Started small group classes and registered as a proprietorship business
Moved to a new (Anchaneya building) facility with a greater number of students
Started a new branch in Kalmunai
Introduced Cambridge International Examinations with 34 candidates in Batticaloa
1st ever Cambridge Examination in Batticaloa by British Council. In fact the 1st ever outstation session for British Council.
New franchisee in Kalmunai
New franchisee in Kaluwanchchikudy
Registered as a Private Limited Company
Signed a partnership agreement with an International Company, namely, DynEd International Inc., as a channel partner for Sri Lanka and the Maldives
New branch in Ja Ela
1st IELTS examination in Batticaloa
Left Anchaneya Building and started operating in two separate facilities
Back to Anchaneya Building – Operation under one roof
New branch in Chenkalady
Bought a new land for Headway in Thamaraikeni Road, Arasady, Batticaloa
Register our sister company ‘Headway Learning Solutions Private Limited’
Start the new building work [Watch video…]
Moved to our own building
Started operating fully on solar power.
It was 1997 when two young men approached the Jesuits Academy situated in Jesuits’ residence housed in St. Michael’s College, asking for a room for rent to start a small tuition center to teach English. Naaren Moharanjithan and Jegan Henry Casinather wanted to try a new business since the latter was very confident that the former was an efficient teacher. Naaren, who was already a government Teacher of English had used ‘Headway’ English language course books, an Oxford publication, to teach some English to prepare Jegan for an International Accounting Exam that had an English component.
The book was so engrossing for both the teacher and the student; they named their institute ‘Headway College of English’. Contrary to typical stories of many businesses that struggle at the beginning, ‘Headway’ saw very good progress right from the inception. Student numbers grew from fives to fifteens, from twenties to forties and from forties to sixties. Soon, Headway became a popular choice for most post O/L and A/L students. After two years, Jegan left the country and Naaren went to the University of Peradeniya to follow his English language degree.
Headway was closed temporarily for two years except for classes held now and then when the teacher had long vacations.When Naaren had an opportunity of visiting the UK on a British Council Scholarship in 2002, things changed. On his return, one of his friends who lived in the UK, helped him to take Headway to the next level. The friend, who was magnanimous in investing on the business as a partner, suggested that Headway should move to a bigger place because of the growing numbers. Headway moved to its current place at Ancheneye building in Arasady in 2003. Soon, the numbers grew exponentially and ‘Headway’ had to invite extra staff and teachers to meet the challenge. In the meantime, Naaren left his government job as a teacher at St. Michael’s College and became a full-time teacher and manager at Headway.
Headway was growing fast both in popularity and student numbers for almost a year and a half. However, when the 2004 Asian tsunami devastated Batticaloa, Headway was almost bankrupt. Although the UK partner left the business for his own personal reasons, Headway continued its services in spite of a heavy financial loss. People were so frustrated that they did not have the encouragement to study English. They had so many other things to worry about; loss of relatives, loss of property and businesses and most importantly, lack of finances. This dull period lasted for about six months but the team was steady since the staff was ready to work for very low wages. When NGOs started their missions in the east, rebuilding the region, a sudden realization dawned upon the younger generation that they needed English fluency to get decent jobs and to get paid well.
An unprecedented escalation of business was experienced and ‘Headway’ finally became a household name not only in Batticaloa, but also in the entire Eastern region. Headway opened its first branch in Kalmunai in 2003 and later handed it over to a franchisee who has been contributing immensely in broadening its services. Eventually, another franchise arrangement was successfully signed in Kaluvanchikudy. Witnessing the success in these two operations, and considering the need of English language training in rural areas, the latest franchisee was opened in 2015 in Kokadichcholai. In 2014, a need in the north of Batticaloa was identified, and a branch in Chenkalady was opened. Additionally, opening a branch in JaEla in 2009 helped ‘Headway’ to serve in other districts too. In all these franchisees students follow the same materials used in Headway’s main branch in Batticaloa.
