17 December, 2017

Blog

English As Liberation

By Rajiva Wijesinha

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

I do not tend these days to accept invitations to speak in the fields of Education and English Language Teaching, but I was pleased to accept this one, largelybecause of the theme of your Conference. I feel in a sense out of touch with the subject, but this has been deliberate, because I must admit to some sadness at the manner in which the Ministry of Education failed to build on the foundation we had laid there for better English Teaching, and for better syllabuses for all subjects, during the years in which I advised on English, and also chaired the Academic Affairs Board of the National Institute of Education.

We had also made plans for better use of the Regional English Support Centres to upgrade English Teacher Training, and provide ready access to degrees that would improve the professional capacities of English teachers. But all this was reversed, largely because of lethargy, and the incapacity to think and plan coherently which has so adversely affected our education system over the years. And in addition there is I fear also continuing suspicion of English, and a determination on the part of decision makers to prevent our rural populations from having access to the language which is the only way of ensuring equity and equality of opportunity in the current age. In short, English continues to be the possession of the privileged, and in particular those in authority who use the language of nationalism to keep the less privileged in check, whilst of course ensuring that their own children have English, and English medium education, and often foreign degrees.

How do we break through this stranglehold? I am once again hopeful, with the appointment of the Hon Mohanlal Grero as Deputy Minister of Education, given his idealism and his practical capacity. There is an excellent new Secretary in place, and the Minister, who is I believe positive about progress but was not provided previously with enough ideas, will not I think prove a barrier to progress. But on the negative side I believe there is no time to waste, for disparities are increasing, and we must ensure not only the development of skills, but also attitudinal change that will enable our youngsters to think and learn for themselves instead of being stuck in dependency.

For this purpose the use of Language Arts and Theatre is ideal. I should note that, though I have long appreciated the importance and interest of drama and dramatizations, it was only when I began work on the pre-University General English Language Training programme that I fully understood the impact of these on both learning of the language, and confidence building. For this I am indebted to my fellow coordinator of the programme, Oranee Jansz, who was full of innovative ideas.

Let me quote then from an article she wrote about our work together for ‘The Care of Children’, my recently published book on the protection of children and also on empowering them through better policies and practices in Education. The latter part of the book has essays on some of the innovations I introduced in various positions, and I hope the record will inspire others concerned with social change to replicate whatever is appropriate in the current context.

Oranee wrote about one of our significant innovations – ‘As the situation in the country was slowly getting back to normal during the mid nineties, in the middle of our tenure as National Coordinators of the GELT programme, the POP was losing its momentum and we decided to channel the money set aside for it into student projects. This was a new initiative in which students were required to undertake group projects in which they would investigate or study a problem or phenomenon in the areas in the vicinity of their GELT centres. A report on it had to be written in English and presented orally in English. The previous POP allowance to students was used for travelling, producing the final project report and any other expenses incurred in the project effort. Competitions to select the best project at class level and then at centre level and at inter-centre to find district level winners were held. All district winners presented themselves at the UGC where the 1st three projects All Island were selected. A sum of money was set aside for the prizes of the All Island winners. Later on, we converted the oral presentation of projects into dramatization of the information gathered by the students, where they could use music, song, dance, costumes and sets in the dramatizations. We witnessed some extremely innovative and startling dramatizations through this initiative. Above all it proved the efficacy of group action when channeled correctly to generate creative energy. The vision of giving maximum opportunities for rural students to read, speak and use the English language in creative and innovative ways was achieved in the GELT programme during our tenure as National Coordinators.’

I still remember some of those projects, and the fact that we had them presented at the UGC was a way of making the students feel the UGC was theirs too, and not a place where they would come only to protest. I should note that more ideas Oranee had for handing over the initiative to students can be found in ‘Explorations’, published by Cambridge University Press in India as a companion to my ‘Handbook of English Grammar’. They have been prescribed in a couple of Indian universities, but of course no Sri Lankan institute would dream of using them. I used to think this was part of the general Sri Lankan incapacity to appreciate what our own people do, but I realize now that the so-called preparation of materials is a lucrative exercise, and an education system which lives on rent seeking naturally multiplies opportunities of making money on services. So, instead of ordering good books from elsewhere, we prepare our own, at vast expense, choosing writers by favour – and we are then astonished when the textbooks contain mistakes.

