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DateLine Sunday, 8 April 2007

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An undreamt dream comes true

Two Sri Lankan teachers discover the difference between "their" schools and 'our' schools on a trip to England :



Chitranie Abeyrathne and Preethi Alahendra with two students of Cottenham Village College, UK.

The world has become a village. Communication is so swift today that a trip was organised to England within a few days time, a gigantic task which would have taken months, a few years back. E-mails did the ground work and off we were to a country thousands of miles away.

It was a rare experience for an ordinary teacher who couldn't even dream of such things if not for the DFID (Department for International Development) Global School Partnership and British Council, which funded and made all the arrangements for a visit to our partner school in Cambridgeshire.

Nalanda College was introduced to the Global Linking Programme in May 2006. The project co-ordinator of the British Council, Mrs. Deepthi Wijesinghe, who was keenly interested in the project, saw to it that everything went fine and she wants as many schools as could be to join this programme to gain a wider exposure to the modern world.

The main objective of the Global Linking Programme is to provide opportunities to the students to express their views on current global issues such as nuclear weapons, pollution of environment and conflict among nations that lead to wars.

Nearly fifty students of Nalanda College are in communication with the partner school in UK, Cottenham Village College, in Cambridgeshire. They are in the process of exchanging information about the culture, lifestyle and type of education systems in the two countries.

At present they have established a cordial relationship as pen pals under the guidance of the teachers Mrs. Joy Hadley and myself (Chitrani Abeyrathna). The partner schools were introduced to each other at a contact seminar held at the Hotel Global Towers with the participation of about 14 British teachers. The students embraced the opportunity with great enthusiasm.

Having monitored the progress of the project between the two schools the DFIF (Department of International Development) in UK decided to sponsor the visit of the teacher in charge to the partner school in the UK. The British Council in Colombo being impressed by the interest and commitment taken over the project decided to sponsor us.

We arrived at the partner school on the 23rd of February. The warm reception extended to us by the teachers of Cottenham Village College was remarkable. We did not feel out of place.

The teacher in charge Mrs. Joy Hadley accommodated us in her own house and treated us with the highest cordiality. The week at Cottenham Village College was extremely fruitful.

We were given the opportunity to observe lessons of English Literature and Mathematics in the classrooms. The conduct of the British students was quite pleasing though a little different to ours. There were many good things that we learnt.

We would like to highlight the politeness and the understanding that existed between the teachers and the students. The teachers were extremely polite and kind to the students.

The lessons that were conducted had different effective methods. The children enjoyed every lesson. The classrooms were well equipped and the number of students did not exceed twenty five. There was an assistant teacher to help teacher to the weaker students in many of the classes.

After our long years of service, we were extremely happy to have had the opportunity of working under such circumstances at least for a few days. The students were extremely friendly and helpful.

They enjoyed being dressed up in our national costumes at each assembly. The principal and staff made us feel very comfortable. We made a power point presentation of our country and of Nalanda College on all five days, at the morning assembly for different grades. We were able to demonstrate the traditional New Year preparations of Sri Lanka to the British children, who enjoyed the milk rice and the Katta Sambol.

We were met by the board governor at the farewell party where we gifted a replica of the College Crest to the Chief Governor. May this exposure bring life to our profession as well as to the students in developing their personalities.

****

Sri Lankan visit is a huge success

Two Sri Lankan teachers spent a week at Cottenham Village College to foster closer international links between Europe and Asia.

Chitranie Abeyrathne and Preethi Alahendra are from the college's partner school in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

Their trip was funded by the British Council and the teachers led daily assembles to the different year groups to help educate students about their different ways of life.

They also taught a maths and English class to give students an example of the way lessons are structured in Sri Lanka. Cottenham's partnership school is all-boys and it has 5,000 pupils, so Mrs. Abeyratne and Mrs. Alahendra were particularly fascinated by the contrasting teaching methods used at the college in comparison to those used at home.

They were also moved by a heartwarming performance by pupils who performed a traditional Sri Lankan folk tale called Pearl Necklace for them as a surprise.

Jan Hadley, assistant principal, said: "The visit was all about fostering close links with another country and moving our students towards becoming global citizens. It was a huge success and all the students were extremely inquisitive and asked lots of interesting questions about the Sri Lankan culture and lifestyle."

There are already plans for two village college teachers to visit Sri Lanka later this year.

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