‘Do you have a good hotel for our examiners to stay?’ asked Mr.Gerald Yorwerth, the Examinations Service Manager for British Council. ‘And can we fly there?’ continued Mr. Richard Lunt, the country Exams Manager. The socio economic condition in Batticaloa in 2003 was not good enough to have a five star hotel, nor could anyone fly there except for the military, and the questions were embarrassing to answer. These questions were asked when Naaren approached British Council to invite them to Batticaloa to conduct Cambridge Exams for Headway students. After a long discussion, both the gentlemen agreed to send the Cambridge Exam team to Batticaloa under one condition; ‘Headway must have at least 100 candidates’. Having agreed to this condition, Naaren returned to Batticaloa and the Headway team took up the challenge of convincing parents and collecting 100 names for KET and PET exams for the June 2003 exams session.
That was a time when there were not much support materials. There were not any model papers or CDs for the listening test. The internet was a luxury, only used to send e-mails in many cases. The only available material was the handbook from Cambridge University, introducing two sample test papers. The teachers had to record the listening tape scripts using local voices. They retyped the sample paper given in the handbook to be distributed among parents, to convince them that their children should be able to sit for the exams. Finally, with all their genuine efforts they could only collect 71 students – 57 KET and 14 PET candidates. In order to persuade Headway, British Council generously agreed to come, although the number was not what they had wished for. In June 2003 the first ever Cambridge ESOL exam session in the eastern region was successfully conducted, headed by Mr.Gerald Yorwerth. Incidentally, for British Council, this was their first ever exams in an outstation venue.
Ever since, Cambridge exams were held twice a year, in June and in December. Parents considered these International exams as an important part in their children’s education. They had the realization that without a good command in English, it is very difficult to compete in the job market or to pursue higher studies. Their confidence in Headway as an efficient provider of Cambridge English exams training was strengthened when two teachers from Headway were trained and certified as Cambridge examiners. It is the parents’ support and perseverance that made this long journey with British Council possible in spite of the relentless civil war in the country (from 1983 to 2009). When the war turned severe, the British High Commission advised British Council to avoid traveling to the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. However, the teachers and the parents did not want to give up the exam sessions. They were ready to allow their children to travel as far as Kandy or Polannaruwa to sit for exams. It is their trust with Headway that gave strength to the staff to organize exam sessions in outstations; booking exam venues in hotels, obtaining permission from the police and military, hiring transport for the candidates and passing checkpoints explaining why they were taking a large number of students. The worst fear was the frequent clashes between the militants and the security forces. And candidates had to be taken from Batticaloa to Polannaruwa, a passage where such clashes were very common. Facing all such challenges, to date, 3717 Headway students have benefited from Cambridge exams, and the service will continue for many years to come. However, things changed in 2009 and British Council visits have now become very frequent for Cambridge and IELTS exams as well as for award ceremonies.
Along with offering Cambridge exams, another milestone was silently achieved; introduction of IELTS (International English Language Testing Systems) in Batticaloa. It was 2001 when a Headway student approached Naaren and asked him if he could help him with a relatively new test called IELTS. The student prepared for the exam and got through with sufficient band scores to study abroad. This gave another opportunity to serve. During those days, the only place to prepare for IELTS was Colombo and the travel time was almost ten hours. IELTS classes at Headway were indeed the best arrangement anyone could have in the east. Later on, British Council agreed to have IELTS sessions in Batticaloa and accept Headway as one of their registration centers. Ever since, IELTS sessions have become a common event in the Headway calendar. Eventually, Headway became a platinum registration center for British Council.
Along with its devastating results, the 2004 tsunami also brought its own blessings; infrastructure developed, new jobs were created, International non-government organizations started to focus on developing the region and several local industries were restored. Just as many other organizations, the American Embassy too was interested in developing English language skills among young people in several parts of the country. Searching for a suitable method to teach English in the most efficient way, they found out DynEd English language Learning Solutions, a software to teach English. A state of the art computer based English language lab was created by USAID at the Batticaloa Public library to provide free classes for young people who were looking for jobs. DynEd was installed at this lab by the embassy and Naaren was invited by USAID and the Municipality to whom the language lab belonged, to head this project for two years. As a result of the successful implementation of the project from 2005 to 2007, DynEd International, Inc., the service provider, offered Headway the opportunity to market its product to the entire country.
