MICROSCOPIC MINORITY CONTROLS CEYLON’S EDUCATION
Posted on November 4th, 2017

By L. H. Mettananda

Date: Circa 1954

The forces that are working today against the continuation of the Swabahsa medium beyond 8th standard are certainly not a mushroom growth. It is
possible to trace their origins to the very beginnings of British rule in Ceylon. Just as the Kenya Government while engaged in the campaign to
oust the Kenya Africans from the more fertile and more salubrious part of the country has found it necessary also to wipe out the tradition, language
and culture of the Kenya Africans which bound them to their ancestral lands and has begun to work through the Christian missions and churches”, even
so the British Government in Ceylon entrusted the education of Ceylon children to the Christian church through the ecclesiastical Department which existed from the beginning of British rule until the year 1871 and thereafter continued to shower favours on the Christian Schools in a more subtle and surreptitious manner. This change of strategy was resorted to owing to the fact Buddhist and Hindu Schools began to put in their appearance for the first time under colonial rule.
These two school organisations (a) Christian (b) Buddhist-Hindu from the stand point of their objectives are diametrically opposed to each other.
Organisation (a) created a civil army and garrison every where which was more important even than the military army of occupation” – stooges of the
British Government, who were loyal and became more loyal by becoming converts to Christianity. (Hansard). Organisation (b) was definitely a national organisation and it was especially concerned with the conserving of the national language and national culture, an activity that had to be carried out under the surveillance of the British raj.
How sharply these two educational bodies were once divided over the question of pursuing the study of national languages, not as a medium but as a subject of the secondary school curriculum can be seen from the illuminating evidence given by witnesses who appeared before the Education Committee of 1911 to 1912 that had been appointed to scrutinize the famous Bridges Report.
Heads of Protestant and Catholic Schools, Burghers and Europeans spoke against the study of national languages. Whereas the Heads of Buddhist and Hindu Schools as well as the prominent patriots of the day spoke in support.

CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS
St. Joseph’s College:
Rev. Fr L E Bouvier, O M I , Manager of Christian Schools, Colombo:- I think
that the study of the vernaculars ought not to be introduced at all into
English Schools.”
The very Rev. Fr C H Lytton:- (The vernaculars) will not be introduced into

St. Josephs’ College.”
St. Thomas’ College:
Rev. W.A. Stone, Warden:- (Vernacular Languages) have little educational
value in secondary Schools.”

St. Benedicts College:
Rev. Bro. Camillus, Director:- I do not consider the Vernacular Languages
to be of any value in the education of the classes which attend English
Schools.”

Prince of Wales’ College:
Mr J G C Mendis, Principal:- In English Schools the value of the vernacular
languages is practically nil, except for the illustration of diferences in idiom
or the elucidation of English words and phrases.”

Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya:
The Principal:- The introduction of the vernacular languages into the
English Schools can but prevent the pupils from acquiring a proper
knowledge of English. The pupils will be unable to speak English correctly,
and at the same time there will be an impossibility of organising the
teaching of the vernaculars.”

St. Aloysius’ College, Galle:
The very Rev. Fr. The Neut S.J.Superior: The vernaculars are not
educational.”

St. Anthony’s College, Kandy:
The very Rev. Fr D B Beekmeyar, O S B, Manager of Catholic Schools,
Kandy:- I do not think the vernacular languages should at all be introduced
into English Schools, whether elementary or secondary.”

Mr. C S Schveider President, L C P A:- The mature child in whose home
English is not spoken makes most rapid progress in speaking and writing
English correctly and with a correct accent when placed in a boarding
school, where the children are compelled to converse in English and
forbidden to converse in their own vernacular.”

Mr Francis Beven:- I am strongly opposed to the vernaculars being
substituted, either optionally or compulsorily, for the classical and modern
languages of Europe in the higher parts of the curriculum of secondary
schools. Their proper place is outside these schools.”

Mr G C Bliss :- Chairman of the Planters’ Association of Ceylon: As long as
young Englishmen of good birth and with public school and University
training are ready, as now, to come out to Ceylon and start Government or
Mercantile and estate life and the salaries they now do, it must appear a
very remote contingency that alteration in the education in schools would
lead to Ceylonese being preferred.”

