Secular Sri Lanka - Blog

"A secular constitution that everyone in Sri Lanka can subscribe to, and feel a sense of belonging in; regardless of their ethnic origin or religious convictions or lack of thereof; is a big step towards the correct direction."

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Multicultural Education in Secular Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka shall move away from ethnic segregation within the public schools system and focus on development of a multicultural educational framework where there is no room for Hindu Colleges, Muslim Schools, Buddhist Schools etc. in a tax payer funded public school system. We shall focus on multicultural schools under a strictly secular education philosophy. Such a system will nourish ethnic harmony, celebrate differences in our community and promote secular values and leave religion as a personal and private matter of citizens to explore based on individual preferences as adults.

Childhood religious indoctrination inside public schools violates Constitutional Rights of secular Sri Lankan citizens. There will be great challenges to removing 'Sinhala medium', 'Tamil medium', 'Buddhist Boys School' or 'Hindu girls school' tags of segregation that we currently carry in the National Public School System. Such challenges are normal and they need to be addressed without remaining in silence. Silence on secularization issue can lead to another tragic 'time-bomb' in the future; something similar to what we have seen during the last thirty years. We can also learn from our 'big brother', India, where the democratic nation waited in silence until religious riots lead to a bloodbath of massive proportions that destroyed thousands of lives before bringing in a Constitutional Secularization. The architects of these national education reforms will need to develop a home grown solution, but they will need to study other successful multicultural public school systems in other nations. We must find creative ways to break into and eliminate these Sinhala and Tamil ethnic divisions, religious divisions and provide a structure for schools that integrate communities in the long term, and remove currently prevailing ethnic and religious segregation. We would need to keep in mind that appreciating multicultural differences should be a major part of this desegregation.

Religion has no place in public schools in the modern and civilized societies worldwide. We still see presence of religious indoctrination in public schools in backward and oppressive nations. Religion is an extremely personal and private matter of the citizen that needs to be constitutionally protected for freedom for religion and freedom from religion, where governments are prevented from indoctrination of citizens.

A Multicultural Education platform for the national education system needs to be designed with consideration of international educational research and standards on Multiculturalism and prevailing understanding within global academic community that students should not be separated inside a public school system based on their race, ethnicity or religion. Childhood classifications such as "I belong to Sinhala Buddhists" or " I am a Tamil Hindu" and therefore I must go to a "Tamil medium school" shall be removed from our education system beyond philosophical understanding of ethnic harmony and shall be put on to practice inside public schools. Similarly, students coming from all religious backgrounds shall be taught a secular ethics curriculum focusing on human rights and equality in schools, and they should not be separated in to 'Buddhist students', 'Hindu students', 'Christian students', 'Muslim students', non-believers or other religions. All students shall learn and appreciate secular ethics and learn to be good citizens of a nation regardless what their religions preach or upbringing. This multicultural education platform for the multicultural secular nation needs focus not just within the minority regions or neighborhoods, but implemented all across nationwide.

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