English for All

Posted on October 13, 2005  /  9 Comments

English for All

 The UNP has promised in its manifesto a new national programme called ‘English for All,’ to improve the ability to read, write and converse in English of our people within 6 years. The details are yet to come but how realistic is that goal?

Judging by the advertisements in the media there is a huge demand for private education in English, but standards of English education have not received any attention. Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC), the organization responsible for standards in all tertiary education and training,* does not cover English education. This gap has left the consumers of education faced with wide array of choices with very little information to make a correct choice.

 The best strategies in an “English for All” goal  are to:

(1)   Develop standards for English Education that are based on a menu of outcomes such as a pass in GCE (O/L), GCE (A/L), IELTS or other existing standards of English learning.

(2)   Allow the existing community of English education providers to thrive but require them to register with the TVEC in accordance with the standards required by TVEC.

(3)   Expand the proposed voucher system to help the neediest of the needy students to pay for a registered training program of their choice.

This approach is in keeping with the principle of “government as facilitator not provider” principle recommended by the 1997 Presidential Task Force on Technical Education and Vocational Training Reforms.  Prior to that Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe was instrumental in setting up the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission an organization that would be the main instrument of facilitation by government. Unfortunately, all governments have been progressive in polices but laggards in implementation.

 If the UNP is able to put into action the progressive thinking that has characterized technical and vocational education reforms in this country, yes, it would be possible meet the goal of English for all.


  1. For the UNP to be starting up a project like this, they must have done some research into the areas that need these schools the most. I know of some people that are also starting up schools in Sri Lanka, they wish to also work out station. Where would we find the statistics to show the areas in Sri Lanka that could most benefit from the schools.

  2. I am copying and pasting these comments from another blog here as a reader suggested so. Please read carefully and let’s start a healthy discussion here. This starts with an amazing story from a rural village and goes on talking about education related issues.

    152 Mahavilachchiya on Mar 5th, 2007 at 9:38 am


    The Secretary to the Ministry of Education visits Mahavilachchiya

    Ranjith Gunarathne ranjith@mahavilachchiya.net (Updated: March 05, 2007)

    Horizon Lanka Foundation has been doing a great service to the education of the children and the youth in Mahavilachchiya area for the past eight odd years. Many individuals and organizations from other countries have noticed this service and have come forward to assist Horizon Lanka Foundation in numerous ways. They have donated learning and teaching materials such as books, CDs and DVDs and equipment like computers and electronic multimedia projectors etc and one of the donors, Mrs Lovina Charles from United Kingdom bought a 2 ½ acre land and built a two storey building for the Horizon Lanka Academy.

    Notwithstanding all this assistance from private organizations Horizon Lanka Foundation has been having a very hard time coping up with the problems of not having enough teachers and enough funding to cover the salaries of the teachers and other expenses. In spite of these obstacles, Horizon children have been obtaining very high grades for English at school tests and public exams. Unfortunately, for some reason, the fame of these remarkable achievements shown by our students has not reached the authorities that matter. However, the advent of the mesh internet technology has changed this scenario dramatically. Mesh has become a real head turner. These last two or three months we have had a lot of visitors who are interested in mesh internet technology; the installation and implementation of the mesh network and its potential in the role of e-learning, e-commerce and e-governance.

    Today we had the pleasure of welcoming a very important visitor to Mahavilachchiya and Horizon Lanka Foundation. This distinguished visitor is none other than the Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Mr. Ariyaratne Hewage. In fact, there were two VIPs from the Ministry. The other one is Mr. Anura Dissanayake, the Project Director of the Secondary Education Modernization Project, who is doing a lot to uplift ICT education in the public schools in the country.
    Mr W M Samarasinghe, the newly appointed Provincial Educational Director of Anuradhapura and the Zonal Director of Anuradhapura also joined the team to visit Horizon Lanka. Mr M. B. Illangasinghe, one of the teachers who taught English to Mr Wanni also joined the tour. He is to take up a teaching assignment at the HL Academy soon.

    They came with a team of Provincial Project Managers and School Computer Learning Center Managers of SchoolNet program to see how Horizon Lanka Academy works and how it improves the education of children and youth of Mahavilachchiya. Mr. Dissanayake, who is a genuine admirer of Horizon Lanka, said that his team wanted to learn from the experiences of Horizon Lanka Foundation about introducing ICT culture at the village level. He said “My team is ready to run an extra mile to help the surrounding community to improve their life standards. Those five are representing remote village settings in Uva, Southern, Central, Northwestern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.”

    Students of the Horizon Lanka Academy, clad in yellow T-shirts with Horizon logo, welcomed the visitors with a traditional sheaf of betel at the main gate. They watched enthusiastically while the Headmaster of Horizon Lanka Academy Mr. Ranjith Pushpakumara conducted the morning assembly. Then an officer from Sri Lanka Army took over and led the students to the nearby playground for PT.

    Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation introduced the staff of Horizon Lanka Foundation and other guests to the visitors and an informal meeting with the parents followed. The parents talked with the Secretary about their burning problems – mainly the shortage of teachers in public schools in the area. The principals of the schools in Mahavilachchiya area also talked about these issues. This is the first time a Secretary to the Ministry of Education visited Mahavilachchiya and Mr Hewage goes down in the annals of the history of Mahavilachchiya.

    Here, Mr Wanni introduced Mr R Dharmadasa, a former Principal of Thakshila School to Mr Hewage. Mr Dharmadasa, a retired Principal is the man who should get the credit of making Wanni a productive man since the latter’s childhood at Thakshila Public School till today as Wanni still seeks advice from his beloved head master when it matters most. Mr Dharmadasa is the Chief Advisor of the HL Academy’s Parents’ Association as well.

