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Unity in Diversity

By R.N.A. de Silva

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” The spirit of this quote by William James is demonstrated by the connections that two very different schools have been working to develop. Sujatha Balika Vidyalaya Girls’ School (Sujatha BV) in Colombo 5, Sri Lanka was inaugurated in 2009 with just 13 students. Each year another grade has been added, and now it has classes up to Grade 9 with over 1,200 students.
Within a short time, this school has shown that it is on its way to becoming a high-quality educational institution for the country. Two years back, when school administrators had trouble finding a mathematics teacher to take on the senior English medium class, they sought the assistance of the Overseas School of Colombo.
The Overseas School of Colombo is regarded as the most prestigious international school in the country. It is the oldest accredited international school in Sri Lanka and the only institution to offer the highly recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) educational program. The school’s enrollment is about 400, consisting of roughly 50 different nationalities with a manageable teacher-student ratio. The school provides resources to create an ideal atmosphere for excellence in education and the development of the whole person.
On learning that the students of Sujatha BV were without a mathematics teacher, Nimal de Silva, head of the Overseas School’s mathematics department, took on the task of offering classes on a voluntary basis, in his spare time. Through these lessons, positive links were created between the two schools.
Students of the Grade 9 class at Sujatha BV have visited the Overseas School on two occasions and gained first-hand experience of how classes are conducted through inquiry-based learning techniques and the use of resources to obtain a maximum benefit from these lessons. According to these visiting students, there is a lot more discussion in the classrooms than in local schools and here the classes are conducted in a cordial manner with a very friendly relationship between the teacher and the students. They also found that technology is used extensively in lessons and that all students make use of laptop computers. They were thrilled to have had the opportunity to use smart boards.
In return, the Sujatha BV girls conducted a dancing lesson for the benefit of Grade 5 students at the Overseas School. These students were excited to learn a Sri Lankan dance which they have planned to keep practicing in view of performing it at the Sri Lankan Independence Day Assembly in February 2017. With this experience, the eyes of the girls were opened to different systems of imparting knowledge, an important lesson going forward. They also met with the Head of the Overseas School of Colombo, Phil Joslyn, who explained to them the vision and mission of the school and the importance of having goals, whether as an institution or an individual.
Through this project, a collaborative connection has been made between two very different schools. As Brigham Young said “No matter what your circumstances are, whether you are in prosperity or in adversity, you can learn from every person, transaction and circumstance around you.”

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