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The United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia visits St. John’s

23rd February 2017

On 23rd February 2017, Rev. Dr. V. Maher. Spurgeon Nesapandian (M.A., M.A (Eco.), M.Phil., M.Th., Ph.D), Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant for South Asia programs, United Board and Vice President for Programs, Dr. Wai Ching Angela Wong met the Principals of Chundikuli Girls’ College, Jaffna College, Uduvil Girls’ College and of course the Principal of the host school, the Rev. N.J.Gnanaponrajah, at St. John’s College, Jaffna. The meeting was aimed at understanding Sri Lanka’s higher education landscape and enriching the educational experience of students.

The discussion was based mainly on three program areas: leadership development for higher education; faculty development for enhanced teaching and learning; community partnerships.

The representatives of the Board spoke about programs that strengthen the professional development of relatively senior staff at colleges and faculty members and administrators who deal directly with 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.

Subsequently the focus shifted towards undergraduate programs. The Principal of St. John’s talked about the NVQ programs that St. John’s College is accredited to teach, about the trilingual programmes and other programmes for school leavers and dropouts.

‘On an average, 175 students sit for the Advanced Level examinations through St. John’s every year. About 50 enter universities, some sit for the exam again, some get employed and others seek to continue their education by joining Technical Colleges and getting into the Open Education System. The gap between the number of students who pursue higher education and the number that is eligible was discussed. Higher educational opportunities for teachers too were talked over.

‘Providing tertiary education is very expensive. The government cannot afford to do it all alone and will very soon allow the private sector in. Soon, universities will start affiliating with one another. You have to be ready when it happens,’ said the Rev. Dr. V. Maher Spurgeon.

The representatives of the Board also asked for a feedback on the workshop they conducted in India for senior teachers of St. John’s, Chundikuli, Jaffna College and Uduvil Girls’ High School. The participants commented on how very useful the session had been. At this juncture the Principal said, ‘In the future, 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.’ The representatives agreed it was a good idea.

After a little deliberation, 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.  The workshop will:

  • take place for a week from 6th August 2017.
  • cover almost all subject areas. Teachers will be grouped according to the subjects they teach.
  • also focus on continuing education, sports and fine arts – anything and everything that concerns education.
  • aim at staff development
  • contain components like communicative skills, micro teaching (using video cameras), leadership skills etc
  • focus on new methodologies of teaching – away from the traditional talk and chalk method.


The Principal of St. John’s invited the Board to send trainee teachers to St. John’s the way Fulbright Scholar Program did. The Principal also said, ‘St. John’s will be happy to link with any foreign university to have degree programs recognized by the University Grants Commission. ‘We are ready to start even today!’ he concluded.

Abut the United Board

United Board is a 90 year old Foundation started in the USA to help colleges in China, spread its ministry to other parts of Asia including India from 1971. Its four fold focus includes Leadership Development, faculty improvement, community partnership and inter-religious initiatives. In addition to providing institutional grants and funding, it helps colleges to send proposals to ASHA, USAID etc. by serving as a nodal agent.

The United Board is committed to education that develops the whole person – intellectually, spiritually, and ethically. The board draws its strength from its Christian identity and values and collaboration with Asian colleges and universities. Together they prepare individuals for lives of professional and personal fulfillment and meaningful service in community with others. The United Board is a nongovernmental organization, registered as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization in the United States and as a public charity in Hong Kong.

The United Board endeavors to respond to the diverse challenges and opportunities facing educators in higher education in Asia, especially where the needs are great. The Board 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 programs carried out by the United Board support institutions to improve the quality of education. The Board sponsors professional training for faculty, administrators, and trustees, and foster linkages and networks among Asian institutions of higher education.

The United Board was instrumental in admitting four Displaced School Children from St. John’s to Madras Christian College in August 2016. It is a part of a fast-moving relationship between United Board network institutions in India and schools in the war-torn Jaffna region of northern Sri Lanka. Three Indian colleges in the United Board’s network – Lady Doak College, Madras Christian College, and Women’s Christian College – have extended scholarships to students from Sri Lanka. Each college will host four students.

Short Biography of Dr. V. Maher. Spurgeon Nesapandian

Rev. Dr. V. Maher. Spurgeon Nesapandian (M.A., M.A (Eco.), M.Phil., M.Th., Ph.D) is the Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant for South Asia programs, United Board. He was awarded a Distinguished Fellowship by the Colleges & Universities of the Anglican Communion. The honorary Distinguished Fellowship of CUAC is awarded to an individual who models exceptional service within the life of Anglican colleges and universities. He has strengthened Anglican education.

Maher Spurgeon develops and implements programs that advance whole person education in South Asia. He has been both a chaplain and a faculty member at Madras Christian College, teaching courses in religion and philosophy. He is said to have served as a chaplain to chaplains in India and beyond. He is an ordained priest in the order of Church of South India (Episcopal Church).

Short Biography of Dr. Wai Ching Angela Wong

Wai Ching Angela Wong was appointed as Vice President for Programs at the United Board on August 16, 2016. Dr. Wong is well-known for her service as a United Board trustee and member of the Advisory Committee for the Institute for Advanced Study in Asian Cultures and Theologies (IASACT). She is also known for her research, writing, and teaching in the fields of religion, gender studies, and cultural studies.

In her role as Vice President for Programs, she oversees the development and implementation of programs that advance whole person education and continue the United Board’s collaboration with educators at more than 80 Asian colleges and universities.

‘The “person” as the center of whole person education is important. Education is about passing on the way of life, the call to a vocation, and resolving queries in order to comprehend the truth. Education must be centered on the person for character formation and knowledge enhancement, so that a student can become a better person and serve the world better. This has largely been lost in the current university rat race for ranking, but this, I believe, is the reason that we at the United Board stand by our tradition and defend our mission,’ says Dr. Angela Wong.

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