The same thing, I should note, goes for the practice of preparing term test papers in education offices, instead of allowing them to be the responsibility of schools, which is what used to happen when our system was more effective. Not only are small but deeply desired payments made for these term tests – which adds to administrative responsibilities and authority, while more productive aspects of administration are forgotten – but, in addition, those who set them get a reputation which increases their appeal as tuition masters. Since tuition is now the guiding principle of our education system, this is an important consideration,

Oranee’s approach, as the passage I cited makes clear, incorporates a vital principle of learning, to which we pay lip service, but which we do not really understand. I refer to group work, which should be a means of setting students free, to produce on their own and benefit from the input others make. Sadly we tend to see group work as a means of ensuring uniformity, as I have noted when Role Plays are implemented through groups being required to repeat together what is given in the book. The idea of giving them themes, and then requiring that these be expanded on with lively interactions, is not one many teachers understand or internalize.

The type of group work Oranee introduced included brain-storming, with many people sitting together and making plans. Then they had to implement those plans, making use of the resources they had or could generate. They had to divide up responsibilities, and rehearse so that the roles of each contributed to the whole. In short they worked in the way they should do as adults – except this is not the way things happen in Sri Lanka, which managed to abolish the Ministry of Policy and Plan Implementation, and thinks that checking on whether objectives are being achieved should be done precisely by those implementing, or not implementing as the case might be, those objectives. The synergy – one of Oranee’s favourite words – that a productive society requires is not encouraged here, given that, as His Excellency the President put it when I wondered about blockages in the system, people tend to grasp for themselves everything in sight, tasks as well as resources (both going together being an obvious reason for this possessiveness on all counts) and refuse to accept systems of accountability to other institutions.

Oranee’s view was that synergy is essential for maximum creativity and effectiveness, but she also knew that, given the restrictive and competitive nature of the examination system in which students had been stuck in the preceding years, she had to make the process enjoyable. Hence the use of drama, with freedom to choose subjects which the students felt were relevant to their lives. So we had performances which threw up bright ideas with regard to problems that still dog us, foreign employment, environmental degradation, drug abuse, and many more.

Can we replicate some of her ideas in classrooms too? Or rather, can we aim for the results she targeted, using the syllabuses we have, and the materials? The short answer is that I do not know, since I do not know what materials you use – and, to be quite honest, I have not for the reasons I have given earlier sought these out, having been quite disappointed when I last looked at a prescribed textbook. But I cannot imagine that a good teacher would have difficulty in developing exercises that allow students to be creative and practice language productively and with enjoyment.

And of course you can always introduce supplementary materials too, since there is no barrier to using these, provided you cover the syllabus. Unfortunately this has turned into drudgery in some instances, because the syllabus is interpreted narrowly, with reference to specific subject matter rather than skills and competencies. That is why it would be good if the Ministry allowed teachers one period a week to engage in supplementary activity in fulfillment of a sensible syllabus. I still recall perhaps the best English teacher I had, certainly the only one whose work I still remember with respect, reading Chaucer to us when we were 12, in the Coghill version rather than the tedious original, acting out the tales as they were meant to be conveyed to an audience in an age in which reading skills were limited, and story telling was oral. Indeed, it is a pity that, if old practices have not changed, our school texts have little that can be read aloud entertainingly.

I should note that what I am talking about here is using Language Arts and dramatizations in the classroom. Often when I ask educationists about such activities, they tell me about the competitions that are organized at Provincial and Zonal level, with emphasis on prize winners. Such information I find both tedious and uninformative. Just as one should judge a school not on how many students got 8 or 9 or whatever number of As are thought to prove excellence at Ordinary Level, but rather on the percentage that passed, including in Maths, so too one judges the level of English not by a few prize winners but on the percentages of those willing and able to speak in English. Competitions, on the other hand, like the annual sports meet which is a pitiful substitute for extra-curricular activities, are devices created by the Ministry of Education to limit actual productive work for all during the period in which such competitions and meets are prepared for and held.

