Saturday, August 22, 2009

Overwhelming response to Jaffna Education Fair ...!!!

Overwhelming response to Jaffna Education Fair

The first ever large-scale education exhibition in the North will be held on September 15 and 16 at the Jaffna Central College.

In addition to local educational institutions several foreign companies have shown tremendous interest to take part in the Fair. "All space was taken up within days of its launch with many on waiting lists wanting to be a part of this prime event," said Assistant General Manager, of Pico Events, Emile Gunesekera.

This event will showcase a large number of exhibitors who will provide students of the North the opportunity to advance their studies by obtaining internationally recognized qualifications within the country and overseas.

The enthusiasm has been great among the participating institutions to take their services to Jaffna.

The Jaffna district has approximately 400 functional schools broken up into five zones with a student population in excess of 124,000. These students will be provided with advice and counselling on selecting relevant fields of study and career guidance.

They will also be provided with all relevant information to carry out further studies overseas. As students, they will be provided with the opportunity of choosing their avenues in studies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Music makes all beings healthier.....!!!

Music makes all beings healthier

The whole universe throbs with melody and every plant and animal reacts to it.

I tell all the pregnant women I know to listen to classical music because I know the baby inside will grow healthier and more intelligent listening to it. Even fish do. Professor Papoutsoglo of the Agricultural University of Athens and his team reared carp fish in constant darkness. They found that darkness stunted the fish’s growth, but when the carp were exposed to 30 minutes or more of Mozart’s "Eine Kleine Nacht Musik," they grew at more normal rates, improved their livers and had reduced stress. Ava Chase of the Rowland Institute at Harvard, has even shown that carp can tell the difference between baroque music and jazz, pressing a button with their snouts to indicate which they prefer.

All mammals sing. Humpback whales produce hauntingly beautiful songs, using the same musical concepts of human music - similar rhythms, phrase lengths, and song structure. They combine phrases lasting about 15 seconds into themes of about 2 minutes. Phrase endings correspond rhythmically, like rhymes in our lyrics. Several themes then go to make up a song of perhaps 12 minutes in length, which may be sung over and over.

Just as humans have different musical traditions, different groups of whales have different dialects, and one can influence the tastes of another. A whale pod will abandon its own tunes for the new sounds of another group. When a new whale comes to join a group it brings its own song, and instead of changing its song, the rest of the pod changes their song to the new whale’s song! Each year they change their song, but all the whales in one ocean sing the same new song, like the latest number one hit. New syllables appear constantly to replace old ones and the new syllables soon spread worldwide.

Whales sing in key mixing percussive and pure tones in the same ratio as Western symphonic music. They also follow the device of human songsters, the so-called A-B-A form, in which a theme is stated, then elaborated on, and then returned to in modified form.

Jim Nollman,/founder of Interspecies Communication, Inc. cut a CD titled "Orca’s Greatest Hits" where he captures orca whale songs off Vancouver Island. In Mexico, he has played a flute while a tom turkey did a flamenco dance. In Death Valley, he has thumped drums with kangaroo rats. In eastern California, he accompanied the singing of a wolf pack on a Japanese bamboo flute. According to him, animals can be exacting critics. When he was working with wolves, if he got out of pitch, on any note of that scale, they stopped singing.

Researchers Timothy Holy and Zhongsheng Guo have discovered that mice emit high-frequency sounds that, when amplified, sound like bird songs. Even cockroaches sing like birds.

The Great Ape Trust in Iowa, is engaged in an ongoing project to explore the musical tastes and abilities of bonobos. In a music session the bonobos get a choice of instruments including the xylophone, tambourine, harmonica and maracas, but typically focus on one throughout the session and stay in tune with the human band. Researchers believe that the origins of musical instrumentation may be found in their behaviour in the wild, where they regularly drum on resonant objects, such as the buttresses of trees. Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser has found that tamarin and marmoset monkeys have the ability to discriminate between different types of music even recognizing different composers. Like whales, chimpanzees groups have distinct cultural practices of drumming and vocalizing. Chimpanzees tested by the Primate Foundation of Arizona listened to different kinds of music ranging from Pavarotti to jazz and then mixed it to create their own music.

