The blackboard is blank for A/L English students

Only 57 of 601 schools have qualified teachers
By Chathuri Dissanayake

Many schools island wide are facing problems in providing English medium instruction for Advanced Level (A/L) classes. Nearly 400 new English medium teachers are needed to cater to the current needs of the schools which have started English medium classes.

“The largest group of English medium students, over 6,000, sat the Ordinary Level (O/L) exam in 2008. The schools which many of these students are attending are not in a position to provide A/L stream English medium lessonsfor them. There are 601 schools that have English medium O/L classes whereas only 57 of these schools can provide English medium studies in A/L subjects. The rest of the schools do not have qualified and trained teachers to teach in the English medium,” Ceylon Teachers’ Union president Joseph Stalin said.

“We had the first batch of English medium O/L students. But we don’t have English medium A/L instruction so the students will have to go to other schools or they will have to switch to the Sinhala medium as we have no resources to start English medium classes,” said S. U. Kariyawasam, Principal of C. W. W. Kannangara Vidyalaya in Colombo.

Colombo’s Asoka Vidyalaya which has a 100 percent pass rate in the English medium at the O/L exam in 2008 is faced with a grim choice of either studying Science subjects for which the principal of the school is trying to get the teachers or study Commerce or Arts subjects in the Sinhala medium. The school does not have teachers for any of the subjects to have classes in the English medium in all streams, Sriyani Jayathunga, the principal said.

On condition of anonymity, the principal of a leading Government school in Colombo said her school has no teacher to teach chemistry in the English medium Science stream allocated by the Ministry.

“We hire a teacher from outside to give lessons to our students. Even though we have an English medium Commerce stream we don’t have a single qualified teacher to give lessons. We were planning to stop the English medium Commerce stream class but the minister promised to give us teachers by September, so we are waiting till then,” she said. In another national school in Ratnapura the situation is much worse as there are no teachers even for some of the subjects in the O/L stream.

“The students and parents alike are losing all faith in the English medium system due to this problem,” said the school principal who spoke on condition of anonymity. Education Ministry Secretary N. Bandara admitted that there was a shortage of teachers for A/L subjects in the English medium.

We require more than 400 teachers in the English and Tamil streams and we plan to fill the vacancies as soon as possible, he said.

“We know there is a serious need for more than 200 Commerce stream teachers in the English medium. We plan to recruit graduates to fill these vacancies and give them in-service training,” he said.
He also said that even though there are teachers who are capable of teaching in the English medium they are not willing to go to some of the schools that need the teachers.

However Mr. Stalin blamed the Education Ministry for not having a proper plan before introducing the English medium stream to the schools.

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