Year

2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

This thesis examines the historical development of the Sri Lankan physical education curriculum in the context of the many different foreign and local social, political, economic and educational forces which have impacted on physical education in the country. Three major research questions framed the study: How has Physical Education in Sri Lanka been shaped as a school subject by foreign and local influences since Independence in 1948? What are the major issues in Physical Education in Sri Lanka? How can knowledge of the construction of Physical Education Curriculum in Sri Lanka inform future directions for curriculum developments?

The research questions were addressed using a social constructionist theoretical framework through the collection and analysis of data from a variety of primary and secondary sources. Primary archival sources included administrative reports, acts, ordinances, circulars, news articles, curriculum and other documents of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and other institutions in Sri Lanka. In addition, openended interviews were conducted with thirty-four informants who have intimate current experience and up to thirty years in the field. Secondary sources included general and economic history books, historical research in education and physical education in Sri Lanka arid other related countries. The study uncovered very little published research or scholarship on physical education in Sri Lanka. The study found that many diverse foreign and local forces have shaped physical education in Sri Lanka. British traditions have been and continue to be the major foreign influence. However, other foreign influences, particularly during the Cold War, from the USA, the Commonwealth and communist bloc countries were extensive both before but particularly after Independence. These foreign social forces intertwined with local forces such as party politics, education resources, religion, gender and other cultural beliefs. Under these influences the study identified a number of perennial and enduring issues for physical education curriculum in Sri Lanka, most of which have close parallels in other countries of both the North and the South. The major issue for physical education in Sri Lanka is that it has endured low status and struggled for its identity since the colonial period owing to traditional academic biases relating to its focus on the practical and the body rather than with abstractions and the mind, and a widespread focus on education for white collar employment.

The study found that many diverse foreign and local forces have shaped physical education in Sri Lanka. British traditions have been and continue to be the major foreign influence. However, other foreign influences, particularly during the Cold War, from the USA, the Commonwealth and communist bloc countries were extensive both before but particularly after Independence. These foreign social forces intertwined with local forces such as party politics, education resources, religion, gender and other cultural beliefs.

Under these influences the study identified a number of perennial and enduring issues for physical education curriculum in Sri Lanka, most of which have close parallels in other countries of both the North and the South. The major issue for physical education in Sri Lanka is that it has endured low status and struggled for its identity since the colonial period owing to traditional academic biases relating to its focus on the practical and the body rather than with abstractions and the mind, and a widespread focus on education for white collar employment.

The study found that physical education curriculum theory, policy and practice developments in Sri Lanka have displayed characteristics of the two major physical education models: the health and the sports-based model. Since colonial times, the majority of children have been excluded from physical activity owing to the dominance of a sports-oriented physical education curriculum which has prevailed in elite private and government urban boys schools. Outside this dominant tradition, volleyball, athletics, elle, and tennisball cricket have spread to most rural and poor urban area schools. The health model has influenced physical education for the lower social class with hygiene and medicalised notions of health dominating primary physical education, while the British (public school) sports-model was prominent for the elite.

Since Independence changing party politics has been the other major factor deciding the fortunes of physical education. Sri Lankan educators and bureaucrats have drawn on models of physical education from both capitalist and socialist countries without always taking the local context into account. After Independence, particularly in the 1950s, the health-oriented model was challenged by the sport-oriented model for children of the masses with the influence of nationalist movements. Recent reforms promoted by the National Education Commission (NEC) (1992) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) (1997) which contributed to the emergence of the health model after 1998 are extensively discussed.

It is clear that both models are of value in contributing to a physical education curriculum for Sri Lanka and therefore the thesis proposes a "mixed-mode physical education curriculum model" which will best address issues of inequality, gender, social class distinction, ethnicity, religion, geographical locations and resource allocations. Finally the thesis proposes a number of areas of research which would assist in the development of an appropriate mixed mode curriculum for physical education in Sri Lanka.

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