This is why the latest educational reforms, which took three long years to be finalized and have still not been put into the Act that we were promised when this Parliament was first convened, include the provision that extra-curricular activities should be compulsory. When we were discussing this, we defined three areas in which such activities should be organized, namely sports, cultural activities and social service activities. Sports means games, and in particular team games, which should be practiced after school. Social service referred to scouting and guiding and cadetting and St. John’s Ambulance Brigades and Disaster Management Clubs and even the gardening that every school should encourage, if only to promote appreciation of attractive premises.

For our purposes what is important is cultural activity, and every school should have drama and music and art societies. We had suggested that students must take part in at least two activities of different sorts, and we would expect good principals to ensure that teachers take charge of such activities, instead of seeing schools and schooling as ceasing to exist at 1.30. Schools should be lively centres of activity in the afternoon too – as you can see from the fact that the few schools to enter which parents bribe and cajole excessively function until evening. It is of course precisely because of extra-curricular activities that their products find it so easy to gain employment even if they do not get high proportions of As in their public examinations.

I would suggest then that you try to develop a culture in which teachers set up societies through which their students can develop their English skills, and their confidence, through drama and debating. This may be difficult in a context in which, when I have suggested that RESCs should function in the afternoons and on Saturdays and in the holidays, I am met with strong protests by the RESC staff I know. Unfortunately Sri Lanka has sunk into a state in which teachers believe that they are entitled to holidays far in excess of those teachers in any other country in the world have. As a result of this, professional development can only take place during school times, so children have to do without their teachers if RESCs or Teacher Centres have training programmes.

This will take a long time to change. Perhaps it can only be done incrementally, which is why I hope government recognizes the importance of treating education as a devolved subject and allowing administrative decisions to be taken at Provincial level, with the central government being responsible only for National Policy and for Public Examinations on the strength of which selections are made for jobs or for further studies. They will of course need to monitor activity nationally, to ensure that policies are being implemented effectively, but they should allow for different systems of delivery provided standards are maintained.

The current determination to cling onto everything, as His Excellency described our national tendency, to make policy and implement it and make all appointments regardless of crashing ignorance of where actual needs are, and then to pretend to monitor what is going on, will only lead us to greater and greater disaster. We have long prided ourselves on our high standards of literacy, but we achieved those long ago, and other countries in Asia – though not in South Asia – have overtaken us in the last few decades. And meanwhile our success rates in Maths and Science and English are pitiful, while we are not producing enough graduates in subjects that will ensure economic growth.

Thinking skills, decision making skills, initiative and enterprise are in short supply. This is not surprising given that the education system seems designed to kill these. It is a tribute to the native wit and resilience of our youngsters that so many of them blossom when their abilities are given full play. But English teachers can help more of them to perform better, if you liberate them in the classroom and outside through allowing them to work together and develop their talents, their self-confidence and their social commitment.

*Keynote address by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha – Delivered at 2.30 pm, November 26th at the National RESC Conference – 2013 – On the theme ‘Supplementing ELT Through Language Arts & Theater’

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    Aawgh.. Yawn.. i skimmed through most of it Professor, maybe it’s too late in the night and it just doesn’t interest me.. Yawn..

    Anyway let me just say we should not put much emphasis on English, the Singhalese, Tamil and Hindu languages are far more superior to the ‘lame’ English language. Yes, people should be fluent in it as it was made the official “International” Language (I’m sure many can write and article about that topic).

    It is very sad that the young people now can’t or for the “show and fashion” pronounce Singhalese words properly, and I’m assuming it’s happening in the Tamil language as well. It’s getting to be a real real funny world.. En fucking Lish is the way to go, how many examples are there where there’s no such words to for Singhalese/Tamil words???