According to Thomas Geissmann, in his book "Gibbon Songs and Human Music from an Evolutionary Perspective" ,all species of gibbons produce elaborate, sex-specific songs. Mated pairs combine their songs in a rigid pattern to produce coordinated duets. The female song consists of a loud phrase, the great call comprising between 6-100 notes. This call is introduced by a simple series of notes termed the introductory sequence; it is produced only once in a song bout. Thereafter, great calls are produced with an interval of 2 minutes. In the intervals come the interlude sequences consisting of shorter, variable phrases. Male gibbons join in as the duet proceeds and start with single, simple notes, moving to increasingly complex phrases, reaching the fully developed form only after several minutes of singing .

Seal songs, according to Tecumseh Fitch, a expert in bioaccoustics at the University of St Andrews UK comprise complex trills, clicks, rasps, grunts and a bell-like tone. So do the distinctive courtship syllables of Male Mexican Freetail Bats. The singing frog that lives beside rivers in China’s Anhui Province produces an ultrasonic croak, using upward and downward sweeps of notes in a warbling melody.

Music has the power to affect all beings physically and emotionally.

Alianna Boone who has produced a CD "Harp Music to Soothe the Savage Beast." conducted studies on music’s effect on animals. Performing for hospitalized canines at a Florida veterinary clinic , she found that the sessions immediately began to lower heart rate, anxiety, and respiration.

Dogs aren’t the only animals benefiting from the good vibrations. Cassie, a cow, lives at the Maple Farm Sanctuary in Massachusetts. She arrived there after jumping a high fence to escape from a slaughter house. She still demonstrates anxiety-related behavior. One day a volunteer found her snorting and stomping. He decided to try calming her by playing a CD of harp songs. Within 20 minutes, he found the bovine dozed off. A CD called "Harp of Hope: Animal Therapy Edition," was originally recorded for people but the producer,Schneider, decided to release an animal edition after owners reported it helped their arthritic dogs fall asleep and calmed agitated cats.

In 2001, two British scholars introduced different musical styles to 1,000 dairy cows. Fom 5 a.m. until 5 p.m., they listened to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and R.E.M.’s "Everybody Hurts." Milk yield increased by three percent.

In another instance at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, a gorilla group sat through Sue Raimond’s harp performance appreciatively. The youngest, Little Joe, even blew her a kiss before falling asleep.

People aren’t the only ones who have opinions about the music they like; animals do too. Two staff members at the Bronx Zoo decided to test whether animals are affected by music by playing different kinds of music to different species in their care.

Here’s what they found:

• Though initially wary the elephants soon gathered round and began flapping their ears in time to ragtime music, occasionally raising their trunks to trumpet a note or two.

• The lions absolutely loved it. One even stood on his hind legs and punched the air with his front paws in time to the music.

• While listening to "Get a Hoop and Roll it Away" a tiger acted exactly like a happy housecat, rolling on his back with an expression of pure ecstasy. When the music stopped he growled and walked away.

• The camels responded with obvious pleasure to the upbeat tune "The Campbells Are Coming" but one literally wept at the sound of a sad ballad, tears streaming down his nose during the entire time it played.

Queens University in England’s study from its School of Psychology has demonstrated that dogs exposed to classical music are calmer than those exposed to rock or heavy metal who get agitated, bark more and pace restlessly.

Listen closely to nature and you will hear rhythms strikingly similar to those found in human music.

To join the animal welfare movement contact


Children and learning of languages..!! All Sri Lankan children should be taught all 3 national languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English..!!!

Children and learning of languages.....Dr. B.J.C. Perera Consultant

PaediatricianLearning of languages is a thing that is taken for granted by most people. However there are some fundamental considerations and many other intricacies when one thinks about the learning of languages by children. It is completely and unequivocally true to say that all languages, whether written or spoken, are symbolic expressions of thought. Indeed without the ability to think, it is impossible to even contemplate that there can be any sort of functioning of the brain that is able to handle even the rudiments of a language. Each language uses a unique set of sounds or written characters which is specific to that language. It has been conclusively proven in many studies that babies are born with the ability to distinguish all of them. However, this ability tends to weaken with age as time goes by. Without proper stimulation, the aptitude to handle languages is liable to wane in the course of time.

All languages, as we know them today, fall into two main divisions. They are receptive language which implies understanding what is said, written or signed and expressive language which consists of the ability to speak, write and sign. Language acquisition is the orderly way of the processes through which humans develop the ability to handle the different aspects of a language. By itself and by common inference, language acquisition refers to first language acquisition, which involves infants’ achievement of the ability to handle their native language. In addition, second language acquisition deals with acquisition of additional languages in both children and adults. Whether they speak early or late, are learning one language or more, are learning to talk along typical lines or are experiencing difficulties, the language acquisition of all children occurs gradually through interaction with people and the environment. This is the crucial stimulus that is required for the development of language skills.

