The indispensable English language
It is a known fact that English has become sine qua non, that is, indispensable, for everyone’s advancement and improvement if one is to succeed in modern society. The language’s qualities of relative simplicity and flexibility enhances its chances of taking root and surviving, internationally.
Now the question arises, how could one learn and practise this all-important universal language? A probable answer would be : the means and capacity to fulfil one’s desire to realize this ambition.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken cognizance of this urgent need - and based on his idealogy - the Cabinet has taken a decision to change the English school syllabi with special emphasis of improving students’ spoken and communicative skills in the English language.
English language opens new vistas. File Photo
It is fair to content that logic, intuitions and emotions may each have played a vital part when making this supreme decision. However, with a view to developing and sharing knowledge, ideas and insights aimed at increasing understanding, plans should be drawn and strategies implemented to enhance participation in high - quality ‘out of school’ time learning programs so that students, especially those with the highest needs, follow them to gain learning and development benefits. In similar vain, it is worthy to comprehend that by effecting the envisaged change, that equal emphasis on writing as well be made by enforcing English as the medium of instruction to all grades in schools on and all island basis.
The spoken word, the art cum eloquence in speaking and words written on paper, no doubt, bear the same significance to achieve excellence in any language. The decision made by, the president is most welcome, opportune and laudable, to say the least. The President’s passion is people and to do the best for them, he will use his power to give the student population the benefits that are their due, through compassion and concern.
In the technologically advanced societies, more importance is attached to educational achievement than ever before. The percentage of children going for higher education increases every year, and success in examinations or achievement tests play an increasingly significant part in the arena of information technology. In addition, children must acquire a much larger body of knowledge to understand and adopt to the greater complexity of industrial society.
The three ‘R’s of elementary education - reading, writing and arithmetic - are no longer sufficient in an age of speed, job mobility, and increasingly complex social organizations. Therefore, for national as well as international progress, English holds the key. In the arena of education in the work place, and in many leisure pursuits, the computer embodies.
The fundamental difference between yesterday and today. So, the urgent need to broaden access to computer and information science skills and through those skills to improve and sustain economic opportunities and more fruitful participation in virtually every dimension of modern life is the essence of the challenge.
There is a need, especially at this moment in time, for the provision of rigorous, relevant and rewarding academic education to every child in our country from primary, through secondary to tertiary grades and above. Those in-charge and responsible for the educational process in Sri Lanka should endeavour to prescribe relevant and required standards encompassing all parameters within the school - University curriculum semester by semester and, thereby, monitor syllabi to ensure that prescribed standards are maintained and practised.
The success achieved by students in their respective schooling or university careers will positively serve as a catalyst for economic prosperity taking into consideration the fact that educational institutions will have the requisite capacity to produce quality professionals with astounding consistency.
By indulging in proper and meaningful research with emphasis on knowledge, academic and scientific discipline and adopting conclusions arrived at consequent to research, students as well as teachers will benefit immensely and enjoy its many opportunities, consequent to the development of their individual talents and intelligence.
Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of those overseeing education in Sri Lanka to critically think about the issues and come up with feasible solutions to the problems plaguing education, by overcoming economic difficulty and providing streamlined education so that the literacy rate in our country will increase.
Education is defined as the process of establishing habits of critical and independent appraisal of information for the purpose of intellectually developing the whole person, and it is believed that an educated citizenry in essential for the success of their design. Educationist is a force required to be moulded and inculcated among students and teachers alike to give decorum to life, and is the knowledge of putting one’s potentials to maximum use.
There are two reasons why education is important, viz. the training of a human mind is incomplete without education, education makes man a right thinker and decision-maker and secondly, it is only true the attainment of education, man is enabled to receive all necessary current information. Without education, humans are segregated as in a closed room, and with education, humans will find themselves accessible towards the outside world.
Intelligence could be based on the following, viz numerical ability, verbal fluency, memory and the ability to reason. We should ask ourselves whether tests on these abilities are structured and carried out in educational institutions of modern times. Students should be tested in these areas as such tests are of considerable use, though their limitations should be recognized. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has launched the “18-month Road Map of Dr. Sunimal Fernando’s Proposal to promote spoken/communicative English in Sri Lanka”, coupled with the release of the New Teacher Guide and Manual for teaching spoken English.
