative of the Year’ in Sri Lanka at the 2021 Asian Banking and Finance (ABF) awards.
Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 11 years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 268 branches and 940 automated machines in Sri Lanka. Commercial Bank is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector and is a leader in digital innovation in the country’s Banking sector. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.
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