The process of language acquisition is one among the leading aspects that distinguish the human race from other creatures and even from their closest ancestors such as some species of primates. While many forms of other animal languages and vocalisations exist, production of such primitive languages is very often fixed, is monotonous and does not vary appreciably across their own cultural groups. Indeed, some comprehension of these animal languages is known to be a bit flexible and it has been recognised that some primates could even learn to pick up bird signals. However, the complexity, the referential richness and social contextual variations of human language are quite unique and are not exhibited by any other species. Any human language, ranging from the Queen’s English to the most rudimentary dialects of the primitive tribes in some remote areas of the world, is so full of the opulence of the ability to communicate. In such a perspective, all human languages are absolutely and remarkably exceptional and distinctive.

The best time to learn a foreign language seems to be between birth and age seven. While new language learning is easiest up to age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty. Babies learn language when people speak that language. Three month old babies know hundreds of sounds they hear people speak around them and babies do listen to the sounds other people make. In this process the brain pathways grow stronger for that language. If they are exposed to just one language, the brain pathways for other languages get weaker because the brain does not need them. By adult life the brain gets rid of those pathways it does not need. It is quite remarkable that babies being raised bilingual, by simply speaking to them in two languages, can learn both in the time it takes most babies to learn one. On average, monolingual and bilingual babies start talking around age 1 and can say about 50 words by 18 months. Babies and little children seem to learn languages just like ducks taking to water. Many researchers believe that parents should follow biological principles and expose youngsters to different languages quite early. If the parents speak a second language, it is considered to be best to speak it at home or find a play group or caregiver where the child can hear another language regularly. It is perhaps quite surprising how children do seem to pick it up like sponges. The way the people around the child, particularly the parents, engage with him or her, will determine the path that language development takes in the vital first five years. It is essential that those around enjoy this exciting period in the child’s development. It is best to talk in a natural way about what he or she is doing, seeing and hearing. A good method is to listen to the sounds and later the words he or she says, and respond, so that the child knows that someone is listening. It is also very useful to read stories in different languages together from an early age and make communicating fun.

Adults do help babies learn language just by the way they talk. Most adults talk differently to babies than to other adults. They talk more slowly, say words more clearly and speak in a higher toned voice. These changes make it easier for babies to learn a language. Hearing what our words sound like helps babies get ready to talk. Adults often repeat words when they talk to babies. This repeating gives babies extra chances to listen to our words. This extra listening helps the language pathways in the brain grow stronger and stronger. That is just one reason why babies like to hear the same story or song over and over. However, progress should be steady. Children do learn at different rates. Some are fast language learners and some are slow. Thus it would be desirable not to compare one child’s language development with another’s. The important thing to watch for is that language development proceeds steadily, not whether it is fast or slow.

New research is showing just how the brains of children can become bilingual so easily. Many scientists believe that these findings would eventually help the rest of us adults to learn a new language a bit easier. It is not impossible that the magic that kids apply to this learning situation, some of the principles at least, can be imported into learning programs for adults. For the majority of adults, mastering a dominant language gets in the way of learning a second less familiar one. The brain seems to tune out of sounds that do not fit. This process could perhaps be re-programmed to enable adults to learn newer languages.

Scientists may finally have an explanation as to why children reign supreme when it comes to learning new languages. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and animation technology to study the brains of children, researchers have discovered that children are processing language information in a different region of the brain than adults. There are different areas in the brain controlling different functions in our lives. When we brush our teeth, sign our names or drive a car, we do not consciously think of our actions. These are examples of automatic brain function. When children acquire language, this same part of the brain, called the "deep motor area", is what they use. In that sense, for children, language learning is virtually like second nature. However, when adults learn a second or third language, their brains operate differently. The window of opportunity to imprint information and skills in the deep motor region of the brain is widest during early childhood and are nearly shut by the time of age 18. Therefore, adults have to store information elsewhere, perhaps in a more active brain region. As a consequence, adults usually think sentences through in a native tongue and then translate them word-by-word, instead of thinking automatically in another language like a child would. Even for people with extensive training in a second language as an adult, who feel their speech is automatic, on a neurological level the brain is still operating differently from a child’s.

Research into the neurology of language acquisition is proving useful because understanding the "brain geographic" differences of language learning in children versus adults may influence educators and their decisions about foreign language instruction. As an example, simply teaching young children the sounds and accents of other languages at an earlier age may be valuable, even if they are not getting full instruction in the language. Learning those sounds later in life, especially well into adult life, from a neurological perspective, can be much more difficult.

