24th September 2000

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Framing English

For the last five years, a team of Sri Lankan and British teacher educators based in the National Institute for Education has been working with the national network of Regional English Support Centres (RESCs) to strengthen the teaching of English Language at primary level across the island.

'Making the future', an exhibition of photographs by Chris Tribble now on at the Barefoot Gallery focuses on the impact of the Primary English Language Project in classrooms. Its main purpose is to let more people know about recent improvements in English Language teaching in Sri Lanka.

Chris Tribble explains that 'the photographs were taken during professional visits to schools that have been involved in this major project (mostly in rural schools in different regions in Sri Lanka) and are a personal response to the achievements of the children and teachers that I was privileged to meet during the research in which I was involved.'

"One of the things that struck me most forcibly during my visits to schools was the dedication of the teachers whom I met and the shining intelligence of the children they were teaching. The portraits in the exhibition were taken informally and randomly - groups of three or four different children from amongst those I met, along with their teachers. I feel that the pictures speak for themselves. Finally, I hope that the photographs will help visitors to gain a better sense of the impact the project is having on the interactions which take place in the language classroom - they show how children in English classes are working together, and working with their teachers, to develop the skills and capacities they will need for the future they are making together," he says.

The exhibition is sponsored by the British Council, Barefoot Gallery, Colombo and Debug Computer Peripherals/EPSON, and has been organised with the co-operation of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. It will continue until October 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

In touch with the Dutch

By Dr. K.D. Paranavitana

With Sri Lanka gaining independence in 1948, the long-standing links between Sri Lanka and The Netherlands took a new direction as the Dutch government opened its educational facilities to Asian countries. Many from newly independent nations had access to the education in The Netherlands. They were, however, confronted with two main obstacles, i.e., the language barrier and the long duration of studies.

The advisory commission instituted by the Dutch Ministry of Education in 1948, recommended that the government commence international courses of short duration at the post-secondary level with English as the medium of instruction. This move helped the foreigners learning and living in The Netherlands.

The Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Corporation (NUFFIC) was founded in 1952 and its educational arm was the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague. The NUFFIC focused its attention on short-term international courses in a wide range of disciplines including Hydrology, Hydraulic Engineering, Environmental Studies, Sanitary Engineering, Housing and Construction and Agriculture. The international educational programmes in The Netherlands are currently co-ordinated by the NUFFIC which changed its nomenclature to The Netherlands Organisation for International Co-operation in Higher Education. Approximately, 40 to 50 participants from Sri Lanka are studying in the international educational programmes in The NUFFIC.

In the early 1970s, the need for an institution to continue the relationship with the ex-participants of the international courses in The Netherlands was felt and Dr. Evert Jongens, the Head of the International Education Division of the NUFFIC designed and established a network of organisations in different countries to unite The Netherlands alumni. The institutions organised accordingly were referred to as the Netherlands Alumni Associations and the Sri Lankan branch was established in 1970.

Dr. Evert Jongens was the driving force behind the Netherlands Alumni Association of Sri Lanka (NAAL). He saw the NAAL as a model to the other alumni associations in the world. Arriving in Sri Lanka in 1973 he saw the impressive building with eight colossal columns in Prince Street which was formerly the Pettah Post Office. The building was at that time on the verge of collapse. Realising that it was ideal for a Dutch Period Museum, on his return to The Netherlands he began raising funds for its restoration. The building was ceremonially opened by the then President of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene on July 10, 1982. Dr. Jongens also promoted the twinning of Galle with the city of Velsen in The Netherlands. Today Galle benefits from this project. The Galawilawatta in the city of Galle was improved with infrastructure facilities and with a community centre. Under this project, a new extension of the city of Velsen called Velserbroek has been designed in the shape of the Galle Fort. Its main shopping street is named the Galle Promenade. Several other streets of Velserbroek were named after The Sun, The Moon and The Aurora Bastions of the Galle Fort during the Dutch times.

Dr. Jongens' role in placing the Dutch Fort in Galle in the world heritage list through ICOMOS is commendable. Dr. Jongens has also promoted scholars to write on the two countries' cultural heritage.

Dr. Jongens' contribution to promoting the bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands cannot be enumerated in a simple essay of this nature. In appreciation, respect and tribute, the Netherlands Alumni in Sri Lanka, observe that men of his kind are but a few.

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