Sifaan Zavahir and Dileepa Manawadu took the “scenic route” to becoming educational entrepreneurs:
Being successful in conventional education (both going beyond their bachelors’ to pursue both professional qualifications and masters’ – Sifaan in Engineering, HR and Adult Learning and Dileepa in Science, Marketing and Business Administration) they initially subscribed to the belief that the education system was working fine and students just needed to be smart in their choices and work hard at it.
But their work (Sifaan in designing and delivering corporate training / development interventions, Dileepa on mismatches between tertiary education and labour market needs for the Ministry of Labour / Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and later with UK assessments, examinations and qualifications) as well as their eclectic interests (including but not limited to social justice, transformative justice & reconciliation, anthropology, philosophy and sustainability) had led them to look beneath conventional education’s facade of success even before they became parents.
The birth of their son in 2015, made their academic (pun intended) interest in education a personal one, and modulated their parenting approach (to read about their experiences, challenges and insights, please see “Parenting with Metta” on Facebook / Instagram). This catalysed their exploration of alternative education and convinced them that conventional schooling was fundamentally flawed - and that most reform agendas were, at best, as effective as rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic, and in some cases were even making things worse.
The decision to establish Schools 4.0 Lanka was a culmination of the frustration with the lack of any alternative options in Sri Lanka (even unschooling, the learner-centric form of home-schooling, failed to meet their aspirations of what education could be) and encouragement by successes in other countries (which are currently experiencing a surge in interest with the covid19 pandemic keeping schools closed) as well as the number of parents they met with similar concerns about conventional schooling.