hoto by Groundviews
Rajiva Wijesinha: As a radical who strived to
English education in SriLanka
English, in the present global context, has descended from its colonial prestigious position to ahighly utilitarian level where it (English), according to Mr. Tony Reilly, the Country Director of
the British Council, ‘has become the passport to wealth and opportunity’.
Hence the role of English today should be understood not by means of its colonial terms but in terms of its modernusefulness. The use of English expands from the global world of work to academic arenas, wherenew knowledge is produced. Today, rather than being understood as a demarcation of belongingness, English functions as a tool of social mobilization. In a context where English wasa class signifier and
was termed ‘kaduwa’, very few people in Sri Lanka understood this
potential global metamorphosis at least two decades back. When Sri Lanka decided to broadenits horizons to the globalized economy, there was a burning need to change the conventionalapproach towards language learning policy.
To materialize the country’s need to expand English
language education, certain radical approaches were a terrible requirement at the time. RajivaWijesinha belonged to one of those who not only could foresee the need of English for the
country’s younger generation to move forward in the global sphere of work and education but
could also produce an implementable mechanism that would pragmatically enhance the Englishlanguage literacy of especially those who emerge from non-English speaking backgrounds.Prof. Wijesinha identified two significant steps to radicalize English education in the country.The first was to broaden English language learning from Colombo based elites (and some other middle class contexts) to non-English speaking environments, where thousands of students donot get an opportunity to learn the language. To facilitate this, the second step was to produce asufficient number of teachers who could work in those areas. When Prof. Wijesinha undertook to