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Re-formation of Education in Conformity with Cultural Environments: A Study on Sri Lankan and Thai Systems


This paper is based on analyses of historical documents and scholarly reviews relating to Lanka and Thailand; focusing on how Buddhist teachings shaped the cultural traditions. Sri Lankan history begins in 543 BC, with the migration of Sinhala people from Northern India influenced by Hindi traditions. In 243 BC a Buddhist mission to Lanka resulted from a friendship between Indian and Lankan monarchs leading to Lankans embracing Buddhism. Thereafter, Buddhist teachings had a huge impact in shaping the education and culture whereby temples became centers of education and between 89-76 BC, Buddhist Doctrine commissioning into writing in Sinhala. This event improved the image of Lanka, amongst Buddhist countries greatly. Medieval-times became the Golden Age of education consolidating relations with China, Siam, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. From 1505, Christian missionary campaigns adversely affected indigenous education; yet, a revival occurred since 1880. Currently, it has a Western model education system complemented by a pirivena system, integrated with Buddhist culture in harmony with Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Thailand’s developments goes back to pre-historic times resulting in several ethnic groups merging into one Thai nation. However, Thailand’s documented history commences from 1220. Thai education was influenced by India, Burma and Lanka whereby education offered at temples/monasteries and households playing dominant roles through the Ayutthaya to Thonburi, and Bangkok periods. Unlike Lanka, Thailand could remain independent from Western colonial rule. But, missionary campaigns since 1868 to convert Thai people into Christianity resulted in the reformation of formal education with state intervention. Thereafter, she experienced three phases of reforms, education becoming both ecclesiastical and secular. Buddhist teachings are being provided at all levels of education as a way of living. Reforms of 1999 were implemented with Self-Governing Schools. Education systems of both countries were developed in conformity with the cultural environments enriched by religion and mutual interactions.

David T Gamage, Jaratdao Suwarnabroma

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