  • 3
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    Every parent in sri lanka wishes education in english,or at least a good working knowledge of english,for his/her child.
    If,instead of teaching religion and history,the time and expertise thus wasted is used to teach english,the nation will improve in all spheres.
    Parents should be allowed to choose the best for their children,and not politicians.
    The affluent send children to english medium schools here or abroad.
    The common man’s child is forced to waste his potential on useless subjects.
    This has been the same,since independence.
    But,no politician wants to talk about it.

  • 7
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    I was listening to an interview where the late RIT Alles says that he considers all children as good, the failings are with the principals and teachers. Since nowadays teachers and principals are also products of our homegrown and politicised educational system, the main culprit is the system and those politicians who continue to tinker and meddle with it.

    We have applied various homegrown formulae like, leadership training, standardisation, z-scores, chintanaya which claim to improve the educational system. In fact we are going backwards when we consider the moral degradation, murders, rapes and crimes being committed by the products of our schools and universities.

    On the other hand our neighbours India, Singapore, Malaysia and other developed countries have stuck with the traditional systems of education and maintained progress and development of their societies and countries. The use of English and other international languages stands out in their systems. In the good old days we did a lot of reading and referencing of different texts to learn a subject. These days students are given ill prepared notes and standard text books to cram and pass exams.

  • 6
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    Knowing English is good. but our problem in the country is not because of that.

    Look at countries like South Korea and Japan. How many people know english. If you happen to visit those countries alone you will get stranded since it Korean and Japanase the language everywhere. English in those countries is worse than in Sri Lanka. Yet these 2 are well developed nations in the world.
    They are the top automobile, electronics, industry leaders in the world.

    So blaming lack of English for country malice is escapism.

    Our problems is our leaders. They failed on our country and people.
    The leaders are corrupt, thugs, rapists, drug dealers.
    They simply don’t understand how to grow the economy country.
    They don’t know how to improve living conditions of people.

    just stop blaming english….

    • 2
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      what a comparison Sumith ? IT IS LIKE APPLES AND ORANGES
      Can you at all compare ours with those of Korea or Japan?
      Just take average japanese or korean, and compare them with our average ? Then you will learn where our average have gone wrong.

      It is the mentalset of our people that should change dramatically. Do the average of our people are alert to law and order to the manner People in developed world are used to be. Better systems make the like they are… do we have better systems in the country ? Majority of lawmakers are not exemplary…is this is case in those countries ? Sure there are corrupted ones every ones, but what matters is the majority…..
      If average chinese are not industrious, can they build those fly overs across the globe ? Srilanka to Kenya ?

      Switzerland, Scandinavian countries in general persuade their high schools to teach several languages at a time apart from their main langauge. In Switzerland (small country of 8mios), many that have completed their school education are well conversant in English/Italian/French apart from their mother tongue -Swiss German. This is not the case with the French or Spanish. But the standards of school education in scandinavian countries like Finland and Sweden, they should learn several langauges at a time.
      Our authorities still fail to setup their curricula being unable to promoting English.

      • 1
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        /* Better systems make the like they are… do we have better systems in the country ? */

        Sirimal,

        When british left the country in the hands of the local leaders it had one of the best system in Asia.

        What went wrong?

        It is our leader messed it up.
        SO what we have is a leadership issue. Not in lack of english.

    • 3
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      Sumith,

      You can’t compare countries like Japan and South Korea with Sri Lanka. Those countries received tremendous economic support from the West to get to where they are today. They didn’t need the English language so much to get by.

      But a tiny country like ours needs English weather we like it or not.

      It’s not just being able to speak, read and write in English that matters. There is much more that accompany the language.

      • 3
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        /* Those countries received tremendous economic support from the West to get to where they are today. */

        Sri Lanka is not so tiney. It’s population as big as Malaysia or Australia.
        What I am saying is learning english is not bad. But lack of english not the reason problems in Sri Lanka. Problems made by our incompetency of our leaders.

        • 0
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          Not just the leaders bahubuthasinge, it is the mental set of the average in the country .. that needs to be changed…
          see, today, MR administration is beyond abusive. But majority folks stay blind even paving more them to deceive them further. It is not the opposition alone, that should go against the brutal rulers. The wills of average folks living in rural areas should be there….
          Koreans, Germans, Japanese or other developed nations have much in common: That is their industriousness, hard working character and disipline above all.
          Just tell me how many of ours belong to well disiplined fractions in our society ?

