Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Professor Graeme Lock

Abstract

The owl of Minerva takes flight at dusk and we are in the blazing noontide. – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)

The author is a Sri Lankan expatriate who completed his primary and secondary education in Sri Lanka. He was guided and directed by his father, a Senior Master at the Royal College of Colombo and later Controller of Examinations. The author brings his experience in Sri Lanka into the preparation of this portfolio. Material written in English for this topic was limited. Further, during the government of President Premadasa (1973–1986), all publications concerning education in Sri Lanka were suppressed. In addition, publications were scarce during the civil war (1983–2008). This portfolio was written to emphasise the importance of English for Sri Lankans and to accept it as the lynchpin for globalisation of education in Sri Lanka: it will see them participate in global knowledge, progress and achieve prosperity as a result. The portfolio explains that as a British colony, only a chosen few in Sri Lanka were privileged to be educated in English – who as a consequence of which found employment in government and the private sector. The rest who were educated in the local languages either sought low-skilled employment or were unemployed, creating a widening socio-economic gap amongst Sri Lankans. Towards the end of British rule in Sri Lanka, legislation was passed to provide free education for all Sri Lankans with a view to creating equal opportunities. This was followed by legislation replacing English with local languages as mediums of instruction in education. Shortly afterwards, English became a non-compulsory second language. In a span of almost fifty years, competency in English was lost in Sri Lankan society. A great majority of Sri Lankans could neither write nor speak English, except for a few who were educated in fee-levying private schools and overseas. Lack of competency in English made it impossible for Sri Lankans to participate in global knowledge. This in turn hindered their opportunity to participate in the progress of modern education, science and technology. In addition, those who lacked competency in English were prevented from obtaining better employment in banks and foreign commercial enterprises, and also from lucrative overseas customer call-centres. Sri Lankans realised in hindsight the costly mistake of abandoning English as a result of nationalistic fervour and shortsighted political expediency. After a lapse of almost fifty years, the current reintroduction of English into the education system has become a daunting task, particularly because of the lack of competent English teachers and the scarcity of funds. This was further exacerbated by over thirty years of civil war in Sri Lanka. There was a strong view held by politicians, educationists and Sri Lankans with strong nationalistic beliefs that English was a symbol of Anglo-American imperialism, which made them resist its reintroduction. Unfounded fears of imperialism and shortsighted political and nationalist policies have made Sri Lankans realise that English is not a symbol of Anglo-American imperialism but a multinational tool available to everyone who needs to participate in global knowledge. English is without doubt the lynchpin of globalisation in Sri Lanka.

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