There is a commonly held mythical belief that if one tries to teach a child several languages, the child may get confused and fall back in their learning abilities. There is ample evidence that this is far from the real state of affairs and that learning several languages can be quite beneficial. One aspect of this is that many studies have demonstrated the benefits of second language learning not only on student linguistic abilities but also on their cognitive and creative abilities as well. Children who learn a foreign language, beginning in early childhood, demonstrate certain constructive cognitive advantages over children who do not. Research conducted with young children shows that those who are bilingual develop the concept of object permanence at an earlier age. Bilingual students learn sooner that an object remains the same, even though the object has a different name in another language. For example, a foot remains a foot and performs the function of a foot, whether it is labelled a foot in English or as un pied in French.

These ramifications have a significant bearing on the situation in Sri Lanka. It is the considered opinion of many experts that all Sri Lankan children should be taught all three national languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English, from a very young age. This will make them better men and women in the long run and would help to dispel the many ethnic and cultural problems that exist in our society. It would certainly be a lasting, sustained and long-term solution to the ethnic conflicts that have plagued this beautiful country for several decades in the past.

The writer would appreciate some feed-back from the readers. Please e-mail him at


Monday, August 10, 2009

Germany most lucrative higher education destination..!!!

Germany most lucrative higher education destination

By Aruni Jinasena

Studying in a well-recognised foreign university ineed no longer be expensive. Paying a nominal tuition fee of 500 euros per semester, Sri Lankan students can obtain an internationally recognised degree from a German University. To find out more about this unique opportunity, the Daily Mirror FT spoke to Ms. Heidi Steiner, DAAD Representative to Sri Lanka, whose office is located at the German Cultural Centre, Colombo 7.

DAAD (“German Academic Exchange Service”), has been one of the world’s largest and most respected intermediary organisations for more than 75 years. In a bid to promote higher studies in Germany among Sri Lankans, DAAD operates an office in Sri Lanka, where any interested candidate can get information about studying in Germany, entry requirements, application procedures, students’ life in Germany, etc. As it is financed by the German government, the whole counseling service is rendered free of charge.

“Since most of the universities in Germany are state-funded and thus highly subsidised, universities charge a maximum of 500 euros (Rs.82,000) per semester. In fact, there are universities in certain areas of Germany where students do not have to pay anything at all for their education. Considering these low rates and high standards compared to other foreign institutions, this programme provides a most attractive opportunity for many Sri Lankans. It is a pity that most Sri Lankans looking for foreign degree programmes are not aware of these facts,” Ms. Steiner said.

She further stressed that Germany is the third largest country for international students. Currently, over 250,000 international students study or conduct research in Germany’s 376 universities. These universities offer a broad and diverse range of 1,000 international degree programmes. Of these, over 400 in various disciplines including engineering, natural sciences, computer sciences, economics, social studies and humanities are taught entirely in the English medium. Medicine, however, is still taught exclusively in German. “Having a basic knowledge of German will benefit the students in their day-to-day dialogue with native speakers,” she added.

Explaining basic entry requirements, she outlined that an A/L qualification (Local or London) is compulsory for a first degree. A Bachelor’s degree from a recognised university is, however, a must for any post-graduate programme. Any interested candidate can apply online by logging in to The final selection is made by the university itself, giving priority for “high potential students”. “There are also annual scholarship announcements for academic staff, researchers and professionals, subject to certain conditions. Foreign students are allowed to work 180 half days per year, which enables them to do part time jobs to help them with their living expenses,” she said.

Close cooperation between Germany’s universities and industry offers an early and close insight into the working world, a real plus for the future careers of potential students. Due to the reasonable charges, high quality of education, possibility of selecting from a wide range of study programmes in the English medium and the opportunity of studying among other international “high potential students”, Gemany could be the most sought-after study destination among Sri Lankans in the future. “DAAD is willing to help potential students from Sri Lanka in every gamut of the requirements necessary for a overseas study programme,” Ms. Steiner stated.

She stressed that DAAD-Sri Lanka also contributes to strengthen the German Section of the University of Kelaniya, by providing the necessary text books, study material and other equipment. Moreover, a student of the German Section, selected from an annual Essay Competition, is granted a scholarship to a Summer Language Course of one month’s duration in a German university.

For further information, please contact the German Cultural Centre, Gregorys Road, Colombo 7 (email: