Minister pledges to improve Buddhist education

Lanka Daily News, Feb 26, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Buddha Sasana, Public Security Law and Order Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake said he proposes to appoint qualified teachers to teach the Buddha Dhamma in schools to improve the standard of Buddhist education.

"Such teachers would be required to sit for a Dharmacharya examination and acquire a sound knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma," he said as guest at the presentation of awards and certificates to Dhamma school teachers of the Ratnapura district at the Ratnapura Town Hall on February 12.

The Minister said one of the biggest drawbacks they had experienced is the lack of suitably knowledgeable qualified teachers in the Buddha Dhamma to teach in schools under the normal education system.

They had to admit their drawbacks and rectify them. He said he would therefore propose to appoint teachers who would gain knowledge through a Dharmacharya examination.

Wickramanayake said if the good work done by the Dhamma schools in moulding the lives of people in the correct path from a young age has to be sustained, they have to improve the teaching of Buddhism in the normal education system as well.

"The Dhamma school system was first introduced by Col. Olcott in August 1895. He introduced this system after seeing the erosion of the age old values and cultural heritage that nurtured civil society.

It is when the country was being engulfed by alien cultures due to foreign domination that the Dhamma schools concept started", the Minister said.

Wickramanayake said today there are 8,600 Dhamma schools with 61,000 teachers and a Dhamma school student population of 22 lakhs.

"Despite the large number of Dhamma schools, there had not been an appreciable result obtained in restoring of our age old cultural and human values according to reports. It is therefore necessary to improve education on the Buddha Dhamma in ordinary schools as well as through Dhamma schools further," he said.

The Minister said it is due to the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of the lay and Bhikkhu teachers that the Dhamma schools concept had nourished through the years. Sacrificing their time and energy they are doing a voluntary service which should be admired by all.

Wickramanayake said as Minister, he would not approve that Dhamma school teachers should be given a salary reducing it to the level of an ordinary job.

If a monthly salary is given, the noble concept of the Dhamma school education would suffer. Instead of salaries they propose to give various other benefits such as uniforms to Dhamma school teachers, grant of special awards, opportunities for higher education, health and insurance benefits, appointments as Justice of the Peace etc.

Wickramanayake said there were several suggestions made for the further development of the Dhamma School system.

"One suggestion was to stop tutorial classes at least till 1 p.m. on Sundays.

"The other was to set up Operational Centres at district level to manage Dhamma schools," he said. Wickramanayake wholeheartedly supported this proposal of the Maha Sangha and would soon visit every district to set up these Operational Centres.

Commenting on the large aid that has flowed into the country as tsunami assistance, the Minister also deplored the action of some to import unwanted and harmful goods to the country as tsunami aid such as helicopters, body armour, ammunition.

He said the people should guard themselves against such treacherous acts which would undermine the country's security.