The problematic future of English education in Sri Lanka and what it means for Japan

In the online version of the Daily News, is the article, “Prof. F. R. Jayasuriya: Pioneer of a silent revolution.” Professor Jayasuriya was an economist and education visionary in Sri Lanka, and is quoted as saying

“ Students who go to non- English speaking countries such as China, Japan, Germany and France have become very conversant in those languages within a matter of few months. But what is happening in Sri Lanka is that we are in a mighty hurry to make our students very fluent in English from the Kindergarten.

As a result students don’t learn the actual subjects properly and they only learn English. And some don’t even learn that! Many organizations, especially those in the private sector, use fluency in English as the main criteria for recruitment of personnel.

Interviews are conducted in English and hence a large number of locals from rural areas are shut out of employment despite having obtained good gradings at O/L and A/L examinations”.

Japan is not in the midst of deliberations on changing their national language to English, but it is interesting that the age from which children start learning English in a formal setting is becoming younger and younger without discussion of the efficacy of language education at higher levels. “Should English be taught at elementary school,” is the issue bandied about, but there is not connection made between English education at the primary level and how it should proceed to avoid the problems that exist in secondary levels. Objectives are sketchy at best, and there is no system for accountability for the system’s success or failure.

Japan isn’t making decisions about issues as monumental as changing their national language, or even their language of education, but there are overlapping concerns.

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