Friday, November 11, 2011

Religious Education – Why is it compulsory only in Sri Lanka?

If you intend to sit for O levels and A levels that are set by the Department of Education in Sri Lanka, that is for 90% of students at present, you have to choose a religion for O level. What is more you have to sit it in either Sinhala or Tamil. Choosing to write your Religion paper in English is not permitted, even though many Christian and Catholic Sunday schools teach it in the English medium.

I sat my O levels, over 12 subjects, in England and I did not choose Religion and I did not have to either. Instead I chose subjects like Navigation as I was in the Naval Cadet Force, which was more relevant. You may say I am biased, but not for a moment do I claim that my education was lacking in any respect, it just taught me to realize how little I knew and how much more I had to learn to be someone who could contribute in some way to the betterment of those around me.

My series of Blog entries on Education did not touch on religion, mainly because I want to bring the point to the debate, that it is a personal matter for the student and his family, and should not be taught or at least have a public exam on, in schools. Sunday schools, Daham Pasalas are an integral part of Sri Lankan upbringing and should be encouraged at every step of the way. I ask are we so bad at instilling religious values on our children that we have to force them to take an O level in it?

Can anyone tell me how with all this we have fallen to such depths of moral values in Sri Lanka in comparison to many countries we love to hate? True religious values should have deep meaning in our everyday lives and how we live it, and learn to overcome hatred by first removing hate from our lives and then trying to show love to others, who’s hate can also be conquered. Have our morals dropped because religion is forced and not nurtured?

Compulsory religious instruction, just like all the other subjects appears to force students to learn to pass exams, and not to appreciate the subject. Using that logic, I would say it is destructive to a young mind to force religion in the first place, as it is exams they think of. I believe the parents are abrogating their responsibilities of child-rearing to let the schools take over this subject, which is better taught in a place of worship such as a Daham Pasala or Sunday School in the Church.

I went to a charming historic temple on a rock in Divulapitiya where the teaching of Buddhism in a Daham Pasala could be in ideal surroundings, under the trees in the quiet of the place. I was horrified when the young Chief Priest within a few minutes presented the plans for a 4 floor building to teach the Sunday Daham Pasala, which looked like any school room, indicating to us some assistance would be welcome.

So now even these seats of religious instruction want to look more like classrooms, for what purpose may I ask?


Anonymous said...

Great series of articles. I hope you keep this up although it's too bad that no policy maker will take them seriously. The fact is that we are lacking in civic responsibility just as much as we do not connect religion and life. We are a bunch of lotus eaters. - D

Anonymous said...

Are you quite sure religion is a compulsory subject ONLY in Sri Lanka? Might be a good idea to check it out.