Interethnic Understanding and the Teaching of Local Languages in Sri Lanka

Indika Liyanage, Suresh Canagarajah

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


In precolonial times, equal socioeducational recognition accorded to local languages played a key role in promoting inter-ethnic harmony, co-existence and ‘connectedness’ between linguistically and ethnically diverse people of Sri Lanka. This history should motivate policy considerations in post-colonial situations in the country. This chapter has its focus on educational issues surrounding the promotion of local languages for interethnic harmony in Sri Lanka, where the promotion of Sinhala among minority Tamils, and Tamil among the majority Sinhalese has been the subject of many current political, policy and popular discourses. Proficiency in the local languages was encouraged actively through policies and practices during precolonial times. However, despite popular thinking that there is an acute need to promote Tamil, its manifestation as a classroom subject in school education curricula for the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils in post-war Sri Lanka has been lost in the public and policy discourses. Using archival records and opinions expressed in newspapers as data, this chapter explores these ambiguities in attitudes, policies and practices from precolonial times to the present day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducational Linguistics
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media B.V.
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameEducational Linguistics
ISSN (Print)1572-0292
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1656

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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