LITERACY: Computer literacy and English language skills are
necessary to build a competent employee required by the corporate
sector. However this competency is absent in many educated youth.
This is in spite of increased Government and parental spending.
These two important subject areas have not reached the expected
level of achievement because they also have been taught by teachers
at classes but not been learnt by the students.
They did not learn English or ICT because they had not used either,
in the process of learning.
This dilemma reminds us about the famous Chinese proverb which
says “You forget what you hear and see, but remember what you do”.
We have been teaching computer skills and English but it had no
immediate use to the learner, especially to those who live in rural
environments. In such an environment it is difficult to motivate
them to learn and especially motivate them to consolidate what they
Hence if we are to promote the two subjects, within the rural
community, we should find out an immediate application for those,
within such communities.
If ICT and English can be used to develop the village, then there is
a need for the lads to learn. If there are tourists with whom they
have to transact in English they would learn English.
If there are enquiries for their products from foreign countries
they would learn English and ICT to communicate. If the village is
benefited by information provided by the web they will look into the
If the web allows them to get an application form (download) they
will search the web. If that can be filled up and sent
electronically they would gladly look for the web.
There is one particular experiment that stands out with regards to
English and ICT education. This was referred recently even by the
President as well, on the topic of education. He talked of the
necessity of having similar initiatives in the other villages of Sri
The interest expressed by the head of the State on the subject has
brought many to think about getting similar results. However, any
replication has to be tried out after careful study about the
If one is careful enough to study what had happened in
Mahavillachchiya he/she will find that there was more to it than
teaching ICT and English.
Both those essential elements were used to transact with the rest of
the world to get assistance to their village. Hence both ICT and
English were used. Hence those were learnt.
What the pioneers at Mahavillachchiya did was to create the
necessary environment for the children to learn English and ICT. The
children had something more to achieve by learning both those; other
than learning for the sake of learning.
They had to use those to realise the expectations of the village and
the education system that was set before them. They had aspirations
to meet, which they could not without English and ICT.
More than technology and knowledge
To take this kind of initiative you also need a person more than an
English teacher with ICT literacy. It requires a person who is
environment sensitive and also with a knack for self learning.
Contents are taught at school. But you need to understand the
context in which you are supposed to apply those contents. Contexts
have to be self-learnt by being sensitive to the environment and by
engaging with it.
It is learnt in the process of dealing with it. Most of our school
products fail in this experiment.
They are scared to interact and learn; they expect somebody to spoon
feed them as what was done in the school.
But contexts cannot be taught; they are different; they are time and
space bound. Only entrepreneurship will provide this initiative of
interacting with the context with view of learning it.
It is difficult to teach entrepreneurship but you can identify the
potential entrepreneurs and empower them.
Mahavillachchiya had such an entrepreneur in the name of Nandasiri
Wanninayake. We need to have similar entrepreneurs in the villages
that we are going to replicate the same (e-village program).
Once selected, they have to be empowered. They will then join with
English teachers and ICT literates to create the e-village.
Identifying and empowering entrepreneurs
Hence it is suggested that we put some effort in identifying these
entrepreneurs in the selected villages and empower them through a
facilitation program, where brain storming sessions would be the
basic methodology in getting them oriented towards the initiative.
Distance Learning Centre Ltd, where I work, had undertaken two
successful programmes in empowering such entrepreneurs.
Our experience had been that empowering entrepreneurs is not hard
but identifying and selecting them is. The reason is that they are
not available in large numbers given the education and training
environment that exist in the country.
The e-village programme can meet the expectations of the
educationists with this kind of intervention (identifying and
empowering entrepreneurs who will use the two tools- English and ICT-
in bringing a change in the village).
Secondary Education Modernisation Project has understood this
position very much and is in the process of facilitating this
The same model could be applied to other subjects as well. The motto
should be that one should use something if he wants to learn it.
The writer is CEO, Distance Learning Centre Ltd.