    The Secretary listened very patiently, most of the time nodding in agreement, to the villagers and the school principals. He said that he is not unaware of these issues; not limited to Mahavilachchiya area, and he is doing whatever is possible in his capacity to solve all these problems. Mr. Hewage further stated that the government is taking steps to recruit teachers from the same area to teach in local schools and they have to select a school from a list. Then they have no reason to ask for transfers to other areas as they work in the schools of their own choice. This idea was first discussed when Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Presidential Secretary, came to visit Mahavilachchiya and now it is being implemented. We are very fortunate to have officials who are true to their words and who take the responsibilities vested upon them seriously.

    Introducing Mr Dharmadasa

    Mr Hewage listening to the parents

    Mr. Hewage said he has a plan to build Teachers Quarters for the schools in a given area at a central location facilitating the teachers to live close to each other, which would help to overcome isolation and loneliness. This will place the teachers in a setting where they can work as a team, which will be very helpful in increasing the quality of their services. Mr. Wanni assured the parents and students who were present that he had full faith in officials like Mr. Hewage, who have a good vision, right attitudes and a genuine, keen interest in improving the level of education in Sri Lanka. He said it is due to the age-old laws, rules and regulations, which are not relevant in the present setup and the negative attitudes of certain officers in the middle management that the education is suffering. But Mr Hewage pointed out that creative officials and principals are shrewd enough to go between the lines when it comes to being practical in work to produce good results with the existing rules and regulations. It is not the circulars that slow down or disturb work but the people who are in those positions of making decisions.

    Mr. Hewage promised the parents that Mahavilachchiya will be given priority over all other areas because of the Model eVillage Project and fill all the teacher vacancies without any delay. He instructed the North Central Provincial Director of Education to take every step necessary to fulfill these needs. Mahavilachchiya also will be considered in selecting one of its schools as a prestigious “Isuru School” in time to come and will be provided all the necessary resources to the selected school.

    Then the team proceeded to the Computer Laboratory to watch some presentations. The first of these was the presentation on Horizon Lanka Foundation by the Founder/CEO Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka. He showed the visitors, through a very colorful multimedia presentation, the gigantic progress achieved by the Horizon Lanka Foundation starting from the events that led him to leave his job as an English Teacher at a government school. He impressed the audience with his diplomatic but forceful speech talking about the obstacles he had to overcome on his e-journey which took him to various parts of the world on a quest to learn the uses of ICT for rural community development, the result of which is the making of the first eVillage in Sri Lanka. He revealed his uncanny futuristic vision by telling the audience about his future plans, which include introducing Wi-Max technology to Mahavilachchiya and setting up of a satellite TV relay station to broadcast edutainment content through VHF/UHF channels to village households and public schools if he gets the official barriers cleared. (No one believed that mesh network would be possible when he first talked about it but it did become a reality and there is no reason why his other dreams should fail.)

    Next came the presentation by the senior students of Horizon Lanka Academy. They described the audience Horizon Lanka’s ICT plan.

    Mr. Ranjith Pushpakumara, the Headmaster of Horizon Lanka Academy, came forward to give a very informative presentation on how he managed to achieve these tremendous academic results, working in the Horizon Lanka Academy in Mahavilachchiya only on Saturdays and during school vacations as he is a teacher at a government school. He pointed out that he has allowed a lot of freedom for his young learners in the planning of his curriculum and his syllabi – especially the ICT syllabus – is more practical and activity oriented. He said he always strives to motivate the learners to self-learn using the hi-tech equipment available at the Horizon Lanka Academy. He went on to explain the importance of using this computer and multimedia equipment in a classroom environment where you teach a second language. He said that the assistance he got from foreign volunteers in teaching English at HL Academy was invaluable. He explained the importance of activity based teaching methods using sports, western music, and outdoor activities. These activities help to give the learners a sound English education and to motivate them towards active participation in the learning process. The group outdoor activities like Shramadana Campaigns help to inculcate positive attitudes in them. Then he talked about the present barriers that block his progress like the shortage of funds for the teachers’ salaries and the lack of trained teachers for ICT and coaches for sports.

    While the presentations were going on the villagers brought fresh young coconuts, which the visitors enjoyed drinking straight out of the nut. This is symbolic of the way Horizon Lanka Foundation has been operating since its inception. Embracing new technologies and making use of them to develop the village but keeping the traditional cultural values intact.

    The final presentation was done by Mr S. K. Nandana, the Principal of Thakshila Public School on how much the public schools in the area have achieved despite all odds. He convinced the audience that a lot can be achieved by utilizing what is available rather than waiting for manna from heaven. One can see this if one visits the school he has developed with the minimum resources he had. This was the same school where Mr Wanninayaka had his primary and secondary education. As a goodwill gesture, Horizon Lanka Foundation donated a totally free 24/7 internet connection to this school and another free mesh internet connection to Saliyamala Public School where Mr Wanninayaka did his first teaching job.

    After the presentations the visitors were invited to a sumptuous lunch comprising of red and white rice, curries of fresh vegetables straight from the village gardens and fresh water fish from the Mahavilachchiya reservoir followed by a dessert of fresh fruit. They enjoyed and admired the hospitality for which our villagers are world famous.