  • 2
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    Well Said. When somebody write or speak in good English, I always interestingly watch them. It may be because of that I don’t do it myself.

    Japan like countries were not ruled by western countries. They are lucky. But many others are not that lucky. It is going to take a few generations to rebuild the Native Societies and bring them to world class standard.

    Native langues are OK. They are our prides and our properties. But, not just to understand science or commerce, when the entire modern civilization has been influenced by British and Americans, English is necessary for everything. Failing uplift us to the modern English will only leave the society as copy caters or stagnant society, but not going cause it to naturally grow and balance with the modern societies.

    Some of our leaders, probably because at their time they were coerced to study English, they showed the same hatefulness towards that language the one that they showed towards their masters who ruled them.

    Of cause not growing up is that particular individuals fault, but the society has to take the responsibility of not proving the opportunity to grow. In a democratic society, the fault of not providing opportunity is returning back to the one who needs the help, the people, as they are masters and deciding it for themselves of what they want. Unless some sacrifice is demanded and obtained from the people who are the needy of help and the “vicious circle” is broken by a talented, brave leadership team who is ready to take responsibility for blame of the mishaps and feel the pride for the victory, advancement cannot come through.

  • 0
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    I think it is not just English, we should start teaching mandarin [Chinese] at our schools. My grandson is doing it in the UK. Why? Because, China will be the biggest market in the world soon. And if we’re to penetrate that market effectively, we’ll have to communicate with Chinese in their own language. It is absurd for professori to imply “Thinking skills, decision making skills, initiative and enterprise are in short supply” because we Sri Lankan’s do not think in English. This is nothing but Colombian WOG mentality. No language is better suited than his mother-tong to start and complete ones basic formal education. Thereafter, he may learn any number of languages as he likes and do his higher studies in that language. Professori must get it right: English is not the knowledge but a medium to communicate. Do Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and etc have ‘English medium education’ or think in English to achieve the progress they have reached. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against learning English; I am only against using it as a kaduwa as these guys do.

    • 1
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      This was the case in lanken Unis.
      Instead of trying to improve their English, they attack their fellow mates – KADDA sira badda jara… recalling my days there, this reminded me just now. Europeans in general learn English in the school.
      I think they should teach English from Grade 1 on. That is the case in S pore and smaller nations, though it is stupid those with them.

  • 5
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    Dear Rajiva,

    I agree with you in toto.

    There are thousands out there yearning to learn the English language but with no one to teach them. But at the same time there is also a deep-rooted fear of the language.

    This is caused mainly by the ‘high and mighty’ making fun and looking down on those who make mistakes in English.

    First and foremost a concerted effort on the part of the authorities must be made to project English as a ‘friend’ and not a ‘foe’.

    The rest will follow naturally with correct policies in place.

    Sharmini Serasinghe

    • 0
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      We know that Colombians like you would genuflect and worship anything English.

    • 0
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      well said

      • 0
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        I meant well said shamini serasinghe

  • 0
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    For once its not Mahinda Puja. Its I know my English, perhaps announcing once qualifications for a foreign posting.

    But then why should Colombo Telegraph make itself a dumping ground for dull speaches given by dull people ?

  • 2
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    Dear Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha – …………………………………..

    English As Liberation? What Happened to Sihala as Liberation. Promised by the Sinhala Buddhist Politicians? …………. …………..
    …………………………………………………

    This was promised by the Hindu Preumal … Buddhist.. Pandar Nsyaka… Bandara Nayake… Catholic Bandara Naiya……. Dutch Christia Bandaranaika,, Anglican Christian Bandarabayaka……Sinhala Buddhist Solomom Westerly Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaila, who was finally killed, Shot buy a Sinhala Buddhist Monk Somarama, who became Catholic before he was hanged,, as he did nor believe in Nirvana anymore, and wanted to get to heaven by way of Jesus through the Pope……..
    ………………………………………………..
    What Happened to Sihala as Liberation. Promised by the Sinhala Buddhist Politicians?
    …………………………………………………….

