POLICY INNOVATION PROVIDING EDUCATION IN THREE LANGUAGES: WHY THE GOVERNMENT AND POLICYMAKERS RELUCTANT TO IMPLEMENT THE RIGHT POLICY?
Posted on June 11th, 2021

BY EDWARD THEOPHILUS

Since the 1930s policy changes in education with a bull’s eye on a broader spectrum of policies that included expanding literacy skills of the population and ability to use a second language, besides mother tongue. The accomplishment of the policy was unsuccessful because of many reasons. Before the Donormore reforms, education provision stuck to religious organizations and the prime aim of the education was to provide literacy skills and professional skills that have been provided by professionals in various trades. The invasion of British attitudes and caste dictions the ability to choose a profession restricted and the government policy didn’t change the vicious attitudes of society.

The policy of the State Council on education had been replaced by politics-based language policy and the media of education provision was especially disadvantaged to the Sinhala population, which comprised over 65%. Muslim and Tamils gained language abilities in English because the SLFP government wanted to attract Muslim votes. Because of not expanding English medium education in semi-urban and rural schools, Sinhala kids studied in Sinhala medium and gained an opportunity to receive higher education and gain administration positions purely based on subject knowledge, ignoring language skills.

The communication abilities in English had been limited to few schools in urban areas, educated Sinhala people frustrated with this misguided policy, and many kids had to gain English communication skills through private tuition. If the government education policy directed to provide education in Sinhala and English medium in semi-urban and rural areas Sinhala community would have not being disadvantaged and the language issue in education might not arise. In the meantime, financially advantaged urban people are associated with an imprudent decision that people who can communicate in English are high-class people. This was not accepted in other countries. The government education policymakers would have reacted by offering education in English and Sinhala media in all schools in the country, including schools in interior rural schools. However. Education policy was not changed and the vicious system being continued by all political parties in power.

This issue has not been resolved by the authority and politics, class struggles, attitude of people, and many other factors involved in deciding on the media of provision of education. If rural schools offered education in Sinhala and English media, social changes, especially racism, language problems, caste dictions, class struggle, and many vicious divisions. Education policymakers reluctant to make the right decision and they are also involved in vicious attitudes.  

I observed many countries are successfully using three languages providing education in Asia-Pacific countries, African, and Latin America and people have avoided adoring one language over other languages and students have attached as one nation, resulting from the offer of education in three languages. The three languages comprising traditional language, major of communication in the home environment, and a language that communicates at the international level (English or French or another). The experience in education policymaking and implementation show it has failed to implement two languages (English and Sinhala or Tamil and English) as the government did not give priority to the policy. A certain group of people using religious and cultural factors prevented the policy implementation process in English and Sinhala or Tamil and English.

In Sri Lanka, Sinhala, Tamil, and English have been identified as national languages and the provision of education could be done in three languages in any area of the country. For example, kids can provide education using three languages from early childhood level to complete university education, and the current problems related to communication, class struggle, socialization can easily resolve without becoming an issue to address on political platforms. Neither community group nor a religious group opposed to such language policy. The reason public statement of the secretary to the ministry of education reflected education policymakers and agents are reluctant to three languages policy and why such negative attitudes are major question in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has many facilities for this option, especially books on three languages available, and teachers also ready for this situation and policymakers are reluctant to make the judgment because they are associated with vicious attitudes. I identified the major reason to averse to the policy is top officers in the department of education hesitant to three language policy and politicians don’t motivate the three-language policy.

Education policy development concerns with a broader aspect and needs to consider the experience in other countries. Sri Lanka needs a policy revolution.

  • Education could offer three languages in all schools, from grade one and until university education. If grade one student learns six subjects: two subjects in Sinhala, two subjects in English, and two subjects in Tamil could be offered. Some schools in Colombo offer education in this way and it is successful. The practice could be expanded to the entire country. In this way, education policy can change. Some countries in the world successfully offer education in this way.
  • Sri Lanka can find resources such as books and teachers from India at a lower cost and the government can stop scholarship examination and grade 10 examination to conduct at the school level and save a massive volume of funds. Saved funds in such a way could use for offering education in three languages.
  • Vocational education at certificates two and three could offer in secondary schools in English medium and students could be provided internationally marketable skills. For this purpose, schools can combine with technical vocational schools.
  • School teachers should be given four-week training each year and the knowledge and skills should be updated for the education policy.

The education department has not taken radical policy accomplishments and has not taken steps to good policy development and education reforms have limited talks during election periods.

I watched an interview with the secretary at the department of education it reflected that the secretary is not a capable person to change education policies and lead the education system in Sri Lanka. He does not understand education policies and experience in policy development.

International schools in Sri Lanka are a joke either government should regulate them or should organize to give returns to the cost of offering education. Many International schools do not offer education in three languages and they should be regulated to respect national policies. International schools do marketing for schools in developed countries and this should be stopped. For example,  Australia has international schools but students are like studying in national schools.

School authorities and parents need to understand fundamentals of education would not be changed by the ownership style of education. The education should focus to provide knowledge, skills, value practice at a high quality.

One Response to “POLICY INNOVATION PROVIDING EDUCATION IN THREE LANGUAGES: WHY THE GOVERNMENT AND POLICYMAKERS RELUCTANT TO IMPLEMENT THE RIGHT POLICY?”

  1. Nimal Says:

    If we are to compete for investments then we must make the main language that is of the major big economies like Chinese,German.French or English.I would prefer English just as they are doing in Singapore. But not Hindi because India could be a big bully, don’t trust them after the parippu drop.

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