Members of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia Visit
15th November 2017
It all began on 23rd February 2017 when the Rev. Dr. Maher Spurgeon, Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant for South Asia programs and Dr. WaiChing Angela Wong, Vice President for Programs visited St. John’s College. They were both representatives of the United Board that was instrumental in admitting four Displaced School Children from St. John’s to Madras Christian College in August 2016. The board draws its strength from its Christian identity and values and helps to develop institutions that offer multidisciplinary education and that nurture a spirit of compassion, equity, reconciliation, social responsibility, and mutual respect among religious and cultural traditions.
The duo had a meeting with the Principal, the Rev. N.J.Gnanaponrajah when they visited the College in February. The meeting was aimed at understanding Sri Lanka’s higher education landscape and enriching the educational experience of students.
The discussion centred on helping educators to increase the effectiveness of their teaching. The need to design and implement programs that enable students to connect their classroom learning to the needs of communities and Peace Education were also discussed.
During the course of the meeting, it was decided to send some resource persons from India to have workshops in Jaffna soon after the school closes for the second term in August.
As planned in February, 7 resource persons from India came to Jaffna on the evening of5th August 2017 and conducted a series of leadership workshops from 7thAugust to 11thAugust 2017 (Monday to Friday).
94 teachers participated; 23 from Chundikuli Girls’ College, Jaffna, 9 fromMowbray College, Kandy, 4 from Nuffield School, Jaffna, 5 from St Patrick’s College, Jaffna, 9 from Jaffna College, Vaddukkoddai, 19 from Uduvil Girls’ College and 25 from St. John’s College
The workshops were aimed at developing the whole person – intellectually, spiritually, and ethically.
The five-day Training Programme for Teachers organized by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia in collaboration with the Faculty of Christian Education and Sports Management of St. John's College, Jaffna was deemed extremely useful by all the participants. The high turnout at these workshops during the August vacation spoke volumes of how effective they had been!
All the seven participating schools gave positive feedbacks that were straight from the heart. A teacher who attended this workshop was overheard by the Editor, saying, ‘This is one workshop I wish hadn’t ended so soon!’ Her prayers were heard! On 15.11.2017, a team from the United Board arrived once again to discuss about the need to have more workshops.
The representatives of the United Board met the Faculty of Christian Civilization, University of Jaffna during their visit.
The Principal welcomed the Rev. Dr. Maher Spurgeon -Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant for South Asia programs, Dr. WaiChing Angela Wong - Vice President for Programs, Dr. Nancy E. Chapman - President, Ricky M. Cheng - Executive Vice President and Dr. Judith A. Berling - Secretary & Chair, Program Committee, Board of Trustees, to a meeting in his office and thanked them for the support they continued to extend for the last two years.
The President reminisced about the past and remarked, ‘I did not expect the partnership between us and St. John’s College to develop so fast. This is a wonderful school at the reins of which is a wonderful leadership that is committed to developing the school and the community. I must thank the Principal for all the support he readily extended to us.’
She briefed the gathering about how the United Board took birth in China and spread its ministry to other parts of Asia. She quipped, ‘The United Board is a 90 year old Foundation. I must admit it is much younger than St. John’s College.’
Dr. Nancy also spoke briefly about the aims, visions and functions of the Board. ‘We are united in God’s work and we are active in more than fifteen places. Sri Lanka is our most recent friend. On second thoughts, we did have links with Jaffna College in the early 1970s but it gradually tapered to nothing. It is nice to have our presence here again.’
Ricky Cheng joined in then and said, ‘This is the first time I am here and I am really impressed. This school is one of the premier schools in Sri Lanka. The Principal aims to take it to the university level and we are ready to lend our support and share our experiences in this regard. One day, we want to see St. John’s top the list of universities in Sri Lanka! Many Colleges and Universities came from very humble backgrounds. They were, once, schools like yours that nurtured leaders to the community, to the country and to the world!
At this point the Principal invited the Coordinator of the Faculty of Language Studies, Mr. C.A.Pararajasingam and the Coordinator of the Faculty of Christian Education of St. John’s College Continuing Education, the Rev. V.D.Jeyaruban to talk about the courses offered for school leavers and drop-outs. After the activities of the two units were outlined, the Reverend concluded his thoughts by saying, ‘We want to improve our faculty to be in par with university standards and we invite you to help us in this regard.’
Okay, but for starters, let’s begin by giving us your feedback about the workshop we had during August this year,’ said Angela Wong.