    DeJa Vu……………………………………

  • 1
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    Needless to talk about importance of English. Govt. must make sure that an effective system is in place to see youngsters are proficient in English , before they leave the schools.
    If English teachers are not up to the task ,then should be given a comprehensive course. As for students , once the ground work is done in primary & secondary school levels, it would be still worth if students are asked to spend another year in school, only to become proficient in English, in a well structured English course ,after O/L or A/L , before they leave the school.
    For University students , all those degree programmes ,( except Medical Degree ) could be cut down by one year & restructured, to include First year only for an exclusive, comprehensive, all inclusive, English course , so that they could pursue their degree in English & end up finding job worthy of their education, either locally or overseas, & it would solve the unemployment problem of graduates as well.

    • 0
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      John
      If ability to speak in English is the panacea to solve the unemployment problem, then everyone in Kenya and South Africa must be having ‘worthy’ jobs for most people there, even taxi drivers speak fluent English. Yet unemployment is seemingly rampant. Why? In Taiwan where taxi drivers speak little or no English, everyone is virtually employed. Why

      • 0
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        Ability to speak /write English & Education will provide jobs, biggest problem of graduates in SL is nothing but lack of English, though it may not be essential but as our country’s psyche is such that you’ve got to be fluent in English , if not you are no body & we’ll have to live with it, on the other hand it’s easier to give our kids English than changing the mind set of a society.Further English is an excellent language & knowledge you can gather with it is sky high, becuase it’s the most spoken International Language.

  • 0
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    Finally the black englishman has come out with it! It is English that is his God! next ofcourse to MR!

  • 0
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    More and better English is good, or perhaps necessary. But that shouldn’t lead to a reversal of the policy of medium of instruction, for which there can never be a better language than the mother tongue.

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
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    Liberation never comes through a language and more so if it is a foreign language! Liberation comes through dedicated hard work,industriousness,lack of corruption, honesty, equality of opportunity etc. Look at Japan, South Korea, Taiwan all of which are Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka. It is unfortunate that we all have still not got over our colonial hang over. I do not say that we should throw English overboard. Let us have more English and better English and let us look for easier, quicker and cheaper ways of imparting it to our children but never revert to English as the medium of instruction unless we deliberately want to stagnate the development of our national languages!

    Sengodan. M

    • 0
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      Since 1956 we have suffered underfunding in education and in particular underfunding of the development of the Sinhala language. Now, a country that couldn’t come to terms with TWO languages is pushed to try THREE. A subject should never be learnt by compulsion yet that is what we are trying to do. What can you expect when MR stands up in his own country and delivers the speech of his life in the language of the old colonial master – a second class mumble in a second-hand lingo, rather than a fine fresh oration in his mother tongue. Who did he think he would impress?

  • 3
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    Dr. Rajiva Wijesinghe!
    Our students are poor in English just because they see no need to learn English as they can learn from grade One until they become graduates in their mother tongue. Further more, our graduates know well that they can get jobs in government sector such as teaching(though they do not know how to teach) even if they do not know the English alphabet.
    So, if anybody wants our students to learn English the need for English has to be created in students.So my proposals are as follows.
    1 Make a pass in English at the O/L examination compulsory to be qualified for A/L examination.
    2 Make a pass in General English at the A/L examination compulsory for university education/employments.
    3 Make a pass in English in a university examination essential to be qualified to receive the degree certificate.
    If the above steps are implemented by the authorities there is no doubt our students will learn English irrespective of the difficulties they may encounter.
    Successive governments have spent an enormous amount of money to teach English to pupils but we see little results .English is taught to them from grade Three but when they sit the O/L examination even 1% of them cannot speak English and less then 10% can write a few sentences in English correctly. This is the bitter truth and this is a national disaster.

