Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spoken English Test for O/L Sri Lanka-2015

Spoken English Test for O/L Sri Lanka-2015
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Public school students will be tested for Spoken English at the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination, beginning 2015, in terms of a policy measure initiated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa under the government’s ‘English as a Life Skill’ programme. A ‘dry run’ of the Spoken English test would be conducted at the 2014 OL examination and 10 marks will be allocated for the subject of Spoken English’ , Sunimal Fernando, Presidential Advisor and Coordinator (English) and Convenor of the Presidential Task Force on English and IT said.

‘At present, a one hour Spoken English period is conducted per week in all grades in public schools at primary and secondary levels, and it is hugely popular among our students. In fact, the day on which Spoken English is conducted is referred to by them as "Vinodha Dawasa" or Day of Enjoyment’, Fernando told this newspaper in an interview. ‘This testifies to the popularity of the Spoken English programme. What we envisage in this project is not the speaking of English by the student in a casual, careless manner, but a gradual process of improvement in Spoken English Language skills by the student, at the end of which she/he would evince considerable mastery in speaking English, in accordance with the highest standards. Spoken English in our schools is only the beginning of this process, Fernando explained.

‘Speak English Without Fear – this is our prime slogan. There are quite a number of public figures among us, who, just a couple of years back, could not utter more than a few words of English but are today speaking English with tremendous confidence in public. The secret is the uninhibited, bold speaking of English. One may begin fitfully but with the continuous, enthusiastic speaking of the language one begins to master it. Today, a tremendous number of our public school teachers who could not speak in English are showing mastery over it. One tool which has enabled this to happen is our ‘English in 100 hours’ certificate course for adults which has helped in imparting to our teachers the essential skills in Spoken English. In other words, the "trainers are trained" and they, in turn, are effectively teaching their wards. Thus far, some 5000 Principals and Deputy Principals of public schools too have benefited from this programme and there is a demand for a higher level course for adults, which is in the process of being worked out, Fernando said.

‘Until we took over, the teaching of English in this country was under the control of some elite universities, institutions and their academe who hardly moved with the people of the provinces. Strongly attached to ossified forms and rules of language teaching, they were intolerant of those who, in their view, were failures. As a result, nine out of 10 of our public school students left school without a knowledge of English. We have reversed this trend by going into the countryside and by seeking out from among the "ordinary people", innovative teachers of English who could teach English to their students in refreshingly original ways, which do not make the learning of English a painstaking, fear-ridden process. It is these teachers who are today at the helm of developing teaching methodology,’ the Presidential Advisor elaborated.

‘These Master Trainers from the provinces are currently training teachers in the entirety of the public school system in the new methods of teaching English that have been entirely developed by them. A main consideration in recruiting these Master Trainers is that they hail from Sinhala and Tamil homes. Currently, these programmes are in progress in a big way in the Wayamba, Uva and Northern Provinces. These Master trainers have thus far trained 23,000 teachers in their methodology which focuses on Spoken English. They have also developed a Teacher Guide which encompasses resource material for Spoken English, Fernando pointed out.

It was also indicated that the Indian government had helped in a major way in the implementation of the programme. It was the Indian state which introduced the persons and institutions involved in the ‘English as a Life Skill’ project to the English and Foreign Languages University of Hyderabad, which took over the training of our Master Trainers. One hundred and forty scholarships for the training programme were offered to Sri Lanka and 120 teachers from our provincial schools were sent to Hyderabad for the relevant training. These Master Trainers have, in turn, trained scores of Assistant Master Trainers to perpetuate the programme.

The ADB-funded Education for Knowledge Society Project, functioning under Anura Dissanayake, helped in a big way too by providing Rs. 100 million for teacher training. At a function conducted at Temple Trees on Feb. 19, a set of DVDs for the learning of Spoken English by students of grades 10 and 11 and a tool box of activities for Spoken English for students from grades 6 to 11 were launched by the President, marking a major boost for the ‘English as a Life Skill’ project. Extract from Online Island

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