How Devi Balikians conquered the Technology stream | Sunday Observer

How Devi Balikians conquered the Technology stream

10 September, 2023

In the world of education, few accomplishments rival the satisfaction of watching young minds rise above challenges and strive for greatness. As Sri Lanka celebrates its latest crop of A-level graduates, it is essential to acknowledge a significant turning point that occurred a decade ago in the country’s educational landscape.

The year 2013 witnessed a remarkable transformation in A-level education when the technology subject stream was introduced, expanding the traditional four streams to include a fifth. Many regarded it as a unique addition to the A-level curriculum, offering students an opportunity not only to secure their university admissions but also to prosper in the job market.

In a nation where approximately 105,000 students enroll in science and mathematics subjects, 122,000 opt for commerce, and 235,000 choose the arts, only a fraction—around 8,000—successfully secure university placements each year. The remainder often finds their future prospects bleak.

To address this pressing issue and create a pathway to professional education, the Government, on an initiative by Transport, Highways and Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, introduced technology streams, including Engineering Technology and Biosystem Technology, at the Advanced Level. Nearly a decade since the inception of this groundbreaking initiative, the results are remarkable: all universities now have dedicated sections for these technology streams, and students have earned their rightful place in higher education.


In 2013, technology entered Sri Lankan schools as an innovative force for change, and the girls of Colombo Devi Balika School faced this challenge head-on. One must recall that, in 2013, this institution welcomed its first-ever student into this pioneering stream—a trailblaser with no more than a dream and determination.

The initial hurdles faced by Devi Balika students in this journey have blossomed into unparalleled success. The first group of students in the Devi Girl Technology stream sat for their exams in 2015, and by 2016, they achieved their first milestones. Over the years, every Devi girl who embarked on this technological journey not only earned her university degree but also ranked among the top achievers in the nation’s A-Level exams.

In 2022 (2023), Ahimsa Wickramaratne, a Devi girl specialising in Biosystems Technology clinched the first position nationwide. Following closely behind were W. Chulara Devindi Perera in sixth place and Sadupama Peiris in 11th place. Since 2016, nine out of the top ten achievers in the country have been Devi Balika students. In 2021, Sulakshi Sandunika, a student of Engineering Technology, claimed the third position at the national level.

Behind these outstanding achievements stands a driving force in the form of Pradeepa Samarasinghe, the former principal of Colombo Devi Balika Vidyalaya and the current National School Director. She reminisces, “Dr. Gunawardena, who was the Minister of Education at that time, wanted to give Sri Lankan students the opportunity to study technology. But we faced the common problems of starting the recruitment of teachers, facilities, curriculum preparation, and so on. I had been appointed as principal for five years at that time. At that time, Devi Balika was a school that had the best high school subjects. But it was realised that the fields covered in this technology stream are very important for girls and it is effective to teach them.”


The journey to success was fraught with challenges. The school lacked essential laboratories and buildings. Nevertheless, Samarasinghe accepted the challenge and initiated studies in makeshift classrooms. The acquisition of necessary equipment was facilitated through collaboration with external parties and parents. An old car engine, brought in through a parent, was employed to teach automotive subjects, despite the absence of an auto engineering teacher. To tackle this, a teacher from an Embilipitiya school was brought to Devi Balika, and teachers from the AL Science department joined in to teach the subject. Samarasinghe personally intervened in syllabus preparation, dissecting it section by section.

Simultaneously, approvals were secured for construction projects, including dedicated buildings for the technology stream. Practical training for students was facilitated through visits to various locations, including the Vocational Training Institute.

Kanchana Weerakoon played a pivotal role as the department’s first teacher, while other members of the teaching staff, including K.G. Deepika Dharmasiri, R.T. Wijekoon, J.A.P. Wickramasinghe, N.T. Rajapaksa, A.T. Kasturiarachchi, and S.P. Chandralata, contributed significantly.

An early challenge involved the recruitment of students. Despite their desire to offer the technology stream, the school initially struggled to attract students. To address this, Samarasinghe sent letters to students who had expressed an interest in science subjects but were not selected, informing them about the new subject stream. More than 200 students attended the first meeting, with 80 ultimately agreeing to pursue the new path—these very students would go on to secure university placements.

Samarasinghe credits the former Minister of Education with providing special support and resources for the initiative. Devi Balika became a trailblaser in introducing the technology stream when no other school dared to follow suit. Even the school’s Alumni Association had initially expressed reservations. Despite the challenges, Samarasinghe harbored a sense of success from the outset. Today, the Faculty of Technology at Devi Balika is in high demand among students from other schools.


The technology stream at Devi Balika offers two distinct courses: Engineering Technology, which covers practical subjects such as vehicle repair, civil work, electronics, and woodwork repair, and Biosystems Technology, which encompasses biological courses. Practical marks are crucial for passing AL examinations in these streams. Devi Balika’s Technology Faculty, equipped with three floors, four classrooms, and four laboratories, boasts a dedicated team of subject experts.

The school’s current principal, Subashini Dematagoda, provides commendable leadership, while Head of the Department A.D.P. Dhammika Aluthge and the teaching staff are instrumental in shaping the future of these aspiring tech-savvy girls.

Among the students, Ahimsa Wickramaratne stands as a shining example. She dreams of becoming a university lecturer in IT and achieved an impressive 9As in her studies. She firmly believes that the Technology stream offers more than meets the eye, saying, “although it is possible to study ALs in other subjects, I chose this subject because we can do more than we think through this. These streams are a combination of five subjects, so you can practice with passion. Everyone gets the opportunity to find a job easily.”

Chulara Devindi Perera echoes this sentiment, dispelling misconceptions about the stream: “Some people think that this is a subject for students who cannot learn. It is completely wrong. All our lessons teach how to be a good entrepreneur. This is the easiest way to get into university if you master it like other subjects. My only aim is to advance through the agricultural sector, which no one does.”

As Sri Lanka takes strides towards a future powered by technology and innovation, the achievements of Devi Balika girls in the technology stream serve as an inspiration to all. These determined young women are not only pursuing their dreams but also breaking barriers, shattering stereotypes, and propelling Sri Lanka towards a brighter, tech-driven future. With dreams of becoming university lecturers, genetic engineers, and IT experts, they are well on their way to shaping the nation’s technological landscape.

In a world where women continue to make their mark in traditionally male-dominated fields, Devi Balika girls prove that the future is limitless, and that every dream is attainable with determination, dedication, and the right opportunities.