The offer was considered and to sign the agreement with an international company, Headway had to achieve yet another milestone; becoming a limited liability company. Thus, ‘Headway College of English’ was renamed ‘Headway School of Languages Pvt. Ltd. in 2006. As an English language company, Headway broadened its services to many parts of the country. In partnership with NGOs, private companies and some government departments, it was possible to gain a countrywide experience of teaching English. Currently, Headway is serving the country in partnership with DynEd under another name; HLS-Headway Learning Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Operating from its Ja-Ela office, HLS is currently working with partners such as Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, Sri Lankan Airlines’ Aviation College, SOS, Don Bosco, Ave Maria Convent in Negombo and American Centers in Colombo, Jaffna and Kandy.
Headway has experienced the most difficult periods of our history. It had endured a very long civil war and two worst national disasters in the recent history of Sri Lanka; the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 floods. The financial challenges Headway had to face during these periods are only known to its directors and bankers. In spite of all such trying circumstances, the Directors, the Management and many of the staff did not want to give up their efforts in continuing their journey. They could have easily migrated to peaceful countries or moved to a safer place within the country. But they refused to do so mainly because of their rapport with the parents and other stake holders, and as well as, a strong desire to serve their own country. ‘Ancheneye Complex’ which has already become synonymous with the word ‘Headway’ has been unquestionably instrumental in the latter’s growth. Headway has been already providing the best service a student can receive from a language school, when it comes to the text books and teaching techniques. It has been using the best assessment tools and the best software to teach English in collaboration with two main players in the field of English language teaching; British Council and DynEd. Young learners are using laptops and tablets to learn English and older students are progressing from one stage to another using the most interesting learning materials. However, Headway wishes to provide more; air- conditioned classrooms, sophisticated equipment such as interactive whiteboards, a more modern language lab and a canteen to support the long distant students etc. It is certain that this dream will come true and as the company’s vision statement reminds, Headway will continue its journey to ‘produce citizens who can perform the best in life by using English language as a tool’.
When the thirty-five years of the Sri Lankan civil war came to an end in 2009, the economy was expected to boom unprecedentedly. Batticaloa started to attract competitors. A number of them started their services in the eastern region and posed a threat to Headway’s existence. However, understanding as per the saying ‘when the going gets tough, only the toughest gets going’, the admin and the teachers continued to focus on their strength, mainly quality. The board of directors then realised that it was time they invested on infrastructure and began their dream of owning their purpose built school building. Ranjith Antony Thevasgayam, now evolved as the CEO, took the initial steps to research on the most feasible type of structure we could afford. After several discussions and meetings with construction companies, it was decided to go with Advantis Pvt. Ltd. (a subsidiary of Hayleys Group of Companies) to construct a three-story school building entirely with containers, a modern and the quickest method of construction. National Development Bank agreed to lend the required funds for the project. Constructions began on April 26th 2018, when people in Arasady Batticaloa wondered why cranes and long vehicles started to swam Thamaraikeni Road since the dawn! Within two and a half months the entire building stood gigantically with all the facilities a language school should have. The new facility was declared opened by the Former Government Agent Mr.Manickam Uthayakumar and the directors, in the presence of religious dignities, students, parents, staff, well-wishers, the bankers and family members. Thus, Headway reached one of its greatest milestones heading towards a broader horizon.
As an initiative to encourage the younger generation to choose environmentally friendly behaviours and live sustainably with less waste and damage to the environment, Headway intended to use solar panels to power its new facility. In fact, using solar energy to run our new facility was indeed part of our bigger dream of owning a school building. At the moment 179 panels generate green energy not only to power the entire building, but also to contribute partly to the national grid.
To produce citizens who can perform the best in life by using English language as a tool. When they leave HEADWAY they should be able to understand, speak, read and write English fluently.
“Enjoy Learning English”