Lanka aiming to be mountain biking capital in Asia
Some 100 cyclists, comprising local enthusiasts and foreign tourists, were flagged off at Kani Lanka Resort and Spa (formerly Hotel Sindbad) Kalutara last week on a short cycling tour aimed at promoting adventure tourism in Sri Lanka.

Cyclists preparing to cross a river.

The cyclists travelled on the two-hour introductory route of the pilot cycle trail around Kalutara and Wadduwa, ending at the Hotel Mermaid, Kalutara.

An official statement said the southwest coast from Wadduwa to Koggala has been divided into eight sections for the cycle trail, with each of these sections representing two hours of normal cycling, between 20 to 30 km depending on the terrain. Four other areas have been identified for a mountain bike trail network of international standard. The four trails, dividing Sri Lanka into areas with its own individual characteristics, are the coastal route with 240 kms, the ancient city region with 150 kms, the Sabaragamuwa Province with 200 kms and the hill country with 300 kms of trails. The selection is based on the existing village trails, availability of accommodation, incorporating existing tourist attractions, and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Cluster formed under the aegis of The Competitiveness Initiative/USAID has decided to develop a national network of cycle trails, endorsed by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, with the aim of developing Sri Lanka into an internationally recognised mountain biking adventure destination, which, in time, will become the Mountain Biking Capital of Asia. "The country has an existing infrastructure of dirt tracks, a multiplicity of biodiversity and a wide range of geographic, historical and cultural features within a relatively compact area, which makes it ideally suited to mountain biking," said the Chairman of the Tourism Cluster and Chairman of Aitken Spence, Prema Cooray.

The newly-formed Sri Lanka Adventure Operators' Association (SLAOA) headed by Thilak Weerasinghe of Lanka Sportreizen, has been working with the Cluster to co-ordinate the effort to implement the trail and depending on its success will extend the network across the country.

Peter Bluck of Adventure Sports Lanka was responsible for mapping out the trails and explained the route to the cyclists, reiterating that Sri Lanka should build on its clear advantage for mountain biking as regional countries, such as the world renowned mountaineering and hiking destinations of Nepal or the diving and snorkeling destinations of the Maldives, have superior resources that enable them to better compete in other adventure tourism activities.

Training the trainer
By C. B. Fernando, Consultant, Programme and Project Development, Skills Development Fund
People learn only when they believe they can learn and when that learning helps them to obtain an incentive they value. This is the general manner in which the expectancy theory explains human action.

Learning is a process by which a person's behaviour changes as a result of experience. Effective trainers understand this and use it to facilitate learning. Today's trainers need to be aligned towards the best and the latest training techniques, which make use of human behaviour changes rather than the mastery of their skills alone.

The Skills Development Fund Limited (SDF) had been conducting highly interactive and successful workshops on "Training of Trainers" during the last two years. The SDF is a collective enterprise of the government and the private sector established to cater to the human resources development needs of employers.

On successful completion of these "Training of Trainers" programmes, the participants will be able to plan, organise and deliver highly specialised programmes of training and train others systematically with their knowledge and skills related to their individual specialisations within their organisations.

The first of these two-day "Training of Trainers" programmes conducted by SDF in 2000 helped a leading plantation company.

It was highly successful to an extent that after six months, their per tapper rate of latex collection had gone up by 1 1/2 kilos to 7 1/2 kilos per day. Considering the several hundreds of tappers so trained by the thirty-five best tappers who got this training as trainers, the daily output within the plantation had been tremendously improved.

SDF, with a mission to enhance enterprise competitiveness and effectiveness through training and development, has so far conducted eight such workshops of training, which included several leading plantations, manufacturing and service organisations both in the state and private sectors.

During training, very common and familiar problems, worked out as role-plays, are minimised with participants as role-players. Most trainers have experienced torturous role-plays with potential learning because of learners' nervousness and inability to assume and reproduce the full characteristics of a role.

Theatre training ensures that workshop participants can quell nerves and repeatedly replicate familiar personalities and daily observed behaviour provided they are engaged in a topic which enhances their confidence.

Participants have endurance and, once briefed by the specialised trainer on the essentials of platform skills and the role to be played, will sustain a role far longer than any arbitrarily delegated role-player. Role-playing by real actors has been used extensively in situations including training for customers facing difficult situations.

This theatre-style technique allows a complex business or training situation to be considered from a new perspective and with greater objectivity. Learners watch their colleagues perform one-act, self-contained plays that bring about a learning message.

Then the trainer facilitates discussion about parallels with the real-life training situation. This has the benefit of allowing the specialised trainer to approach the exact business or training situation without the emotions that the learners might bring to the situation, if handled explicitly.

Hence, the "Training of Trainers" workshops conducted as "Theatres for Training" will help every employee to be confident not only in his or her role as an integral part of a profit centre and as an actor in training, but also in how he or she could elevate other team players to move up the ladder for enhanced responsibilities in the organisation.

Every person must be equipped to deal with the many demands for change placed on the organisation: technology changes, customer demands for more and better service, the competition, and new products emerging at an increasing rate. All of these demands, and many others, make it imperative that everyone in an organisation keeps learning.

To do so regularly requires peer support. That is why everyone must know how to train another.

E-Forum on role of private sector in education
The World Bank-affiliated International Finance Corporation (IFC) has organised an e-forum this month on the Internet on an issue that is very relevant to Sri Lanka - enhancing the role of the private sector in education.

The main objectives of this e-forum seminar are to generate discussion of the main issues pertaining to private education development, such as policy implications enabling a greater role for the private education sector, key features to consider in developing a supportive yet enforceable regulatory framework, the most appropriate roles for the respective public and private sectors and gather and share information of examples that are working in the realm of public-private partnership in education.

The development forum is co-sponsored by the New Zealand Education Forum and EdInvest with a new topic being introduced each week for discussion. Experts from various countries are moderating each topic.

The September 1 to 8 forum dealt with "Access and quality" and was moderated by Michael Latham, Director of EdInvest, which is an Education Investment Information Facility developed within the World Bank Group as a forum for individuals, corporations and other institutions to invest in the market for education.

The second September 9 to 15 forum on "Governance, management and accountability:" was moderated by Norman LaRocque, a policy advisor and a consultant to the Education Forum. The September 16 to 22 issue is on finance with the moderator being Neil McIntosh, chief executive of CBT Education in Britain.

The final sessions are on "Public Private Partnerships that Work" between September 23 to 30, moderated by Ron Perkinson, senior education specialist at the Health and Education Group, IFC.

IFC said that in response to societal demands, the private education sector in many countries has been growing rapidly. "These private delivery systems, however, have often emerged spontaneously and in discreet pockets in response to excess demand. There is a need to put these various initiatives in context and to develop a framework that can support effective private participation while remaining mindful of such broader goals as social cohesion," it said.

Interested parties could visit for more details.

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