Arjuna Aluwihare, Bamunuarachchi, Dorakumbura, Eastern University, English Literature, External English Degree, Janaki Moonesinghe, Jayawardenepura University, Panini Edirisinghe, Paru Nagasunderam, Pasdunrata College of Education for Teachers of English, Siron Rajaratnam, Somasundara, Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission, UGC, USJP
The English course at USJP was not the main reason I had joined the place, though ultimately what I achieved there also had a long-lasting impact. I started an External Degree which had three components, all in English medium, and this has now become the most popular External Degree course in the whole university system. Whereas what might be termed the senior universities had prided themselves on their esoteric English courses, focused mainly on English Literature, with a dash of even more esoteric Linguistics, my course also had a language component. This encouraged English teachers, and aspiring ones around the country, who knew that what they and school students needed most was language improvement, to follow this degree course in droves.
Initially the third component of the degree had been Western Classics, in part because I thought a knowledge of classical literature as well as history would assist students to a better understanding of English literature too. The argument was based on custom too, in that Western Classics was also on offer in the Kelaniya internal and external degrees. It was seen as a comfortable option both by Colombo students who had studied the subject at Advanced Level, and by teachers who were able to do the subject in English, given that this was not possible with many other subjects.
In time however I realized that this was not really useful, and led to a lot of rote learning. So when I was at the Ministry of Education in 2001, to restart English medium in schools, I asked USJP to introduce English Language Teaching as a subject for the external degree. The Head of what was by then an English Department was Paru Nagasunderam, whom I had brought in from the National Institute of Education back in 1993. She obliged at once, which has made that degree, comprised of English Language, English Literature and English Language Teaching, even more useful for English teachers, and certainly more accessible. The only drawback is that there are so many papers to mark that results are often delayed. Needless to say, none of the other universities responded then to my request to introduced ELT into their courses, though the situation is better now in this regard. Continue reading