My forty-year-old love affair with the British Council began rather casually in September 1977, when I sought membership at the Kandy library. I had registered for my Masters in Education at the University of Peradeniya and found the British Council an alternative resource to the University Library. The place was small and homely and became the centre of many academic and cultural activities.
I had been writing a little at the University in my undergraduate days and the latent impulse seemed to surface and I was gratified to see my writing appreciated by Professor Halpe – my first-year lecturer. He had established the Srilanka Branch of the Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies and as chairperson arranged a reading for me at the British Council. I was launched as a writer!
The British Council was small and homely and became the centre of many academic and cultural activities.
The bond with the British Council strengthened after joining the English Teachers’ College at Peradeniya as a lecturer. I was given a scholarship to the University of Lancaster where I researched the use of literary material for the development of Language Skills in teacher trainees. At Lancaster, I met many notable academics in the field. On my return, I joined the Pasdunrata College of Education, which was a pioneering project of the Ministry of Education. There, I could experiment with what I had done in Lancaster. Ray Brown, KELTA officer attached to the ministry encouraged me, guided my research and together we presented a paper in Singapore. It was a great experience, presenting a paper with such an experienced and renowned ELT specialist. I was initiated into research!
In 1980 I joined the HIEE (Higher Institute for English Education), which was known as the flagship for English Education, in Sri Lanka at the time and my bonding with the British Council became closer and deeper. It was a venue for visiting specialists like Rod Ellis and there were constant debate and exchange on ELT matters. My interest in Literature was acknowledged even then and the British Council facilitated my participation in the 9th Oxford Conference on Teaching Literature. The experience was indescribable. It was the greatest experience of my life. I could actually see and interact with the greatest men and women in the field. The result was the paper I wrote and published in Teaching Literature: A World Perspective, edited by Christopher Brumfit. I was recognized as someone to count on, in the field of literature teaching, especially in ESL and EFL contexts.
My interest in Literature was acknowledged even then and the British Council facilitated my participation in the 9th Oxford Conference on Teaching Literature. The experience was indescribable.
I would say without hesitation that the British Council helped me acquire my multiple identities: as an ELT Professional, a Teacher Educator, a Researcher, a Poet and an Award-Winning Writer.
Thank you British Council.
Footnote: Kamala Wijeratne has received many State Literary Awards for her work and received the Sahitya Ratna lifetime award in 2019. She also received an award from the National Institute of Education, Maharagam at the National RESC conference (2019) for her contribution to ELT.