    The visitors were next taken to see the banana plantation using the new drip irrigation system. This banana plantation is a result of the hard labor of Mr. Shantha, a Home Guard attached to the Mahavilachchiya police post. He has worked in his spare time developing this piece of land owned by Mr. Harin de S Wijerathne, a long time donor of Horizon who has sacrificed a great deal of his time and money to assist Horizon Lanka Foundation to realize its dreams. Mr Harin’s idea is that to show the villagers the proper way of cultivating with the right technology and timely planning so that the other farmers in the village can learn from the pilot and become successful farmers. Mr. Hewage surprised all of us by showing his knowledge and interest in agricultural matters when he instructed as to how the weeding etc. should be done. He also promised to look into opportunities how Shantha, the farmer can be given further training with the Agricultural institutes in Bibile where a hybrid type of oranges and other fruits are grown.

    After that, the team was taken to see the mesh technology at work. This was undoubtedly the most important item in the agenda of the visiting team. They were very enthusiastic to learn how mesh works and the way it is being used in Mahavilachchiya. They were more than surprised by the technical awareness and the familiarity with the computers and internet these village students showed. Mr. Wanni explained to them how mesh was installed, how it works and what benefits a network like this can offer a rural village in the development process. All the Provincial Directors and Computer Learning Center Managers were very excited about this comparatively low cost solution for the connectivity at the village level. They were very impressed with the Business Process Outsourcing work the students are being trained to do. This BPO work enables them to earn a considerable amount of money working for companies in Sri Lanka, USA and Europe in their spare time, working from home using internet through mesh network. Ranuka Udayanga, a Grade 12 student showed the educational content site called Horizon Lanka Virtual Academy he has been developing for OpenWorld Learning, USA and the visitors were flabbergasted. These lessons are accessed by students worldwide, especially those who have less access to teachers physically. This idea of virtual academies are best suited to postwar countries such as Afghanistan, etc. and may be Sri Lanka’s North and East too in near future. Having lessons in a central server and enabling students island wide through WiMax technology wouldn’t be a dream within next few years to come. Dialog Telekom has already done a survey in Mahavilachchiya on feasibility of using WiMax.

    After seeing the marvelous achievements that Horizon Lanka Foundation had made possible in the village of Mahavilachchiya through ICT education and the introduction of mesh technology, the visitors returned to their vehicles visibly shaking their heads in disbelief. Then they returned to the Horizon Lanka premises and watched the boys playing a cricket match while girls were playing a soccer match. Mr. Ranjith Pushpakumara and some students were running a commentary in English over the PA system and it proved to be very interesting to the visiting team. Mr Ranjith was practicing what he preached in his presentation, using sports to improve English language skills. Mr. Hewage and Mr. Dissanayake spent some time talking with the students and they really enjoyed this experience. One student told the writer later that she felt scared at first when Mr. Hewage came and talked to her but that fear vanished soon. ‘How nice if all the big officials are so pleasant and approachable like Mr. Hewage’, she added.

    As the day was coming to an end, the visitors bid farewell to the members of Mahavilachchiya eVillage and Horizon Lanka Foundation. They reluctantly got into their vehicles to begin the long journey back home. These pioneers in ICT education from all over Sri Lanka had seen a lot, learned a lot and they definitely took with them the memory of an unforgettable experience, an inspiration that would help them spread the ICT culture they came into contact in Mahavilachchiya – the eVillage in the jungle.

    153 Horizon Kids on Intel Stage on Mar 7th, 2007 at 3:29 pm
    Watch the video clip of the presentation Horizon Lanka students and I did with Intel’s Chairman Dr. Craig Barret on December 2005 in Colombo. The video clip is uploaded to YouTube. Visit the website http://www.horizonlanka.org to access the video clip.

    154 Education and Failed States on Mar 10th, 2007 at 6:15 pm
    I don’t know how much this story is related to Mahavilachchiya thread. Still since MoE had visited the place, I hope there is some relevance. At least they can learn from Mahavilachchiya.

    Read the fllowing article which was on Daily Island today.

    Education and Failed States – An Addendum
    by Savimon Urugodawatta
    Executive Committee member,
    Central Colleges Past Pupils Association of Sri Lanka

    Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara

    The Editor of The Island has once again commented on a very important subject, namely Education, which is a vital aspect in the development of any country, for it is the corner stone of economic, cultural and spiritual development of a nation. In this instance, the Minister in charge of Education himself has openly and bravely come out with the actual situation when he says, “There is a break down of education management at all levels from Isurupaya downwards and that has taken its toll on the school system”.

    The Island in its editorial of March 5, has elaborated several points which have led to the decline in education, one among which is that “Examinations have undergone unwarranted changes and vital subjects have been dropped and reintroduced from time to time according to the whims and fancies of politicians”.

    As an addendum to the editorial comments of The island, I would like to touch upon some salient aspects, which have contributed to the present mess in education and also to the national problems that we are now struggling to solve today.

    It was a visionary like Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara , whom we call the ‘Father of Free Education’, who foresaw the problems the country would face after independence and prepared the groundwork to place the country on a sound footing. A few of the important reforms he carried out can be categorised as follows :

    1. Free Education for all, irrespective of caste, creed and wealth (and also age) so that children of all classes could gain knowledge in the school and develop their brotherhood to become useful citizens of the country.

    2. His education system evolved from the rural schools he experimented from Handessa in the 1930s and which were considered as a useful experiment in education in the whole of Asia.

    3. He established 54 Central Schools covering all the electorates of the time and equipped them with good and efficient Principals and teachers, hostels for scholars, laboratories, workshops, playgrounds, etc., which were then confined only to the Christian Missionary Schools and a few Buddhist denominational schools..

    4. He handpicked efficient and straightforward teachers to man these schools and gave them every encouragement to develop them, keeping a close eye on them. It was unfortunate that subsequently, such good Principals were promoted to be Directors of Education without grooming successors to take over. Such good and efficient Principals should have been kept in the schools, giving them the necessary perks in the school itself. We, representing the Central Colleges Past Pupils’ Association of Sri Lanka, brought this matter up with the National Education Commission in 1992. We brought to the notice of the Commission the dearth of good and efficient Principals to man the schools and requested the Commission to take suitable measures to train a cadre of Principals to take over from those who retire but so far nothing tangible has happened. .

