Vinod Moonesinghe, ….. responding to a passing ethnographic note by Chandra Fernando which ran thus “Unfortunately, Mr Bandaranaike, who had Oxford Education, was not intelligent enough to know the value of English to Ceylonese. When we received telegrams, the postman could not read them, so we had to go to Mabole 3 miles walk either way where Wattala Post Office was to get it read from Postmaster.”
It took years of struggle by CWW Kannangara (aided by the Left) in the face of the British client politicians such as DS Senanayake, to push for free education in the English-language schools. What SWRD did was to build on that, and bring SSC-level education to the broad mass, which would have been virtually impossible had the medium of instruction remained English.
In 1956, there were not enough vernacular schools for the ordinary population, let alone schools with the ability to teach in English. My father became an MP that year, and his next 10 years was spent building schools for the children in the Agalawatte electorate, as well as roads to enable the students to get to them. There were simply not enough English teachers, let alone teachers in English for the different subjects. My mother, who taught at a number of schools, found that most children in THE ENGLISH STREAM did not have sufficient English to comprehend the subjects being taught. They first had to be taught English. She later took part in an early 1970s inquiry into the teaching of English in Ceylon schools, and found there were insufficient English teachers to teach English from below grade 3.
People talk a lot of bullshit about English education in Sri Lanka, forgetting that the country had been left a depressingly poor colony, with a backward pre-capitalist economy, and few resources. Looking just at the lives of the elite and their public school English educations they suggest that it was possible to replicate this at the village level.
Neither SWRD nor the Left tried to do away with English language education. We simply lacked the resources to teach it to everybody. We STILL lack the resources to teach it to everybody. Talking about rich countries such as Singapore (yes the stuff about Singapore being poorer than Sri Lanka is utter codswallop) and expecting a poor, over-exploited country such as Sri Lanka to be emulate its educational system is fantasy.