With its implementation, it is believed that every educational institution - on an all - island basics - will be in possession of the New Teacher Guide and Manual, shortly. By doing so, a ‘gateway’ as it were has been created for all students of all races to have the right to equal access to the facility of a school and medium of instruction of their choice. We must accept the fact that each student is unique in his or her own way - there should be no discrimination; they have their own interest and aspirations - permit them this right so that they could strive to achieve their goal.
After all, it is their legitimate choice and pursuit to achieve academic excellence, they need to discover themselves their worth and what is right for them. The dominant method of teaching, is by feeding facts to children, needs to be dispensed with by a new method that engages youth in the learning process and develops minds by encouraging problem solving, decision making and creativity.
School and learning needs to be a relevant, interesting experience for children whose attention can too often get diverted by television and video games or drugs and crime. The above mentioned methods will be of paramount importance when implementing the “Road Map for spoken English” by the Central and Provincial Education Ministries and they should be monitored and co-ordinated by the Special Initiative Unit of the Presidential Secretariat with a sense of responsibility, dignity and aplomb.
Another salient feature that needs to be addressed is student unrest. In today’s context, there is a need to overcome revolts in campuses. This is as important as defeating terrorism. Clashes at schools and universities have been evident as one might gather from the press and television accounts. But, it is felt that until our colleges and universities become again what they profess to be - life - enhancing centres of liberal education - they are likely to have little peace.
We have put too much stress in recent times on intellect, too little on character building. We have sharpened our wits while weakening our restraints. We exaggerate the value of newness in ideas and things. It is so much easier to be original and wise. The customs, conventions and beliefs of mankind are the product of ‘trial and error’ experience through many centuries.
It is unlikely that any individual, however intellectually brilliant, can come in one life time to such knowledge and depth of understanding as to sit safely and wisely in judgment of ancient ways. Man is wiser than any man. Hence there is something disagreeably shallow about sophistication; it suggests cleverness about the part and ignorance of the whole. Modesty makes wisdom wiser, as it makes beauty lovelier.
The whole world of knowledge, technology, morals, manners, government, literature, philosophy and art belongs to everybody and is our heritage. With proper administrative guidance in the respective areas to those attempting to gain professional status, Sri Lankans could achieve excellence in their respective fields and in turn, they could be classified as prodigies.
With the scourge of terrorism being defeated for good in Sri Lanka, we may see children in all kinds of settings, e.g. welfare Camps. It will be fair to state that one would be impressed by their toughness, their resilience, their ability to endure, to find food to bear hardship and pain against all odds. No matter how difficult their surroundings, one will be surprised by the ease with which they learn to play. They deserve better lifestyles now more than ever. Let them enjoy the discretion of the President.
Children are all around us. They represent a fair percentage of our country’s population. They are not equipped to defend themselves; they must depend on what is given to them. They are victims of circumstances. They bring us joy, they bring us tears, they bring responsibility and above all, they are our reason to hope. They are your children, they are my children, they are the children of our country - Mother Lanka.
Reaching the goal
Dramatic new findings prove that a child’s basic intelligence can be significantly augmented by teachers who are willing to follow a few essential rules of training and encouragement. Science may challenge this assumption - and in the process delegating teachers a heady responsibility, i.e. raising children’s intelligence qualification in the crucial early years when it is most malleable.
Great articles written and published by eminent personalities are all too often underestimated as being mere words. In fact, they can either pose serious consequences or have powerful repercussions - good or bad.
The writer trusts that the sequence of events narrated on this vital subject will be appealing, harmonious and acceptable. In short, the subject is compulsive, the course should be fulfilled, the goal reached notwithstanding difficulties encountered and the conflicts involved.
By experiencing the success of the implementation of the “18 Month Road Map of Dr. Sunimal Fernando’s Proposal”, we will witness a society where people will be free to assert their inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.