‘A Language lab each for 1,000 schools, a state priority

‘The government is attaching top priority to the establishment of 1,000 Language Laboratories in a thousand schools, earmarked by it for upgrading. It has requested the Japanese government to consider providing assistance for this venture. In terms of the project, not only Sinhala, Tamil and English, but languages, such as Japanese, Korean and Chinese are expected to be taught in local schools, Minister of Education Bandula Gunewardane told an educational workshop on Thursday.

Addressing the workshop, titled ‘Teaching and Learning Through the Eyes of Japanese Volunteers’, at the BMICH, the minister said that infrastructure for these laboratories had already been completed in 409 schools, while the Cabinet has decided to complete construction of such infrastructure in 500 more schools during this year.

Explaining the significance of the workshop, organizers of the event said that the Presidential Initiative for a Trilingual Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Education, the National Institute of Education, Japan International Corporation Agency and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) had collaborated in this project ‘to develop a whole new strategy and programme to create a trilingual next generation and through it to implement one of the most important recommendations of the LLRC, namely, the promotion of language learning in the country.’

Deputy Head of the Japanese Mission in Sri Lanka, Hideki Ishizuka, addressing the inauguration of the workshop, said that the Japanese government is happy to provide assistance to President Rajapaksa and the Education Ministry ‘to help create a trilingual next generation, which would help integrate and unify the different language communities of Sri Lanka in a manner that was hitherto not known in Sri Lanka.’

Coordinator of the Presidential Initiative for a Trilingual Sri Lanka and chairman of the Presidential Taskforce for a Trilingual Sri Lanka Sunimal Fernando stressed the need to train all language teachers in schools, develop new language tools, including IT capabilities, and revisit syllabi. He also underscored the importance of setting-up a modern trilingual training centre in Penideniya, Kandy, ‘comparable to any such centres in other Asian countries.’

Sharing of their experiences of working in local schools by Japanese volunteer teachers was a special feature of the workshop. The subjects taught by these volunteers ranged from mathematics and music to physical education and these Japanese teachers were forthright in sharing their insights into the teaching and learning processes with over 100 local teachers and education officers who attended the forum from numerous parts of the country. The Japanese teachers’ medium of communication was Sinhala, which they reportedly learnt in a few months before embarking on their project in Sri Lanka.

The workshop which was sponsored by the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike National Memorial Foundation was held to mark the launching of collaboration between the local secondary education sector, the Presidential Secretariat , the Japanese embassy and JICA for implementing the LLRC recommendations. Harumi Ao, Country Representative, JICA, was also present.

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