    5. Kannangara brought the estate schools to the main stream of education and looked after the estate children as well, which fact won him the votes of the estate workers at Mathugama in 1947, whereas, in other electorates they voted against the UNP.

    6. He introduced science, agriculture, woodwork, pottery, leatherwork, music and dancing, book binding, etc., into the school curricula so that children, after leaving school, could be gainfully engaged in lucrative vocations.

    7. He established Resident Training Colleges to train the required teachers for the various subjects up to Senior level. These are non existent today.

    8. He streamlined the assisted schools belonging to different denominations by paying the teachers’ salaries direct to the teachers, thereby doing away with mishandling of government funds by school managers.

    9. He planned to establish Practical Schools for those who failed to go for higher studies and 8th standard selective test was planned for this purpose. The succeeding Ministers did not pay any heed to this matter.

    10. He introduced the medium of the mother tongue so that children could easily develop their thinking faculties, at the same time paying due attention to the teaching of English and Sinahla /Tamil.

    11. Thus, he laid the foundation for a classless and creedless society which was the aspiration of the progressives of the time.

    However, the elite class headed by Mr. D.S. Senanayake conspired to defeat him in 1947 election, and thereafter, did everything they could to obstruct and retard the Education Reforms that CWWK had very thoughtfully introduced in 1945. Dr. H.W. Howes was brought down from Gibraltar to be the Director of Education with the ultimate aim of strangling the Free Education system. This was done successfully and now we reap the benefits in the form of communal and economic problems that we are facing today.

    What ails the education

    system today

    Education administrators, guided by politicians without vision, carried out a number of operations in the body of education from time to time, thereby bringing forth the predicament that education has come to today. Some of the ill conceived reforms carried out can be enumerated as follows :

    a) In the early 1950s, there were 3 compulsory subjects for the Senior Level Examination, namely, First Language (mother tongue), Second Language (English/ Pali/ Sanskrit/ Tamil etc.) and Arithmetic or Mathematics. Subsequently, these were reduced to 2 subjects, namely, the First Language and Arithmetic/,Mathematics. Sinhalese Language and Literature (also Tamil Language and Literature) which were treated as 2 subjects were made in to one, making the students neither proficient in language nor in literature. This has resulted in the decline of the SInhala/ Tamil language even among the University Professors and Lecturers, leave alone teachers.

    b) With the coming into being of the Provincial Councils (which had only ruined the country and not even solved the problem for which they were established), the education became a devolved subject coming within the purview of the Provincial Councils. However, successive governments established another set of schools called National Schools administered by the line Ministry, without establishing adequate machinery to administer them. Due to this remote control system, most of the National Schools (including most Central Schools) are being neglected and today some of them had become more and more uncontrollable just as the Universities.

    c) There is no transfer system for Principals and teachers in both National schools and Provincial schools. Even if a Principal is found to be inefficient and corrupt, he cannot be replaced or transferred due to stringent procedures. If a Provincial school teacher wants a transfer to a national school, he has to go through 14 steps.

    d) In the days gone by, there were Boards of Survey carried out annually in every school and Administration, Finance, Inventories, methods of teaching, results at Public Exams, Sports, Environment etc. were all checked by a competent team from the Education Department. As far as I am aware, this vital aspect of education administration has been neglected. I am aware of a school where the Principal of the school has changed 4 times during a period of nearly 30 years, without Boards of Survey being held.

    e) The Navodaya Scholarship system which replaced the 5th Standard Scholarship Examination introduced by C W W K, has created a system of so-called Popular Schools, thereby uprooting the village children from their cultural environment and exposing them to a cosmopolitan culture. This was running counter to the Kannangara system which brought up children in their traditional environment. His vision was to develop decentralised centres of higher learning spread through out the country. It is a well known fact that most parents are only interested in their children only up to Grade 5 and thereafter, their destiny is left in the hands of the school teachers and tuition masters.

    Education in a

    f) The Tuition system, which has now become the canker in the whole education system, has come into being from the time the school curriculum and syllabuses were revised, leaving a gap between the O/ L syllabus and A/ L syllabus, bringing forth a set of Tuition Masters, who came in to fill in the gap, without which children could not follow A/ L classes. In our days, there was a continuity in the syllabuses from 6th Standard up to University level.

    g) International Schools – Education, which was considered a sacred subject from time immemorial, has now become a profitable venture as a result of the neglect of English language in the normal Govt. schools. (Closing down of the English Training colleges has led to this situation in a large way. The Vidhya Peethas, I feel, have not been able to fill that gap.) The overemphasis placed on the English medium by Politicians and Administrators, who had their children educated abroad, also had led to the mushrooming of these International schools. The elite class (including drug barons, uneducated Mudalalis and underworld kingpins) send their children to International schools, spending several millions of illicitly earned money, with the aim of making their children achieve what they themselves could not. These schools, registered under the Company Ordinance or as B O I Projects, bring up children in an atmosphere of an alien culture, imparting knowledge in subjects relevant to British Education system, much against the vision of Dr. C.W.W. Kannagara and against the existing Law of the Island pertaining to education.

    h) The underlying vision of these International schools was well manifested when reading a news item that appeared in the Daily News of Feb. 8th, under the heading ” 53 Lankan teens for 2007 Future Leaders Summit. ” According to this news release, of the 53 students selected to represent Sri Lanka at this Future Leaders summit to be held in Washington D.C., 50 are from International schools and only 3 from National schools ( 1 from Nalanda and 2 from Royal). It is pertinent to question the basis and criteria on which these students were selected. The release further says that these students are sponsored by their parents. This means that only those who can afford to bear the expenses can send their children to the Future Leaders Summit. This also means that students attending national schools have no chance of attending Future Leaders Summit. ( Poor folks have no chance of becoming Future Leaders in the country of their birth ! )

    Since Independence, Sri Lanka has undergone 3 Youth uprisings, namely, J V P uprisings of 1971 and 1989 and the Tamil Youth uprising in the 1980s. If the Kannangara Education system had been implemented in its entirety and in its true form, I feel that such situations would never have arisen. If Kannangara’s vision had been followed, the language problem, which was a precursor to the ethnic problem, would not have arisen.

