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Part 1 – Restricting Reforms within Sri Lanka

The attack on contributions to English education for rural students

wimal w

Why Mr Weerawansa is again on the rampage about me I have no idea.

I was in Singapore last week when a couple of my former students sent me messages that I had been attacked on Swarnavahini by Wimal Weerawansa. It seems he claimed I had made some reforms to the education system that were not practical. One student thought I should respond, another suggested that I give up politics and return to the university system. Hearteningly, he noted that ‘We know your contribution to the education as we were unable to make a simple sentence before entering to the university.’

Therein perhaps lies the rub. I believe I have done more since Kannangara for introducing equity in education, but this has been largely with regard to English. While the pre-University General English Language Training programme was started by someone else, I was involved from the start, in producing readers for the course that students responded to with ease. After I took on the course, along with the best instructor in the University English Units in those days, we transformed the course, and produced text books that were later prescribed for Indian universities – though perhaps that too would be anathema to Mr Weerawansa. Together with that, I was responsible for English courses at the Affiliated University Colleges, initially the diploma course but then, at the request of the UGC, General courses which were mandatory at all Affiliated Colleges.

At Jayewardenepura, whilst coordinating AUC English, I started courses which gave English degrees to students who had not done Advanced Level English. I also started an External Degree, with two and then later three subjects related to the learning and teaching of English. This is now the most popular degree course in the whole University system.

Introducing wider dimensions in University courses, and why this is resented

At Sabaragamuwa, I introduced course units and mandatory core courses, which are now prescribed in many universities. I don’t think anyone before me had studied the changes in university systems introduced by the Americans when they broadbased university education, in contrast to the elitist Britih system, which we continued to maintain long after Britain had realized the need to increase numbers. Before I rejoined Sabaragamuwa – and I should note that several of the AUCs, when they became universities, sought my services – I studied the expansion of core courses (a relative who was an academic in Canada sent me an excellent succinct volume called ‘Getting to the Core’ about changes at Harvard). I also turned down an American offer to visit to observe the 1996 Presidential election, and instead asked for a programme of visits to universities, and community colleges, since I was beginning then (having done some work for the World University Service of Canada on Vocational Training) to understand the need for reform in that area too. Read the rest of this entry »


Rajiva Wijesinha

March 2013
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