The Dutch Burghers and English; Voices of Survivors
Continued from last week
From the beginning of British colonial rule, primary and secondary education in the Sinhalese and Tamil medium was free from the kindergarten to the Senior School Certificate level (equivalent to today’s GCE ‘O’ in Grade 11) . But the English medium schools constituting about 10 -15 percent of the schools in Sri Lanka charged fees. The best the children educated in the native languages, namely Sinhalese or Tamil, could reach was the teaching profession or becoming notaries, village headmen or ayurvedic physicians. The better jobs and access to tertiary education and the learned professions of law and western medicine, judicial positions, executive appointments in the public service as well as the better private sector jobs were only to those who attended the fee levying English medium schools. The official language of the government was English till 1956.
In 1928,the British government appointed a Royal Commission headed by Lord Donoughmore to inquire into further reforms to the constitutions to meet Sri Lankan aspirations. The Donoughmore Commission which consisted of progressive British politicians of the day, was fully convinced that the grant of universal adult franchise should be introduced in order to enable the ordinary people to elect representatives of their choice in order to speak on their behalf in the legislature. The Donoughmore Commission’s recommendations were incorporated to a new constitution, promulgated in 1931. By this constitution, whilst Sri Lanka was still under the British, universal adult franchise was granted to Lankans to elect their own representatives to the legislature which became known as the State Council. In the newly elected legislature, a Board of Ministers were elected. The State Council appointed a Special Committee on Education headed by C.W.W .Kannangara which introduced the free education from the kindergarten to university level in 1942, also by a majority recommended that the medium of instruction in all schools should be the mother tongue in the primary classes.