    The Youth Commission appointed in 1990s to study the background to the youth uprisings and make suitable recommendations to avoid such things in future, had recommended the appointment of a National Education Commission to draft a National Education Policy , which may not be changed with the change of Governments, change of Ministers and change of Secretaries. This Commission, I feel, has miserably failed to address the real issues and advise the Governments on a prudent Education Policy, may be due to their failure to take independent decisions, without been dictated by the powers that be. Some times, the Commission has become dumping ground for political rejects at elections.

    I am of the opinion that the Government should pay their urgent attention to this problem of Education, as much as the current national problem, before the stage will be set for a further youth uprising.

    155 gamage on Mar 11th, 2007 at 8:55 am
    All lengthy pieces that deal with education in Sri Lanka essentially talk about the good old days, criticize new private initiatives and end with the admonition that government should pay its urgent attention to problems of education.

    Do these people live in the real world?

    Have these people had to deal with government lately in matters related to the education of their children, or any other issue for that matter? Do they have young children who need schooling? If their children have already had their schooling, where were they educated? How did they get those children into those schools? If they were lucky enough find a good school without pulling strings, lying or paying bribes, are those children able to do the same for the education of their own children? There should be a disclosure statement on the ‘education of one’s own progeny’ disclosure statement at the end of every education rant.

    Secondly, we only have anecdotes about international schools. It is time to get some representative statistics and opinion surveys from parents who send their children to those schools. I would not surprised if it turns out that there is a substantial number of parents who send their children to those schools because their social standing did not allow them entry to elite schools.

    156 Anura on Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:58 am
    Simon Urugodawatte belongs to the generation of leftists, who dominated in the Sri Lanka scene in the pre 1977. This generation died everywhere in the aftermath of the fall of Soviet system in early 1990s but unfortunately not in Sri Lanka, where we have one or two remaining relics preached us ‘bana’ from time to time.

    We should not take them seriously. These people still live in 1970s.


    157 The Island on Mar 14th, 2007 at 8:26 am
    Over to you Mr Secretary of Education.

    From The Island, today http://www.island.lk/2007/03/14/features1.html

    Poor Standards of English – Whose fault?
    by Peter Melvyn

    Everyone wants to learn English and this has become a bonanza for hundreds of teachers to cash in by offering private classes. There’s a lot of money to be made and English language teachers and others have been quick to exploit the demand. At 200 rupees for a two hour session, it’s easy to rake in four to six thousand rupees, or as much as 25% or more of a teacher’s monthly salary for an easy morning’s work. Ironically, it is often the same teachers conducting these tuition classes as those teaching English in schools. If they are using the same failing methods, then the parents have been unwittingly deceived, and the students will make little or no progress. Parents do not question either the qualifications or competence of these teachers, and since most of the parents have few English language skills, how are they to judge?

    Why is it that after 11 years of daily English lessons at school so few exhibit any real knowledge in reading, writing and speaking the language? Surely there must be something wrong but few are willing to confront the situation or to apportion blame. It’s easy to blame the students for not studying and applying themselves to the lessons. Likewise, the teachers can be blamed for using poor teaching methods and lack of dedication. Principals, who all too often do not speak English, exhibit little influence over their teachers as long as they follow the prescribed syllabus. Divisional inspectors make very infrequent visits to schools, and when they do perform an inspection, it is little more than checking that the textbook units for the grade have been covered. These inspectors all too often have little insight into modern teaching methods and it is the “blind leading the blind”. Ultimately, it is the desk-bound officers at the Ministry of Education, and the N.I.E. who have the responsibility for syllabus, textbooks, and monitoring standards. How often they actually visit schools, especially in rural areas, to experience first-hand progress or lack of progress in English language, is questionable.

    In many aspects English should be easier to learn than many Asian and Oriental languages. First of all English writing is seen everywhere, and many words have become part of everyday language. In spoken and written English, a high percentage of basic words are single syllable.

    The boy, dog and cat are in the big house. When this sentence is translated to Sinhala or Tamil, it requires almost double the number of syllables. In fact very few words in Sinhala are single syllable. In English there are approximately 300 words that are CVC – consonant-vowel-consonant i.e. cat, dog, pot, tin, etc. using mainly 20 letters of the alphabet. In addition, many of the common verbs such as walk, hop, can, run, cook, read, look, etc. are also single syllable words. Contrast these with the words in Sinhala for boy, girl ,and other everyday words and it should be obvious that learning basic spoken English (and spelling), with far fewer syllables, must be relatively easier. Simple questions such as “what’s your name?” is far shorter than the Sinhala equivalent. With an alphabet of only 26 letters, there are many similarities: a, o, b, d, p, q, g and f, t, h, j, I, y. In urban and even rural areas, you don’t need to look far to see English words on shops, notices, and on the huge advertising boards polluting main roads.

