English as a life skill
Today marks the
successful completion of the first phase of the Presidential
initiative - English as a Life Skill. President Mahinda
Rajapaksa will launch its second phase this morning.
The whole approach in this initiative was innovative. Having
seen the failure of teaching English the British Way or trying
to better the native English speakers in diction and composition
the new initiative has given priority to Spoken English for
communication over written English. This would seem preliminary
considering the fact that all children begin speaking a language
before learning how to write. It is universally accepted that
the development of the cognitive process through learning the
spoken language helps in mastering the writing abilities.
It was this fact that was ignored for decades till the
Presidential English initiative began. In addition, English was
used as a status symbol rather than as a useful tool in one’s
life and knowledge gathering. Therefore, the Presidential
initiative correctly wanted to eliminate the oppressive nature
of English by making it known throughout the country including
the rural hinterland.
By speaking English our way the cultural divide that hampered
its absorption by the students, especially at rural level would
During a short time span of 13 months the project has earned
several credit-worthy achievements. Training 60 percent or
13,500 English teachers, creating a national cadre of 80 Master
Trainers in Spoken English through collaboration with the
English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, India, a
centre of excellence in its own right, opening the Sri Lanka -
India English Language Training Centre with Indian assistance,
preparing a Teacher Guide on Sri Lankan English Standards are
some of them.
The success of the initiative was largely due to the
dedication and commitment of the Presidential Task Force and
especially its six-member Special Initiatives Unit. They have
proved wrong the prophets of doom who refuse to accept that the
public sector too is capable of being dynamic and efficient.
The second phase that starts today is more ambitious. It aims
to reach out to the public. President Rajapaksa was scheduled to
launch a 100 hour curriculum for a Certificate Course in Basic
English for the public today. The Examinations Department will
be conducting a public examination for a Certificate in Basic
English. The authorities have also in the drawing boards a plan
to train the entire cadre of teachers in the State schools in
Basic English within six months.
The success of this program would go a long way towards
creating a bilingual society, a predecessor to the trilingual
society that Sri Lanka should strive for in the 21st Century.
Today is Nelson
Mandela Day. It is the first time the United Nations has
declared such a day in honour of a living person. The Day
coincides with Mandela’s 92nd birthday. No doubt he deserves the
Mandela not only fought for the liberation of his people from
the yoke of white rule that perpetuated the obnoxious system of
Apartheid under which the natives were turned into slaves at the
hands of white intruders.
He spent a record 27 years in prison under most severe
conditions, in Robben Island. As a true patriot and son of the
soil he refused to barter the nation’s freedom for his own. When
offered to set him free he told his captors “How could I be free
when my people are not free?”
Mandela, however, will be remembered more for his faith in
man and his success in transforming a country full of racial
prejudice and hate into a peaceful multi-ethnic nation that
South Africa has evolved into today.
He has become a model revolutionary, a model peace-maker and
a model statesman and a model world leader that few could equal.
In his own country he has become a true sage of the people of
all races and ethnicities.
Nelson Mandela’s legacy would inspire all fighters for human
dignity, peace and liberation throughout the ages. He is truly a
Hero of all time and all generations.