Mr.S.Uiroviyum, Mr. V.Kumanan, Mr. N.Shanmugathasan and the Rev. V.D.Jeyaruban told about how effective the five-day workshops had been. They told about how micro-teaching and the concept of teaching children through games had made a great positive impact on their students. They said that they were now better tuned to the needs of the students after attending the series of workshops.
were sharing whatever they learnt and the ready answer was, ‘There are 125 academic staff at St. John’s College and only 25 staff from our college attended the workshops. These twenty-five beneficiaries took a series of workshops for the rest of the 100 staff over a period of one week.’
At one point, the conversation turned towards a holistic education. ‘Is the concept of developing the whole person, new to you? We are committed towards developing a person intellectually, spiritually, and ethically,’said Wong. ‘Well, the Vision of St. John’s is to create an ethos for students to attain excellence spiritually, academically, morally and socially,’ replied the Principal with a glimmer in his eyes. There seems to be a lot in common between the two institutions.
Angela spoke about Service-Learning that the United Board focuses on and asked if St. John’s was involved in any such activity. Without a moment’s hesitation, the Principal of St. John’s talked about the various community projects the students of St. John’s were involved in particularly, about the visit to Mullaitivu where the teachers and students helped the students of the remote school in subjects like Maths and Science, Sports Skills, Scouting etc. Here, service is more emphasized than learning which is often less recognized or reflected formally in teaching learning process.
‘What do you want us to do?’ asked Angela, quite pleased with the community involvements St. John’s fostered. ‘Last year, your Principal suggested that instead of inviting 8 teachers from the North to India to attend workshops, 8 resource persons from India can come to Jaffna and conduct workshops for numerous teachers. The number of beneficiaries will be much higher this way. We heeded your suggestion and did exactly that! Give us more ideas – we will try to work together as best as we can. The suggestions that were put forward are given below:
- We want the workshops to be different. But we want it to be an annual event as we gathered a lot from these workshops.
- St. John’s is going towards a Research Based Education. As a preliminary step, teachers were asked to write research articles. We have shortlisted the best five and will soon be putting them up on the College website. We need more guidance on research based learning.
- In this post-war period, we need counseling for students and parents
- We need guidance on managing large class sizes.
- Finding alternative methods to corporal punishment to discipline students is the need of the hour.
The Principal also talked about the various other programmes that the Christian Faculty was involved in like the ‘World Needs a Father.’ ‘We try to bring the Heaven to Earth. ‘Thy Kingdom Come!’ We have to work for His Kingdom to come. Otherwise it won’t’ said the Principal.
Let’s all unite to work towards it…
SJC’s Association with the United Board
- 18th March 2016 - Dr. Nancy E. Chapman - President of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia and her team, Dr. Judith A. Berling - Vice-Chair & Chair, Program Committee, and Rev. Dr. Maher Spurgeon - Regional Programs Consultant, visited the college
- In July 2016, the United Board brought four Principals from India and an Acting Vice Chancellor from Bangladesh to St. John’s College.
- July 2016 - Four students were awarded scholarships to Madras Christian College.
- 3rd – 7th October 2016 - Our Vice Principal, Mr. A. H. Gnanarajan and teacher, Mr.N.Shanmugathasan participated in a Capacity Building Programme in Chennai, India - organized by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.
- 17th– 21st October 2016 - Our Vice Principal, Mr. V. S. B. Thuseetharan and teacher, Mr.K.S. Muhunthan participated in a Capacity Building Programme in Chennai, India - organized by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.
- 23rd February 2017 Rev. Dr. Maher Spurgeon - Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant for South Asia programs and Dr. Wai Ching Angela Wong - Vice President for Programs visited St. John’s College
- 17th April to 21st April 2017 - The Principal participated in the Advanced Leadership Programme in Pune, India - organized by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.
- 7th August to 11th August 2017 - Seven resource persons from India came to Jaffna and conducted a series of leadership workshops for94 teachers from 7 schools.
- 15.11.2017 - The Rev. Dr. Maher Spurgeon - Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant for South Asia programs, Dr. WaiChing Angela Wong - Vice President for Programs, Dr. Nancy E. Chapman - President, Ricky M. Cheng - Executive Vice President and Dr. Judith A. Berling - Secretary & Chair, Program Committee, Board of Trusteesarrived in Jaffna once again to discuss about the need to have a second round of workshops.