Well-known educator Elizabeth Moir Tenduf-La has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty The Queen in her Birthday Honours List 2014, for her services to British education and the teaching of English in Sri Lanka.
Ms Moir graduated in mathematics from Oxford University, where she stayed on to complete the Diploma in Education. Soon after leaving Oxford, Mrs Moir joined the Diocesan Girls’ School in Hong Kong where she established the A Level Mathematics department. After four years in Asia, Ms Moir returned to England where she worked as an IBM systems analyst in the capital’s financial district.
In 1982, she came to Sri Lanka, with her husband and three children, and founded the Colombo International School (CIS). Using the British curriculum and offering London O and A Level examinations, its main clientele was Sri Lankan parents who would otherwise have sent their children overseas to be educated. The fees were very modest and the doors were opened once again for Sri Lankan students to have a first-class English medium education. The school also managed to get the British Examination Departments to set O and A Level Sinhala examinations. During the unrest of the late 1980s, CIS continued to operate, with classes being held in different homes, fuelled by Ms Moir’s desire to demonstrate to her students that their education should not be sacrificed to circumstance.
In 1990, Ms Moir was requested by President Premadasa to run a multimedia English language programme on television and radio to give the rural people an equal opportunity to learn the English language that their counterparts in the towns enjoyed. She invited Barbara Goldsmith, a former Head of BBC English, to work with her. Her team bought the hugely successful English language programme ‘Follow Me’ from the BBC and used this with introductions in Sinhala and Tamil on the state radio and television at prime time. They had 80 language centres across the country from Jaffna in the North to Matara in the South, and held written and spoken English examinations set by the University of Warwick.
Ms Moir then moved on to found the British School in Colombo in 1994. She put together a group of trustees that included Lord Jack Butterworth, the first Vice Chancellor of Warwick University, Sir Frank Layfield QC and Dr Alistair Smith, the Overseas Representative of Aberdeen University.
Ms Moir was then persuaded by a group of parents to start the Elizabeth Moir School in 1995. The school has enjoyed enormous academic success, recently quoted in the Daily Telegraph as having the third best IGCSE results outside of the UK. The school places great emphasis on community services and seeks to mould global citizens. Mrs Moir is particularly involved with Sri Lanka Unites, a group that hopes to bring together youth from different communities, post-war.
Ms Moir’s past students have gone on to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL and Imperial College in the UK and to Harvard, Yale, MIT and Princeton in America.