The Role of Education Ameliorating Political Violence Sri Lanka
Chandra R. de Silva
EDUCATION HAS the potential to reduce conflict in Sri Lanka, but its current institutional structure instead inflames ethnic differences. Political violence is widespread, but its most destructive recent manifestations include the insurrections mounted against the state by the Janatha Vunukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1971 and in the late 1980s, and the ongoing civil war through which Tamil militants, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), struggle for a separate state. 1 Although the two movements differ widely in many respects, both derive support from a spectrum of people due to perceived inequities in the political, social, and economic structures of Sri Lanka. The system of education, fashioned according to state policy, is thoroughly implicated in those inequities.
Sri Lankans have long made connections between changes in the education system and the worsening of ethnic tension. One contributing factor was the change in the medium of instruction in secondary schools that took place in the 1950s. As a result of a long period of British colonial rule, Sri Lanka at independence in 1948 had a well-developed system of primary education in local languages (Sinhala and Tamil) and a limited system of secondary education in English. This English-educated group, with its more affluent compatriots who were educated in metropolitan England, were the elite of the country. Between 1952 and