    So why is it that so many students find it so difficult to become reasonably proficient in English? And why is it that the majority of teachers and civil servants have such a poor working knowledge of English? What has gone wrong and is still going wrong? With children the spoken language must precede reading and writing. This is fundamental educational theory and psychology. Yet most children begin their formal English in grade 3 with reading and writing. The very first page of the required government textbook contains 12 words for reading. The 256 pages teacher’s guide does not even suggest to practice asking students own names. Instead it focuses on stories with 4 children and 2 animals. Children are told to repeat the phrase “that’s my name”, – hardly useful or colloquial! In spite of the fact that the initial pages display lovely pictures of boys, girls, an elephant and a monkey, in the entire 132 pages only the word elephant appears and we have to wait until page 34 for this. The words for boy, girl, and monkey do not make an appearance! Yet the 15 joint authors, whom we assume are highly qualified English language teachers, did consider it necessary to include words such as rectangle, wound, stethoscope, saucer, syringe, handle, beautiful, and many other words that are more in keeping with “O” level standards. This initial textbook for grade 3 includes a vocabulary of almost 350 words.

    Is it any wonder that by grade 5 less than 10% of students have achieved the expected standard. The National Education Research and Evaluation Centre in a thorough research “Achievements after four years of schooling” was highly critical of the N.I.E. and concluded that “The low levels of mastery attainment (in English) call for comprehensive, systematic, and sustained strategies to accelerate attainment by quality improvement, in particular, by diagnostic and remedial interventions…serious attention should be focused on quality improvement in teaching and learning English”.

    Since the report was published in 2004 there have been numerous pronouncements by Ministers, Directors, and others both in the education departments and other institutions, yet the same system prevails. No one will take responsibility for this abysmal failing. They continue spending vast sums on new textbooks, seminars and ministerial expenses, either ignoring the situation they are fully aware of, or are totally unable to offer any practical solutions. If the Ministry of Education and the N.I.E. are unable to find quick and successful ways to remedy these failures, they must call upon the support of others with the necessary expertise. Meanwhile, the teachers and businessmen involved in private tuition, are happy with the present situation. International schools now educate over 200,000 students and the number of these schools are rapidly multiplying.

    It may be the expressed desired outcome that every child has equal access to quality education. However, some are more equal than others. Those parents who can afford a private education, or good tuition or can get their children into the top schools are confident that English standards will be high. Meanwhile, the majority will continue to spend 11 years of daily English lessons to little profit. At least that will ensure a healthy supply of plantation workers, housemaids, and labourers.

    158 Sandhya Herath on Mar 14th, 2007 at 11:30 am
    I have a suggestion.

    Why not move the education related discussions to http://www.educationforum.lk?

    Sometime back we have had some good discussions there but now it looks like the site is deserted. (Some text even appear in Greek. I do not know why)

    Why not make that a dynamic space where we can discuss education related issues than cluttering the space here? (which is more towards ICTs)

  3. Will the following project produce results?

    ISSN: 1391 – 0531
    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Vol. 41 – No 45
    English is here to stay http://www.sundaytimes.lk/070408/Plus/012_pls.html

    With the English medium becoming more and more popular even with students in remote areas, Kumudini Hettiarachchi and Dhananjani Silva report on how the Education Ministry plans to implement the curricula more effectively

    Has your child opted to study in the English medium in Grade 6? Are you being assailed by doubts and fears, facing sleepless nights?

    Will they, won’t they scrap the English medium?
    Priyatha Nanayakkara

    Have no fears, assures the Deputy Director of Education (English medium), Ministry of Education, Priyatha Nanayakkara, explaining in detail how the option or choice the students have been given to study in any one of the three languages of Sinhala, Tamil or English is here to stay.

    “Of course, the child has to study his mother tongue as the first language, be it Sinhala or Tamil,” she stresses, adding that some specified subjects would have to be studied in a particular language because they cannot be done in any other. Allaying recent fears among students, teachers and parents that it would be mandatory for children to sit Roman Catholicism or Christianity in Sinhala or Tamil, Mrs. Nanayakkara pointed out that a circular had been issued, dispelling this misconception with regard to those who would be sitting the G.C.E. Ordinary Level this year.

    Why does this circular not cover all students from Grade 6 to 11?

    The circular to the school authorities for these students is being prepared and will be issued shortly, says this Deputy Director, explaining that there has been a curriculum change introduced for Grades 6 and 10, this year. “That’s why we have dealt with those students sitting the OLs this year separately, as they do not fall under this category. ”

    New curricula

    Recalling the introduction of the English medium in 2002 under the Amity Schools Project, Mrs. Nanayakkara said students had the option of first undertaking the study of three subjects in English in Grade 6 and when they moved to Grade 7 taking up four. Simultaneously, students sitting the Science ALs (Biology, Physics and Chemistry and also Agriculture) could choose to do their subjects in English.

    With only 125 schools taking on the task of teaching the students who wished to study in English in 2002, now the numbers have swelled to 526 schools across the country from Colombo to Hambantota, to Moneragala, to Jaffna, Batticaloa, Kandy, Kuliyapitiya and even touching the lives of children in areas considered remote such as Mahiyanganaya.

    A majority of the schools are National and provincial, with only 37 being private schools.

    This year the first batch of 3,500 students will sit the OL in the English medium for selected subjects, while the ministry has plans to extend the teaching of “selected” subjects in English to the Arts and Commerce streams of the AL next year (2008).

    Emphasizing the policy of the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Nanayakkara said the choice of the medium of language, when it comes to English, for certain subjects, unless so specified, would be the student’s entirely. “What we have done is build a framework of subjects for the students to choose from. Certain subjects, however, would have to be studied in a particular language because of the content,” she says citing the example of Sinhala and Tamil literature which like English literature would have to be studied in that language to enrich the student.

