Open forum on “How does Sri Lanka address its English Language Deficiency?

Friday, 5 November 2010 05:11 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AN Open Forum titled “How does Sri Lanka address its English Language Deficiency?” will be held on  11 November from 5.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 4, Adams Avenue, Colombo 4.

The panelists at the Forum will be Murtaza Esufally, Group Director, Hemas Holdings; PLC, Colombo; Sunimal Fernando, Presidential Advisor and Convenor, Presidential Task Force on English and IT; Professor Siri Hettige, Director, SPARC, University of Colombo; and Mahasivam Secretary, Ceylon Tamil Teachers Union, Trincomalee. Facilitator will be Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike, Retired Assistant Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

The ogranisers said that English communication skills have been one of the pre-requisites for successful economies in Asia. In Sri Lanka, English skills since centuries and until recently were the prerogative of the social and business elite. However, power politics of the past resulted in English getting neglected in schools, thereby widening the divide in society, and Sri Lanka´s economy fell behind even erstwhile stragglers in Asia.

As today´s policy agenda requires the country to address globalisation, it recognises that all Sri Lankans need adequate English skills to do so. The President himself declared 2009 as “The Year of English and IT”, following his “Mahinda Chintana” which envisions Sri Lanka as a Services Hub, with Tourism, Financial and Port services high on the development plan.

Most students have recognised their urgent need for sufficient skills in a global language to access knowledge. This has triggered an additional surge in demand for English in schools. Even remote villages in Sri Lanka carry neon signs advertising “Spoken English” classes. Although state universities and educational institutions offer English courses for teachers and students, many schools, especially in rural areas, lack adequately qualified teachers of English.

Consequently, university lecturers and private businesses bemoan the fact that new recruits do not reach the necessary level of language skills to function effectively. Yet, a clear plan of action to address these shortcomings remains elusive. Neither private enterprise nor government  provide adequate resources and personnel for the training of the large numbers of Spoken English teachers so urgently required.

nHow can we develop adequate language skills to access global knowledge and new technologies that would add more value to exports, create new jobs and more income for all Sri Lankans?

nHow can we man our businesses at all levels with those who have sound global communication skills to compete for foreign investment and markets?

nHow can Sri Lanka create a citizenry who can communicate with potential clients to compete globally for financial, health and other services?

nHow can communication barriers in the tourism sector be eliminated so that its personnel can attract an influx of tourists?