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Sunday, 12 October 2014

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English teaching:

Rural school teacher presents novel technique

Every parent's wish is to see their children doing studies well. They would spend any amount of their hard-earned money for their children. They also want to teach them a foreign language such as English. It is a common sight in villages as well as in towns, parents dragging their little ones from one class to the other to teach their children. These little ones willingly or unwillingly attend these classes in the hope of learning English or just to please their parents.


R. W. Ranasinghe with his students

It is apparent that there is a very big demand for English in Sri Lanka. We see colourful eye-catching posters, cut-outs and sometimes hoardings to attract students to their tuition classes. Some teachers promise to teach English within two weeks. Other render a great service by imparting a good knowledge English to their students.

Then there are half-baked teachers who possess a nodding acquaintance of the language deceiving the unsuspecting children.

Criticism is levelled against teachers who work in government schools for their inefficiency, lethargy and lack of interest in teaching English.

They also argue that children start learning English from grade one and continue to do so until they end up their school life. It is pathetic to see the majority of children leave school without a basic knowledge of English. Have the schools in Sri Lanka failed to teach English properly?

Exceptions

However, nobody can reject the fact that there are certain school teachers who strive hard to teach English adopting new techniques. They never confine themselves to the text books or syllabuses.

Ranthirige Wilfred Ranasinghe who has earned the sobriquet Apuru Iskole Mahaththaya, (Wonderful school teacher) is the sole English teacher at Ketawala Kanishta Vidyalaya in the Mawathagama education division. Having worked at several schools, Ranasinghe assumed duty at Ketawela K.V. In 2000.

The little children had never thought they would be able to speak the Queen's language so fluently within a very short period of time. The results shown by the previous teachers had been negative and Ranasinghe had to start from scratch. His first task was to show love and affection to the little ones.


R. W. Ranasinghe
 

Principal D. G. R. N.
Ranasinghe

Ketawela K.V. is one of the remote schools, six kilometres away from Mawathagama town in the Mawathagama education division. There are nearly 150 students and 16 teachers at the school. One may be surprised to see how they use the English language so fluently.

They can speak or debate on any topic without any fear or prior preparation.

Ranasinghe was born on February 26, 1961. He was the youngest in his family. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Poverty-striken Ranasinghe had to face untold hardships to succeed his life. He did his studies amid difficulties and one of his dreams was to become a teacher and help poor children. His dream came true when he was appointed as an English teacher in 1982. He tied the nuptial knot in 1990 and his life time partner was Leela Ranjani Ranasinghe.

Their one and only daughter is Suvimali Surangika Ranasinghe who studies at the University of Peradeniya. Ranasinghe is a trained English teacher who possesses 32 years of experience in English teaching. He devotes his time for the well-being of the children even without taking leave. He has been felicitated at divisional, zonal, provincial and national level for his invaluable service. Colombo West Rotary Club has donated a well-equipped library for Ketawala K.V. To mark his service to the school.

One specialty of Ketawela K.V. is that all children can speak in English. English is no longer alien to them. They come to school by 5 a.m. walking long distances carrying hulu athu (torches). The program starts sharp at five in the school premises. They do various activities in English. They go to play houses after going home. The play houses are located in four places in the village. The children teach English to their parents and elders at night.

He started teaching basic grammar in a simple way that all children could grasp. He devoted much of his time with the little ones. Originally he conducted special classes in English from 6 to 7 a.m. Gradually he extended the time from 5.30 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. and now he has further extended the time from 5 a.m. to 7.30 a.m.

Commenting on the English program, Ketawela K.V. principal D.G.R.N. Ranasinghe said, "At present it is very difficult to find teachers of Ranasinghe's calibre as most teachers have become money conscious.

For the students he is more or less a father figure. Students are always ready to consult him whenever they face difficulties. He has earned an island-wide reputation for our school through his English program.

Most of the education officials, principals, English teachers and students come to the school very often to see the talents of our children.

I am very proud to see the progress of our children. Our staff members are always ready to help him.

Ranasinghe is never confined to the text books and applies his own methods to teach English.

A new language activity is done everyday to break the monotony as he feels variety is the spice of life.

He also feels all four language skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing should be improved to master any language.

He has shown 100 percent results for English at the Ordinary Level Examinations over the years.

Ranasinghe said, "My fervent appeal for the teachers of English is to work hard for the sake of children. Most of the teachers are of the view that their children are very weak and consider as an incorrigible lot. A teacher's role is to raise the standard of the slow learners and not to teach only brighter children. Mere punishing and scolding will not do any good on the part of the children.

I have been working at Ketawala K.V. for 14 years and I am really content with the service done to rural children whereas some teachers do not like to work in such schools. Certain teachers try to get transfers from the very day they are appointed to a rural school. Naturally their attention is not focused to teach children but to vacate the place as early as possible".

He said some schools have been inspired by Ketawela K.V. St. Mary's College, Matugama is one of them and the children in both schools have met each other twice.

He said he wishes to extend his help and guidance to any school.

He said the lessons in the present text books are more suitable for the children who know English and teachers should not confine themselves to the text books. Teachers should be innovative and able to adapt to the new changes.

Some teachers want to finish the book as early as possible but it is not a wise move. A mother of one of the children spoke highly of the on-going program.

"At a time when many English teachers are more interested in giving tuition, Ranasinghe has volunteered to teach our children English free.

"He has opened new vistas for the younger generation which was denied to most of us," she said.

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