Mr. Arthur Alwis:- The teaching of their (Vernacular) languages in the
secondary schools is of no educational value.”

BUDDHISTS & HINDU SCHOOLS
Ananda College :
Mr D B Jayatilaka:- An adequate knowledge of these (vernacular) languages
is an absolute necessity to get along successfully in the professions — the
legal, the medical and the clerical.”

Dharmaraja College,Kandy:
Mr. K.F.Billimoria, Principal:- Vernacular languages are really important for
the majority of Ceylonese.”

Mahinda College Galle:
Mr. F.L. Wooward, Principal:- My experience of boys who come to me from
schools where the vernacular is not taught is that they lack something. They
are not real, and seem to belong to neither one people nor the other.”

Hindu College, Jaffna:
Mr. G.Shiva Rao, Principal:- A study of the vernacular will better enable
the educated classes to reach the masses and to interpret the West to the
East.”
Category (a) under the aegis of the colonial regime, walked towards the
denationalisation of the anglicisation of their pupils and regarded the
national languages as subversive of this two fold object.

Category (b) in spite of official frowns aimed at bridge-building between
the children and their pupils culture. In the new set up, the two fold object
of category (a) is dangerous and must be immediately given up. On the
contrary, what the country needs today is more and more bridgebuildings
between education and the people. Therefore the objective of category (b)
is entitled to the highest regard of the entire nation.

Nevertheless, vested interests die hard. Yesterday, the die-hards of the
Christian minority opposed the study of Vernacular” languages in English
schools; today they are opposing the change over to Vernacular” languages
media beyond the 8th standard. This is the way the Christian minority who
now form about 9% of the population are determined to control the
education of the entire nation. Kenya Government may allow that kind of
thing to wipe out the language and culture of Kenya Africans in its attempt
to expel them from the better parts of their country. But in free Ceylon
giving the control of education to a microscopic minority cuts at the very
root of democracy.

Of course, the opposition of this minority to the switch over to national
language media beyond 8th standard is organised through self-appointed
bodies like the Ceylon Head Masters’ Conference, The Ceylon Head
Mistresses’ Association and the Ceylon Educational Association. All these
self-appointed hodies have high-sounding names. But the Ceylon Head
Masters’ Conference represents only 25 schools of which more than twothirds
are Christian Schools; the Ceylon Head Mistresses’ Association too
represents a similar number of girls’ schools and is predominantly Christian;
and lastly, the Ceylon Educational Association, a survival of colonial days;
representing Christian interests almost exclusively, dead some time ago, but
now mysteriously brought back to life – obviously to fight the last battle for
exclusive privileges for education in Ceylon. All these three associations
appear to follow as their model an exclusive body like the Colombo Club”
bearing a name that is democratic, but in reality an impregnable castestronghold
a little England, in which dogs and natives are not allowed.”

2 Responses to “MICROSCOPIC MINORITY CONTROLS CEYLON’S EDUCATION”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Mr LH Methanada was familiar with our family when he was in Kandy as the principal of Darmaraja collage, where he raised money to put the library and some other buildings. He had a such a friendly personality even the Christians gave money. This was before the independence. He came to Mirihana to be with our families to attend the independence celebrations but disappeared from Mirihana.He was keen to help the colonials to erect the Buddhist symbols in the Devales.He had said that the devales were Hindu and the Buddhists should now occupy those places. He was very good in foreign languages like English,French and spoke Latin where he spoke for a long time in Latin in our father’s old school the Christian collage kotte.He had a secret admiration for the Colonials and he often said that English language was important to us but gave preference to Sinhalese.He often Visited the CMS collage another Buddhist school very close to Kotte Rajamaha Vihare.
    He was the Latin teacher in Ananda collage and become it’s principal but one of his sons studied at Christian Collage Kotte(CMS) but that guy was a pain. He was a prefect in our collage and fined us for speaking in Sinhalese where we had nothing left out of the tuck shop pocket money,that resuling in mee speaking very little Sihalese. Just like Daramapala they had some admiration to the Colonials.I know many like him who likes to mingle with the suddas and burhers,when ever I set up a social gathering in SL.Why can’t they be open and honest ? No time to correct any errors.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Question :

    Science subjects ought to be taught in English after Grade 7 ?

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