Education in Sri Lanka has been affected by political and religious trends. The Aryan Indian Prince Vijaya conquered Sri Lanka who estanlished a Singhalese kingdom (6th century BC). Buddhism reached Sri Lanka (3rd century BC) and became the dominant religion. Anuradhapura became a great Buddhist religious site and important educational center. Unlike India itself, Hinduism did not supplant Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The education system of Sri Lanka until colonial times was primarily controlled by Buddhist monks and designed for a small elite. The Mogol emperors of India never conquered the country are brought Islam. Arab traders arrived (12-13 th century). The Portuguese estanlished comntrol over coastal areas (16th century). The Dutch seized control (1658). The Portuguese and the Dutch introduced modern schools to the island, but schools with religious purposes. The British seized the Dutch and native settlements during the war associated with the French Revolution and Napoleon. The British introduced modern secular education. The British colony was known as Ceylon. The country achieved its independence within the British Commonwealth (1948). The current name of Sri Lanka was adopted. Sri Lanka's current education has a strong British imprint. Sri Lanka's educational achievements since independence are some of the most impressive in the developing world.
The Aryan Indian Prince Vijaya conquered Sri Lanka who estanlished a Singhalese kingdom (6th century BC). Buddhism reached Sri Lanka (3rd century BC) and became the dominant religion. Anuradhapura became a great Buddhist religious site and important educational center. Unlike India itself, Hinduism did not supplant Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The education system of Sri Lanka until colonial times was primarily controlled by Buddhist monks and designed for a small elite. The great majority of the populsation, rural peasants, were illiterate. Within the Sinhalese, learning was seen as associated with Buddhist monks. Literate monks would teach the children of the elite in the pansal, or temple school. The curriculum was the Sinhala alphabet and a great deal of memorization work--mostly Buddhist literature and other material related to Buddhism. The system was different in the north among Hindu Tamils. There education was structured on the basis of the caste stytem.
The Mogol emperors of India never conquered the island are brought Islam to it. Sri Lanka's strategic location in the Indin Ocean made it important to counties attempting to engage in the lucritive commerce between East and West. This brought a range of foreign groups. Arab traders arrived (12th-13th century). I'm not sure to what extent the Arabs gained control over local ports. A small number of Sri Lankan Muslims tracetheir ancestry to these Arab traders. The Chinese admiral Cheng Ho stopped in Sri Lanka (15th century). But the Chinese decided not to establish an oceanic empire. The Portuguese did established comntrol over coastal areas (16th century). The Dutch seized control (1658). I am not entirely sure at this time how this affected education. The Europeans brought new schools to Sri Lanka. Here the goals were both religious and an effort to prepare capable children to work in the colonial administrations. The schools founded almost entirely educated boys. Portuguese missionaries founded the first European schools. They built about 100 schools, mostly in the coastal regions around Portuguese communities--especially in the southwestern lowlands. The schools promoted Chhristianity and a Christian community took root. Thd Dutch after sizing the island (1656), founded the first extensive system of primary schools. Here religion was a again key factor and missionaries from the Dutch Reformed Church. Colonia reports suggest that by 1760, the Dutch had founded 130 schools attended by 65,000 students, mostly boys.
It was the British that were to have the greatest impact on Sri Lanka. The British seized the Dutch and native settlements during the war associated with the French Revolution and Napoleon. The British seized the Dutch settlements (1795-96). The Netherlands at the time had been over run by armies of the new Freanch Republic. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the British cemented their control over Ceylon by conquering the Kandy Kingdom (1815).
The British seizure of power at first had a negative impact on education. The British closed many of the Dutch schools. The new British colonial government eventually addressed the issue of education. The Clonial government gradually began to fund schools. These schools promoted Christisanity. It was not, however, a major effort. One source suggests that by 1870 there were oinly about 20,000 children in the colonial schools. The schools were taught in English and the children were mostly Christians from the southwestern low country. It was this tis section of the population that became the mainstay of the colonial administration. The British did not tamper with the traditinal education system. Thus the Tamil and Sinhala schools with their Hindu nd Buddhist foundation continued. The colonial government began to make a more expansive role in education with major reforms (1870). The government began to substantially increase the number of schools. They also made financial grants available to found private schools. (Provate schools were an important part of British education at the time.) Those wishing to found prvate schools had to been certain strndards. We note a Sri Lankan boy in a school uniform we think in the 1890s. The government also founded medical and law colleges in Colombo.
The result was a very substabtial increase in the number of children educated. Colonian records report over 200,000 students in 1900. The education system still focused on the Christian minority. As in Britain, the best road to a good career (often in the colonial government), was to attend one of the new private schools. These schools were mostly affiliated with Chritian denominations and located in the southwest. Most of the students were Christians and to a lesser extent Tamils. Primary schools education was available in English, Tamil, and Sinhala, but secondary schools were taught in English. This meant that parents who wanted their children to persue their educatioin had to enroll them in an English-language primary. Another problem was the education of wommen. One 1921 study found that while about half of Christians were literate, the rates with other groups were very low: Buddhists (17 percent), Hindus (10 percent), and Muslims (6 percent). Major reforms occurred in the 1930s. The Ministry of Education came under the control of elected representatives rather than British appointees. The Ministry gradually assumed direct controll over the schools. At the time of independence the Ministry operated about 60 percent of the schools and teacher-training colleges. The Ministry adopted a policy of universal literacy. Education in state schools was free. The Ministry sought to make education more accesible and opened elementary and technical schools in rural areas. Greater emphasis was placed on vernacular education. The University of Ceylon was founded during World War II (1942). This mean that their was free education availble from kindergarten through the university.
The country achieved its independence within the British Commonwealth (1948). The current name of Sri Lanka was adopted. Sri Lanka's current education has a strong British imprint.
Sri Lanka at the time of independence had a substantial education infrastructure. The British left Sri Lanka with the basis of a modern school system. There were, however, some substantial inequities associated with the system, involving religious, geographic, and gender inequalities. Some were the result of British policies others were the result of traditional Sri Lanka society.
The Sri Lankan Government with indendence gave considerable emphasis to expanding the education system. The Government by about 1985 had increased the number of schools (50 percent), increased the number of students (300 percent), and the number of teachers increased (400 percent). As Sri Lanka already had many primary schools, the growth has been especially important in secondary education. There were about 1.2 million students (1985). This was about one-third of the country's students. Private schools continue to plsay an important role in the country's education. Teachers were the largest group of state government employees, exxcept for the plantations (mostly tea) now operated by the government. More than 90 percent of the population is now literate and almost all of the younger cohart. Sri Lanka's educational achievements since independence are some of the most impressive in the developing world.
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