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      punchisingho: the answers are NO to 1, NO to 2 and NO to 3. Sri Lankan students need to learn their mother tongue properly, first and foremost, and the second language taught to a Sinhala child should be Tamil, and to a Tamil child Sinhala. English or any other language for that matter should be available to those who wish to learn by choice. In order to conduct external business. We should wean our people away from this madness; how quaint to see Sinhala matrons in the Majestic mall chatting to each in the a foreign language – a bit like listening to the English talking to each other in French!

      • 3
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        I think ENGLISH should be compulsory to all those who want to complete a degree at any local university. Students in medicine and life sciences are highly dependent on English. But how many of the graduates in the menioned fields are proficient in English ? Latter is the reason, many companies to reject their applications. Just getting a simple pass for English would not be enough to face today´s jobmarket.

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        I think all 3 langauges should be made compulsory in schools.
        How can they communicate using modern technology, if they cant exchange a few words in English.

        Here I agree with you:
        “how quaint to see Sinhala matrons in the Majestic mall chatting to each in the a foreign language “

        This is a madness specially among colombo people. It is undestable that you have to speak in English if you communicate with foreigners, but being locals, why should they do it in English ? Perhaps, that sounds good, if you express things in English.- that is typical colombo mentality – like some old students from Royal college,St.Bridget or any other old schools are OVER proud to say that they are superior to any others within the country.. :(

        I think today and future generations should learn all 3 langaugages equally. More langauges they know, it will be easier them to get on with all communities.

    • 0
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      May be it is the culture in SL that stands on English Lerners way not allowing them learning spoken English. If it is a must for them to know English, as it is the case in India, our people will change their attitudes and learn more English.

    • 1
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      I think you are right saying that Successive governments have spent an enormous amount of money to teach English to pupils but we see little results: just fund allocation would not help so long they have not implemented any good systems. Be it in terms of law and order, School education, Religious afairs… our politicians lack overall knowledge about efficient methods in today´s world.

  • 0
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    How is it that some of the leading “International” schools, particularly in Colombo and perhaps elsewhere, manage to
    produce good students even today whose knowledge, speaking and writing abilities appear to be as good as what we use to know in our time in the 1950s-1970s? I suppose, as in any other language, curricular
    compulsions in Schools will not produce students who write, speak and understand the language above average. We must gradually bring back
    that necessary and wholesome environment – wide access to books and journals in schools, home and outside; interaction in the language among students and teachers etc.,

    How is that India has been able to enhance its quality of the language in the past few decades where the quality of their English has reached higher levels, as seen in the media and their production of world-class winning writers, clearly establishes.

    Senguttuvan

  • 1
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    What Rajiva says in this article is fully endorsed by me as he ofent tried to do some change in English Education in this country to take it to the grass-root level. Well said Rajiva

    • 0
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      I think CBK´s admnistration spent lot more to English teaching than efforts made by the current regime sofar. As you say, it is not easy to expect reforms in these areas, so long responsible politicians would not pay whole hearted efforts.

  • 1
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    In my opinion, knowledge of English is essential for understanding science, more so than for the arts. The best science books and papers were written in English, or have been translated into English.

    When I studied at Trinity College in the late 1960s and early 70s I was allowed to study in the English medium, since English was my first language. This put me at a huge advantage over the other boys, since I could read reference books that were not available in the limited school library (which was liberally stocked with Tintin and Billy Bunter).

    Fortunately all that has changed with the internet, which makes learning English easy. With awareness of how English knowledge has been deliberately kept for the privileged and elite families in the past, I have set up a free educational network, the Holistic University Network to promote multilingualism, multiculturalism and cultural exchange.

    You can find links to my websites by a Google search on “Holistic University Network”.

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    I repeat.Children are not interested in learning English because they do not see why they should learn it.They learn mathematics eagerly for the O/L exam because it is a compulsory subject and without a pass in mathematics they cannot sit the A/L exam.Those who are going to sit the A/ L exam attend private tuition classes eagerly at least five days a week. Why?it is because they want to pass the exam with high marks.They know that without high marks they cannot enter a university.Yet they pay no attention to the General English subject prescribed for A/L students.Why? They know it is not compulsory for A/L and many even do not sit for the General English paper.
    So create the need to learn English by making a pass in English compulsory for the O/L and A/L.

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