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Government launches English Language Skills initiative

COLOMBO: The Government will launch a major initiative this week on the teaching of English in the country aimed at improving the skills of English teachers both in the private and public sectors, training in English for Business Outsourcing, the use of new methods of English language teaching through the electronic media, and opening access to a large numbers of persons in the low income categories to obtain a working knowledge of English.

This job-oriented English Language Programme titled 'English as a Life Skill' is an initiative by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which in the short-term seeks to produce at least 50,000 persons with communicative skills in English to serve in any capacity, especially in the services sector such as IT related Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries.

This fast-track development of skills in English in expected to attract more investment to Sri Lanka in areas where human resources with adequate Communicative English Language skills are at present largely lacking.

A key exercise in this programme is the 'English Teaching Business Mela' a Business Exchange being organised in Colombo from April 23 to 25 by the Board of Investment (BOI) of the Ministry of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion in collaboration with the Presidential Secretariat at Hotel Galadari, Colombo.

This will bring together Indian and Sri Lankan investors who will explore the possibility of joint ventures in English Language Teaching in Sri Lanka. Investment in these ventures will attract a range of BOI concessions making them attractive investments.

The programme which targets youth above 18 years for intensive English language skills improvement will provide financial assistance to 50,000 persons between ages 18 and 24 over three years to acquire Job Oriented Communicative English Skills through a special loan scheme subscribed by both the Government and Private Sector.

On the overall improvement of English Language teaching in Sri Lanka, both for specialist and general communication, the programme will initially select suitable candidates for 30 scholarships, offered by the Government of India, for a three months training course for Master Trainers in English Teaching at the reputed English and Foreign Language University (EFLU) in Hyderabad, India.

Advertisements have already been placed in the media calling for applicants for these scholarships.

The Presidential Secretariat and the Board of Investment look forward to the fullest cooperation to this initiative by the public and private sectors, which will have tax concessions and infrastructure facilities for those investing in good and result-oriented training in English; establish a Centre for English Language Teaching (CELT) in Sri Lanka by the EFLU of Hyderabad, India, and will conduct examinations for certification of English Language skills of teachers, and help develop Distance Learning Programmes through the Sri Lankan electronic media.

Recent surveys by the Presidential Secretariat show that Sri Lanka has nearly 21,000 largely-untrained persons teaching English in the government primary and secondary schools, and as many as 1,690 private tutoring institutes spread throughout the country teaching English with teachers untrained in English Language teaching skills.

They cater to the huge demand for learning the English Language for different needs of skills and communication.

The result is that only a very small number of persons qualify for jobs in the service sector that require knowledge of English, which is adversely affecting investment in the country and the opportunities for advancement of youth.

The 'English as a Life Skill' programme is organized jointly by the Presidential Secretariat and the Board of Investment, with the assistance of the High Commission for India in Sri Lanka.

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