Privilege and policy : the indigenous elite and the colonial education system in Ceylon 1912-1948
The development of educational policies in colonial Ceylon has hitherto been examined from the perspective of either the government or missionary agencies. The role of the indigenous elite in this process has not received the attention it deserves, but merely treated as a peripheral theme. This thesis attempts to redress the imbalance by focusing on the interaction between elite initiatives and the growth of cultural nationalism as key factors in the formulation of educational policy. The many dimensions of the elite's concern with educational policy are explored. The nature of their involvement and their contribution over time are the central themes of the present study. Newspapers, contemporary journals, various school magazines, the writings of the elite themselves and transcripts of debates in the Legislative and State Councils provide an insight into the public and private opinion of the English educated Ceylonese. Chapter one sketches the social background of colonial Ceylon. It describes the plural composition of the population and highlights the importance of language and religion as components of plurality. It also identifies the economic and educational opportunities through which elite status could be acquired. The form and content of education are similarly discussed. Chapter two describes the formulation of government policy and the early contributions of the indigenous leaders. Particular attention is paid to two issues - language and the administration of schools - which emerged as problems crucial to Ceylon's educational structure under colonial rule. Chapter three traces the organizational and individual responses of the upper strata in local society to education as shaped by growing cultural nationalism. The issues of language and religion now assumed a greater degree of political significance. New techniques of opposition, including the establishment of schools and cultural associations on Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim denominational lines, are analyzed in this chapter. In chapter four the repercussions of universal franchise in the educational field are assessed. The increasing political and social aspirations of the masses became the catalyst for action on the part of the leaders, as did the ethnic and caste antagonisms that had surfaced as potentially powerful factors. In chapter five, further political developments that induced the leadership to take a bold step forward - the construction of a free and egalitarian system of education - are examined. How elite competition emerged as a determinant of policy implementation is also discussed. This thesis concludes that while knowledge of English remained the sine qua non for the acquisition and preservation of status, the response of the privileged social group to educational problems in the face of increasing political challenges was to ensure that the availability to the masses of an education, albeit a vernacular education remained secure.