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Sri Lanka

Constitution & Legal Foundations

In 1931, the British government granted universal manhood suffrage to Sri Lankans. Within 10 years of getting the franchise, Sri Lanka passed legislation granting free and compulsory education throughout the island for all ethnic and religious groups. British intent was to unify Sri Lanka's diverse population by fostering a British parliamentary-style government, educational system, and independent judiciary. The island's linguistic divisions were overcome by legislation making English Sri Lanka's official language, with Sinhala and Tamil as national languages.

Along with the constitutional reforms of the 1970s, Sri Lanka began the first of many national studies to determine the manner educational reform should take to promote national reconciliation and reduce minority claims of discrimination. President Jayewardene made Tamil the official language for the administration and courts of the Tamil regions in the north and east. The Jayewardene government also worked to establish scholarship programs for the urban poor and among rural children and authorized new technical curricula in secondary schools. Government policy encouraged the construction of new facilities in engineering, medicine, and science to serve the countryside. Section 22 of the Sri Lankan Constitution entitled each Sri Lankan the right to be educated in either Sinhala or Tamil, although central government appointments still required fluency in Sinhala. In spite of a disruptive civil war between Tamils and Sinhalese, educational reforms were instituted by the central government.

Because of civil war, Sri Lanka has faced serious funding shortages and a lack of books and equipment, and qualified teachers. The nation's central education ministry has been charged with being too autocratic and insensitive to regional and minority demands, while minorities have accused the education system of discrimination in funding, admissions, and curriculum majors. President Kumaratunga made 1997 the "year of education reforms and restructure" and promised to implement educational reforms in 1998. These reforms showcased improvement in the quality of primary and secondary education, increased career guidance programs, expansion and diversification of the university curricula, and increased vocational and technical training for rural youth and women.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceSri Lanka - History Background, Constitution Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education