Parvathie Nagasunderam, Life-Long Beacon to Teaching English.

One of the best known educationists in Sri Lanka who has dedicated herself for upgrading the standard of English in the country. Although retired from the state university system since 2006, she continues to extend her service as a visiting lecturer, writer of text books and untiring educationist.

She was born in Burma and she spent her early childhood in India. In 1945, when she was one-year-old, her family came back to Sri Lanka. Though her parents were born outside of Sri Lanka, their great grandfather and mother were native Sri Lankan. Her father D.N.Pillai served as an architect in Peradeniya University. She had her primary education at Kandy Girl’s High school and secondary at Jaffna College. She had followed the English teacher training programme at Palaly Teachers’ college in 1963. After completing training, she taught in various government schools in Central and Northern provinces. Completing about 15 years of teaching service, she joined Pasdunrata National College of Education after following a degree programme in the University of Peradeniya. She was sent to U.K on a scholarship by the British Council to follow a Masters Course in Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading. Later she joined the University of Sri Jayawardenepura from where she retired in 2006. Although retired from service, she continuous her service as an educationist for the country. 

She is considered as a well-versed grammarian; however, as she says, her grammar knowledge was zero at Teachers’ college. It was all her hard work and self-studies that improved her knowledge in depth. She is critical about teaching grammar in schools where students gain only explicit knowledge which help them to complete exams and do not enable them to use it for communication. She therefore, to bridge this gap introduced the book Grammar for communication which is equally helpful for both teachers and students. She designed the most popular external Degree syllabus in Sri Lanka for which most of the teachers of English enroll as candidates. She was of the view that the only way to uplift the standard of English is to design a programme aimed at teachers of English.

Although the withering injustice affected her studies badly which includes the burning of the Jaffna library, she considers every scholar as her student irrespective of class, cast and creed. This has created a number of successful students who have succeeded in their lives and take her as a role model of teaching.

She is a bit worried about the improvement of the standard of English in the country. However, she continues to sweat to nourish the sapling she planted. For that, she has started addressing the students directly. She has written the book Grammar for communication and hopes to write few more books on vocabulary, reading and writing.

I am personally inspired by her devotion on teaching and a fan of her wonderful sense of humor. Her methods in teaching have provided a multitude of examples for teachers including myself. She is a living example of untiring services for a nation. May she have the strength to continue the service as a country depend on silent warriors who truly and honestly serve their country.  

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