Teaching of English

by Dr. H.W. Tillekeratne

(August 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The President wants to get down teachers from India to teach English in Sri Lanka. Why have we to do this? It is because of politics. We have had "Sinhala Only in 24 hours" with everything being done in Sinhala. This unwise move however helped those in power to win elections.

Now the time has come when we have to seek the assistance of another country, which did not make the mistake our rulers made. At the time this backward move was made, some said that the move was a bad one. The nationalists then asked, "With whom are you going to converse in English?"

Those who could not converse in English, instead of making an attempt to learn it, thought it best to discourage the teaching and learning of English.

We are paying the penalty for it now. There is a demand for English now and tutories have mushroomed everywhere. There are no competent teachers in these tutories and they are doing more harm than good to our students. Unlike Latin, English is a living language and it is growing and developing every day. Anyone who wants to improve his knowledge of English in addition to all the written work, must also converse in English.

Ironically, after secondary education when students enter the university there is ‘General English’ taught for about three to four years. But no one takes this seriously, and when students finally pass out of university they can neither converse nor write proper English. These students are then able to see that not knowing English is a great drawback and develop a jealousy towards those who can read, write and speak English fluently.

These students who have passed out of the university do not like to face an interview in English, and hence are reluctant to apply for higher posts in the private sector, but try to secure government appointments where knowledge of English is not compulsory. If they manage to get a government job, they find that there too, there are some people who are well versed in English, and develop an animosity towards them.

According to recent newspaper reports there are 25, 000 graduates awaiting jobs in the government sector.

We are aware that politics is a dirty game and that even some educated people who take up politics play to the gallery. They do this purposely even though they are aware that the world has now become a ‘global village’ and that we cannot live like ‘frogs in a well.’

English is the passport to the outside world.
- Sri Lanka Guardian