    The two objectives linked to this policy or strategy are:

    * In a country like Sri Lanka which is multi-ethnic, English should be a link language among the communities to enable them to communicate with each other.
    * To enable Sri Lanka, especially the younger generation, to use English as a tool to access global knowledge in this advanced knowledge society.

    “We are not teaching English as an ornament but as a link to minimize and overcome communication barriers and also for our children not only in Colombo but in the far corners of the country to have the advantage of accessing knowledge,” she says, reiterating that the policy with regard to children in the primary (from Grades 1 to 5) having to study in their mother tongue, either Sinhala or Tamil, has not changed.

    In the English medium which is for secondary sections, there will be standard textbooks and standard examinations like in the other two streams, The Sunday Times understands. The textbook for a particular subject would be approved by a panel of experts and then translated to the relevant language, preventing shortcomings which have been experienced in the past and giving children in all three streams the same knowledge, she assures.

    It is learnt that while policy implementation is handled by the Ministry of Education, the publication of books comes under the purview of the Education Publications Department and the teacher instruction manuals under the National Institute of Education.
    How is permission granted to schools to initiate English medium classes?

    The two main criteria would be for the school to have competent subject teachers who can handle the work in English while there should also be students who wish to study in this medium. “The idea that English language teachers should handle other subjects is not acceptable,” she said.

    Teacher training

    Explaining the teacher training plan, Mrs. Nanayakkara says four trainers for each subject per province would be trained by the ministry with the assistance of the NIE, who will in turn go back to their areas and under the guidance of the provincial training coordinator, conduct teacher training.
    Lessons for teachers the hi-tech way

    Winds of change will soon blow over the education system in Sri Lanka, with plans to train the vast multitude of teachers, using hi-tech.

    The vision of the educational reforms cannot be achieved if the most important group – the teachers – do not play a pivotal role, stresses the Director General of the National Institute of Education, Prof. J.W. Wickramasinghe.

    The electronic media is being tapped to train teachers and the NIE has already set the wheels in motion to relay training programmes from its headquarters in Maharagama to remote schools scattered across the country, through the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and its services at grassroots, explains the DG conceding that teacher training is essential, when The Sunday Times pinpointed this major anomally.

    The earlier system was to train trainers as the NIE does not have the capacity to train the teacher cadre of 187,339 for 3.9 million children in 9,727 government schools (2005 data) and then send them out to the schools to train the teachers. But this has not worked as well as expected because the feedback we have got is that the message has not reached remote schools, he says, explaining that while they would bring the In-service Advisers (ISAs) in groups for training and send them out to schools, radio and television would be another channel of communication with the teachers.

    While the radio-teaching programme is to be launched this month, the Ministry of Education is currently negotiating with a TV station to have a special channel for teacher training, he discloses, detailing how NIE trainers will operate from the studio at Maharagama, allowing teachers to view the sessions, make suggestions and also seek on-the-spot clarifications through the CDMA phone system. “We are hoping to finalize this in May.”

    On the recommendation of Education Minister Susil Premajayantha plans are also underway to start continuous teacher-training, seen as long overdue, by resurrecting the teacher training colleges and also making use of facilities at the National Colleges of Education, says Prof. Wickramasinghe.

    Under the scheme, a teacher will go in for training every two or three years to rethink methodology, gather new information and also share his/her experiences.

    The NIE has also started a programme to develop research as no reforms can be effectively implemented without good research. A new department is being set up for research and a few people are already involved.

    Research grants will be available so that we can find out the problems pertaining to reforms, how teachers and students react to the reforms and what other factors like poverty affect them.

    When The Sunday Times brought to the notice of the DG complaints from teachers that some of them have not been able to get the teacher-guides, dubbing it an “inherent problem in the system”, he explained that being a government institution they have to follow tender procedure. Sometimes there are problems with regard to printing but all the books the NIE has got have been distributed to regional/zonal educational directors from where the schools have to collect them.

    Each school will get one teacher guide for one subject which then will have to be photocopied. The guides are also on the web, he said, citing the case of the Eastern Province and some parts of the Northern Province, where some school authorities themselves came and collected the books. “The problem seems to be in the Western Province,” he added.

    Taking into consideration these problems, the NIE hopes to ensure that by December this year, the teachers will have the guides for the subjects to be taught next year.

    On the contentious issue of children having to spend money on the materials needed for activity-based lessons, Prof. Wickramasinghe stressed that teachers have been instructed to get resources that are readily available in the locality and least costly. Teachers should have the ability to guide the children to use things around them and not always buy every little thing they need. “This seems to be more a problem in Colombo where raw material is difficult to come by rather than in the village,” he says, adding that donors have expressed an interest in providing assistance, especially with regard to technological subjects.

    There is also a special fund allocated to schools to procure material for certain activities, without burdening the students, it is understood.

  4. English as an educational tool – Rajiva Wijesinghe

    TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: I started work at Isurupaya in June 2001, primarily to restart English medium in 2002, but also with a brief to improve English in general.

    It was a tough assignment, made more difficult by increasing responsibilities at the university, where I foolishly succumbed to a request by students to resume the post of Dean.

    I was also coordinating the Degree Programme the university had started at the Military Academy, which also required more input, administrative as well as academic, than initially anticipated.

    Isurupaya was a difficult place in which to work, even though it had extremely able people at the top then, not only Tara de Mel as Secretary, but Lalith Weeratunge as her principal Additional Secretary, and experienced professionals such as Nihal Herath and G L S Nanayakkara among the others.

