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The Role of English in Conflict Transformation November 20, 2009

Posted by Catherine in English for Progress.
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Gill Westaway, Director, British Council Sri Lanka, and Duncan Wilson, Head Project English, British Council Sri Lanka, presented the STEPS (Skills Through English for Public Servants) project which has been implemented in Sri Lanka.  The project was completed in partnership with GTZ (an NGO), and Psyche Kennet was cited as the main contributor to the materials development. 

Gill told us how according to the UNHCR, the number of people affected by conflict is now at all time high.  Gill explained how educational programmes can contribute to conflict transformation, starting from the empowerment of different communities and marginalised groups through a fair selection process and even grouping of candidates on training programmes.  The role of English as a link language is also obvious in countries such as Sri Lanka where the national languages of Sinhala and Tamil have become social and ethnic dividers. 

We saw how a task-based language learning approach also supports conflict transformation in that it encourages sub-skills of critical thinking, skills which mirror the principles of conflict resolution.  Duncan showed us how the classroom materials they use on the STEPS project integrate language learning with the content element of conflict resolution, as well as the interactional skills of negotiating, debating, coming to a consensus, etc, skills which are of obvious use in conflict resolution. 

 This has been a very successful project, the principles of which could in theory be replicated in other areas which are experiencing similar conflicts.

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