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The Education of Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka: A Historical Review and Some Suggestions for Reform

Author:

Chandra R. De Silva

Old Dominion University, US
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Abstract

The education of Buddhist monks had traditionally been a matter of studying under renowned scholar-monks. However, during colonial times there was a gradual replacement of monasteries as centers of training of monks by new piriven educational institutions. These institutions gradually became widespread in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the colonial state worked with Buddhist leaders to establish a centrally designed curriculum and formal examinations. At the same time, the growth of the nationalist movement among Sinhalese Buddhists gave new legitimacy to the understanding of Lanka’s history as a journey from Sinhala- Buddhist origins. This article traces the many efforts to reform the piriven and their curricula. Through an analysis of the history textbooks used at the first level of piriven education in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, this article concludes that the education given to novice Buddhist monks downplays the contribution of ethnic and religious minorities to Sri Lanka's history. It is argued that the development of a more inclusive history curriculum for the education of monks, together with other factors such as better teacher training, would enable Buddhist monks to play a more effective role in the diverse country that Sri Lanka has come to be today.

How to Cite: De Silva, C.R., 2019. The Education of Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka: A Historical Review and Some Suggestions for Reform. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 42(1-2), pp.1–28. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v42i1-2.7253
Published on 28 Nov 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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