Improvement of English standard
It is heartening to hear that President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself has
taken up the task of ameliorating the English standard under a realistic
I dare to say that standard of English rapidly deteriorated with the
doing away with English medium and neglecting teaching of English at
schools. This situation arose in consequence of evil policies of some
politicos and narrow-minded officialdom in the sphere of education in
our country decades ago. People were not opposed to giving its due place
to Sinhala, but deprival of learning an international language for Sri
Lankans was disadvantageous.
When we were schooling in mid ‘50s and ‘60s, even after the
elimination of English medium, we were able to study English in good
grammar books like High School English Composition and English with a
Smile authored by Wren and Martin, and W.H. Samaranayake.
Samaranayake, then Principal of St. Bernadette’s College, Polgahawela,
was a genius of English grammar whose textbooks were very instrumental
in teaching and learning English stage by stage. In addition, we were
also advised to use handbooks like Direct Method and First Aid in
English as guidance.
Unfortunately, those books were replaced with very complicated boring
set of books which were too dull for our students to grasp the subject.
Furthermore, all English teachers in good old days were well versed
in the subject and thoroughly knew the methods of teaching. Even the
students those who failed the subject in examinations were able to speak
and write correct English. It is lamentable that at present 80 percent
of English teachers serving in the country are not properly qualified
and equipped to teach the subject.
These teachers too were not fortunate to learn English so suffice for
their job due to poor teaching standard in schools. Only a few
non-government institutions in the city and some provincial towns
maintain a good level.
I would like to put forward some guidelines which will, in my view,
be helpful in improving the standard of English in Sri Lanka.
Introduce good textbooks for students, put up libraries and language
centres at convenient places, invite English educated persons living in
respective areas to assist in English teaching programs (service of
retired teachers and elders with adequate knowledge of the language can
be solicited for the purpose), start a separate educative English
Channel in TV, encourage students of secondary level to speak and write
English at their schools, close down mushroom tuition classes
(boutiques) conducted by bogus tutors.