Language in Education: Impact of English Medium Instruction on Indigenous Languages in the Kandyan Kingdom and the Colonial Ceylon




Colonial, English, Indigenous, Language, Traditional


This research investigates the profound role of language in education within the context of the Kandyan Kingdom and colonial-era Sri Lanka. Specifically, it scrutinizes the impact of adopting English as the medium of instruction on the preservation of indigenous languages. The study delves into the primary languages employed in the traditional education system of the Kandyan Kingdom and their vital contributions to knowledge transmission and cultural heritage preservation. It also examines the language policies enacted during the colonial period and their repercussions on the language of instruction in schools. Moreover, the research explores the consequences of adopting English as the medium of instruction, analyzing its influence on the proficiency, usage, and status of indigenous languages. Meticulous investigation is conducted into the attitudes and responses of the local population, especially educators, towards this transition. Furthermore, the study assesses the implications of the shift to English medium education on access to education for various socio-cultural groups within the Kandyan Kingdom. The research also delves into the efforts undertaken during the colonial period to promote and safeguard indigenous languages within the education system. The analysis extends to the post-colonial education system in the Kandyan Kingdom, evaluating the current status of indigenous languages and any initiatives aimed at their revival and promotion. By drawing comparisons between historical language policies and practices in the Kandyan Kingdom and those in other colonial regions or countries, this research aims to provide valuable insights that can inform contemporary language policies and practices in Sri Lanka.


Download data is not yet available.


Aturupane, H., Little, A.W. (2020). General Education in Sri Lanka. In: Sarangapani, P., Pappu, R. (eds) Handbook of Education Systems in South Asia. Global Education Systems. Springer, Singapore.

Coperahewa, C. (2009). The language planning situation in Sri Lanka. Current Issues in Language Planning, 10 (1), 150-169.

De Silva, K.M. (2005). A History of Sri Lanka. Vijitha Yapa Publications. Colombo, Srilanka.

Fernando, S., Gunesekera, M., Parakrama, A. (Eds.). (2010). English in Sri Lanka: Ceylon English, Lankan English, Sri Lankan English. Sri Lanka English Language Teachers’ Association Publications, Colombo.

Fernando, R.L. (2015). Language and Nationalism in Sri Lanka: The Sinhala-Medium Periodicals (1932-1952). International Centre for Ethnic Studies Publications, Colombo.

Goonewardena, K.W. (1986). Education in Ceylon before and under British Rule. Gunasena Publication, Colombo.

Gunasekera, M. (2005). The postcolonial identity of Sri Lankan English. Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo.

Gombrich, R.F. (2006). Theravada Buddhism; A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge Publications, London. DOI:

Kulasekara, K.M.P. (2006). Last Days of Politics in the Kandyan Kingdom of Sri Lanka: A Feudal Tendency Aided by a Foreign Power? Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 52, 80-85. DOI:

Indrapala, K. (1970). The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity: The Tamils of Sri Lanka. Ceylon Institute of Tamil Studies Publication, Colombo.

Liyanage, I., Canagarajah, S. (2014). Interethnic Understanding and the Teaching of Local Languages in Sri Lanka. In: Gorter, D., Zenotz, V., Cenoz, J. (eds) Minority Languages and Multilingual Education. Educational Linguistics, vol 18., Springer, Dordrecht. DOI:

Mendis, G.C. (Ed.). (1956). The Colebrooke-Cameron papers: Documents on British colonial policy in Ceylon 1796: 1833 (Vol. I). Oxford University Press, London.

Obeyesekere, G. (1997). The Work of Culture: Symbolic Transformation in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Perera, C. (2007). Education and Social Change in Sri Lanka, 1500-2000. In J. Heesterman, P.L. Groeneveldt, M.S. de Silva (Eds.), Broken memories: Case studies of post-colonial history education in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, and Thailand. Brill Publication, Leiden.

Perera, N. (2008). Education, Language, and Ethnicity in Multi-Ethnic Sri Lanka. In M. Bray & R. Thomas (Eds.), Cross-Border Migration among Asians: Causes and Consequences, Routledge Publications. pp. 121-140.

Raheem, R., Devendra, D. (2007). Changing times, changing attitudes: The history of English education in Sri Lanka. In Yeon Hee Choi & B. Spolsky (Eds.), English education in Asia: History & politics. Asia TEFL Publication, Seoul.

Sahlane, A. (2012). Joshua Fishman & Ofelia García (eds.), Handbook of language and ethnic identity. 2nd edn. (Disciplinary and regional perspectives 1). Oxford University Press, New York, 2010. Pp vii, 545. Pb. $49.95. Language in Society, 41(3), 406-407. DOI:10.1017/S0047404512000358

Silva, A. (1998). Education in the Kandyan Kingdom of Sri Lanka (Ceylon): An Historical Analysis of the Forces of Change in Traditional Education. Social Scientists' Association Publications, Colombo.

Smith, C. (2007). Education and Society: The Case for Ecoliteracy. Education and Society, 25 (1), 25-37. DOI:




How to Cite

Arjuna Manage, K. M. G. (2023). Language in Education: Impact of English Medium Instruction on Indigenous Languages in the Kandyan Kingdom and the Colonial Ceylon. Dera Natung Government College Research Journal, 8(1), 141–154.