    English however was a backwater, run by two not especially energetic ladies, though with both Tara and Lalith taking personal interest in the programme, we managed to move fast.

    Meetings with Zonal Directors, as well as Provincial English administrators and trainers, indicated general enthusiasm for the idea, though there were queries as to whether it would be possible.

    The circular went out immediately then to all Zonal Directors, asking if any schools wished to offer three subjects in English for Grade 6 students from 2002 (Mathematics, Health and Environmental Studies, this last supposedly a foundation for Science as well as Social Studies).

    Meanwhile, the World Bank agreed to assist three separate components, the production of materials, the training of teachers, and provincial monitoring.

    With Lalith expediting the bureaucratic requirements, while I ran up and down the stairs getting the required multiple signatures for everything, we could set up systems of delivery almost immediately.

    Take up in the Zones depended on the enthusiasm or otherwise of the Zonal Director. In collating figures towards the end of the year, we found 93 schools, about the number of Educational Zones in the country, but it was nothing like one per zone.

    Many ignored the initiative altogether, including Colombo, where only Ananda College and its neighbour Asoka Vidyalaya registered early. In contrast the Sri Jayewardenepura Zone had plenty of schools, due largely to a hyper-efficient Zonal Director.

    Years later, when problems arose as to the Ananda College Principal, without commenting on those issues, I pointed out that he alone among prestigious schools had responded actively to an initiative he felt would benefit his students.

    When I met him in January 2002, when delivering the first tranche of books, we communicated only in Sinhala – but he, like the Principal of Nugawela Central, another enthusiast, was determined to provide students with what they had missed themselves.

    In the midst of the tribulations we went through on the Project, the commitment of such educationists continued to give me heart.
    Preparation of materials

    Tara had seemed a hard taskmaster, in giving me so many additional responsibilities when I had joined the Ministry only to reintroduce English medium.

    However, I soon realised how appalling the problems were, and how essential it was to introduce a more modern outlook into a Ministry stuck in a mindset rapidly dooming our children to obsolescence.

    Of the three components into which the World Bank package of aid had been divided, the most complex seemed to be the production of materials.

    Though in the other cases as well, the training of teachers and provincial monitoring, external inputs were essential since the Ministry and Provincial Ministries had few professionals competent in English, with regard to materials there was simply nothing on which to build.

    What should have been our salvation was the multiple book option which the Ministry had recently tried to introduce, to ensure better textbooks for students than those provided in recent years.

    Unfortunately the original interest in the programme evinced by international publishers, such as Oxford University Press, had been dampened by what seemed a combination of subversion and intransigence.

    In the end, with Tara out of the way, the project was reduced to the award of printing contracts, for which Ministry and NIE personnel set up cartels that bid together with printing firms, and won contracts regardless of the quality of what they offered or the capacity of the personnel involved.

    All this became clear much later. In 2001 what was apparent was that, for English medium books to be produced in time for 2002, the whole operation had to be conducted externally.

    Fortunately the English Association of Sri Lanka had developed considerable expertise in this field, working first with the British Council and then, with Canadian assistance, for the Affiliated University Colleges English programmes.

    Later the contract they undertook drew harsh criticism from Ministry personnel but, since Lalith Weeratunga was in charge of the administration of the project, it could be clearly shown that all due procedures were followed.

    The idea that EASL, which ended up subsidizing the exercise, proved laughable when it was found that the unit cost of their books that covered three subjects was just Rs 150, whereas the cost of the books the government produced, for six or seven subjects altogether, was around Rs 700.

    The EASL print run was just 4000 initially, raised to 7000 as more schools joined the programme, whereas the government printed hundreds of thousands of books, where the unit cost was even less.

    But if a comparison of the costs suggested that someone somewhere was making a lot of money (a perennial problem, with at least one Ministry Secretary having had to resign in the nineties for such a reason), an even greater crime against the country was the quality of the books given to students.

    Fortunately the rationale for English medium had included the need to open the minds of students to different ideas and give them access to a range of materials.

    It was recognised that such materials were not available to those straitjacketed in the vernaculars, when some of those who prepared materials had themselves lost access to wider dimensions of learning because they could not readily read in English.

    So EASL was required by its contract to introduce additional material, such as the concept of chronology, though this was boxed separately so that teachers could omit it if they wished.

    I felt enormously justified by all this when, at a workshop in Hambantota, a bright young teacher from Theraputta Central in Ambalantota told me that, when the Iraq War broke out in 2003, one of his students had noted that that was an old River Valley Civilization.

    But, alas, such initiatives were considered improper by the Ministry of Education. After using the EASL books for two years, it was claimed that it was unfair for English medium students to have more in their textbooks than other students had.

    Direct translations were commissioned, and for one year – before new syllabuses for the different sections of Social Science were introduced – these students had to go back to the tedious trivialities of the old textbook, reproduced word for word.

  5. Mahavilachchiya is replicated in rural village Nihiluwa situated in Beliatta.This project is sponsored by Ministry of Education.

  6. Mahavilachchiya is replicated in rural village Nihiluwa situated in Beliatta.This project is sponsored by Ministry of Education. Log on to http://www.ruhunulanka.org to see it.

  7. English is the most prominent subject in the world. MBD Group is a well-renowned publisher and provides English new series books to Sri Lanka schools to enhance students communication skills & interest in learning. It also offers educational apps & digital classroom solution in Sri Lanka. Thank you for sharing a nice information with us.

  8. I want online registering legal for private teaching society grade 1-5 all syllabus lecturer

  9. I want private lecturer society for grade 1-5 student all syllabus do get private class permission forum online free legal activate forum because new methods and new way courage in all syllabus for 2016

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