Publication Details

Wickramasuriya, S. (2005). The present socio-economic-political culture & the myth of English as an access to social equality in post-colonial Sri Lanka. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference on the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (pp. 166-182). Armidale, NSW, Australia: Centre for Research on Education in Context, School of Education, University of New England.


This study investigates the myth of the English language as a means of access to equality in the post-colonial era in the present socio-economic-political climate in Sri Lanka. This is a literature-oriented research study based on the current state of the English language and the role of English language education, in facilitating the process of poverty reduction and the promotion of equality in Sri Lanka. The researcher attempts to clarify the opinions, biases, presuppositions and interpretations of the existing socio-economic and political culture in relation to English as a language of opportunities and equality. The analysis of the data reveals the dominant power of English as a global language, and the inequality in relation to access and allocation of public resources in diverse communities. Furthermore, it exposes recent proposals and the accountability of the government for the elimination of poverty and the myth about the English language as a panacea. The majority of Sri Lankans hold the view that English, as a universal language is vital not only for lucrative local or foreign employment opportunities, but also for equal social standing. The data reveal that while the affluent parents clamour for international or foreign schooling to secure better prospects for their children, the government faces increasing pressures to fulfil the demands of the majority of low income parents whose children attend to the state school system, it seems that access to equal opportunities, to learn English, has created a massive social gap between the elite and low-income communities. Thus the existing government has made an attempt to re-establish English as the medium of instruction and a compulsory subject in state schools. However, a conclusion could be drawn that the common use of English, the initiation of the language policy in education and the expectations of the masses could all be at odds. Thus this myth of English as a language of opportunities needs to be urgently addressed if the expected socioeconomic- political and national goals of elimination of poverty and promotion of equality are to be achieved in Sri Lanka.

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