The historical role of Dharmaraja College has been unorthodox, and the school has played a decisive role at difficult and crucial junctures in the history of the Sri Lankan education system. It is the opinion of the Rajans Professional Collective that Dharmaraja College and the Sri Lankan education system as a whole is currently facing a number of challenges. Therefore, unless we intervene now, Dharmaraja College would become just another school and lose its position as a thought and change leader.
With the increasing politicisation and commodification of the education system, the erosion of the values in society in general and ignorance of norms, the Rajans community has keenly felt the need for a Master Plan for Dharmaraja College. This need has been discussed for the last 20 years but no pragmatic initiative was launched despite one or two false starts.
The need for a master plan was highlighted during the last few years due to a number of factors. Cuts in state financial allocations, red-tape and bureaucratic barriers for carrying out development activities and unplanned changes to staff, all indicated the need for a master plan to streamline and strategize the school’s activities.
Within this context the Rajans Professional Collective began an organized dialogue to develop a Master Plan for the College in 2016 with the objective of first identifying the key challenges facing the school and then to provide long term solutions for identified issues, and finally, to prepare Dharmaraja College to face the new cultural and technological changes in the country and to position the school as a leader for the next century. The significant support provided by the Principal and the staff and also the President of the OBU and his team in the Old Boys’ Union was instrumental in developing this Master Plan. We believe that with the support of the Principal, academic staff and the OBU this Master Plan will provide the road map to maintain Dharmaraja College as one of the leading education providers in the country and to take the college to even greater heights than what it has achieved in the past.
Initial discussions for this plan were generated by a group of professionals including the senior officers of the OBU in mid2016. Subsequent sessions conducted by other professional groups both locally and overseas added value to the initial ideas and further strengthened the commitment to continue with the initiative. This led to further brainstorming sessions conducted with other OBU Groups and these ideas and suggestions were fed into a core group established under the direct supervision of the OBU President. These discussions were enriched with ideas and proposals made by past principals, deputy principals and educational specialists. The entire process followed the model outlined in the diagram above.
Thereafter, with the blessings and the support of Old Boys’ Union a comprehensive workshop was held with the participation of the Principal and a few invited staff members and also with the participation of more than 150 Old Rajans. During this workshop, based on the ideas and suggestions collected up to that moment, a number of key thrust areas were identified, and sub groups were formed to work on each thrust area. With these subgroups, more workshops were held, and brain storming sessions were conducted to identify the priority needs of the School. The feedback from the Principal
and College staff was collected in another workshop and finally there was a collective agreement on eight thematic areas to be considered in developing projects for the Master Plan.
Each of these themes represent a critical area for the development of the school and the success of the overall plan depends on looking at these themes as inter-linked domains which cannot be treated in isolation. The success of one theme depends on how well the other themes are planned and executed.
A common fund of approximately hundred million will be established and necessary amendments to the Old Boys Union Constitution will be made to regulate the fund. Money from the fund will be strictly restricted to activities that are defined in the Master Plan and a rigorous approval and monitoring process will be established to ensure the efficient disbursement and utilization of funds.
In operationalizing the Master Plan, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be followed. A Master Plan Steering Committee comprising the Principal, OBU members, members of the Master Plan Core Team and SDS will screen projects and prioritize them. Thereafter, project proposals will be handed over to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for the relevant theme to conduct a feasibility study and report to the Master Plan Steering committee for approval and budgetary allocation. SMEs for each thematic area mentioned above will be identified and included in the SOP. Thereafter, a relevant team will be appointed to implement and manage the project. Once completed it will be formally handed over to the school. Post-project there will be a debriefing and evaluation process whereby the OBU will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in the process and fine tune it for better performance in future.
Activities not covered by the Master Plan may be proposed and executed by interested groups of Old Boys but funds for such activities will need to be sourced from elsewhere. Such activities should also follow the procedure outline above and requires the approval of the Master Plan Steering Committee.
Members of the Master Plan Steering Committee for the Year 2018/19
Co-chair - Principal - Mr. Dampiya Wanasinghe
Co-chair - President, OBU - Mr. Priyantha Abeykoon
Co-chair - Former Principal - Mr. A. P. Gunaratne
- Deputy Principal (nominated by the Principal) - Mr. Jagath Karunaratne
- Deputy Principal (nominated by the Principal) - Mr Damith Narampanawa
- Assistant Principal, Primary Section - Mrs Nishamani Panamaldeniya.
- Secretary, SDS - Mr. Upali Bandulasena
- Secretary, OBU - Mr. Anura Fernando
- Treasurer, OBU - Mr. Thulitha Milan
- Vice President (School Coordination), OBU - Mr. Suminda Vithaanarachchi
- President, Colombo OBU - Mr. Indika De Zoysa
- Immediate Past President, OBU - Mr. Sadara Tennakoon
Representatives of the Rajans Professional Collective
- Mr. S. B. Herath – Managing Director, Sankyo Lanka Pvt Ltd.
- Mr. Randika Dissanayake – CEO (Medical Division), IMS Holdings (Private) Limited.
- Prof Rasnayake Mudiyanse - Consultant Pediatrician and Professor in Pediatrics
- Dr. Kamalanath Samarakoon – Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Engineering
- Mr. Asanka Nanayakkara – Chief Engineer, National Water Supply and Drainage Board
- Mr Anuruddha Ratnayake – Deputy General Manager, SLT
- Dr Asoka Polpitiya – Vice President, Sri Lanka Technological Campus
- Mr Dhammika Herath – Principal, Walala Central College
- Major General Nishshanka Ranawana – Sri Lanka Army
- Dr. Thushara Kudagammana - Consultant Pediatrician and Senior Lecturer in Pediatrics
- Dr. Shameen Jinadasa - Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering
- Mr. Nadeera Herath – Director IT ,Sysco Corporation
- Mr. Nalin Munasinghe - National Consultant, NTFC Secretariat (World Bank Group)
This Rs. 100 million project maps out eight critical areas of focus with detailed activities identified under each area:
Own and shape the future
of the college!
Contribute to this initiative and give back to the college that gave you so
much – the college that made you who you are today.
Dharmaraja Identity and Reputation
What is meant by Dharmaraja identity and reputation is that the product of the school – a Rajan – should aspire to a unique identity that embodies the core values of the school. A product of Dharmaraja should be someone unafraid to challenge social convention and to stand against populist trends to assert the Buddhist values by which the school has defined itself for over 125 years. A Rajan should be proud of his Rajan identity, be compassionate, sensitive but at the same time a leader who leads by example. He should be a productive citizen of the society that he belongs to – whether in Sri Lanka or overseas – and someone who respects and recognizes diversity and inclusivity. A Rajan should be confident but not arrogant and elitist. As professionals or entrepreneurs, Rajans should be socially conscious and be aware of their responsibilities and commitments to the society they live in. They should embody the true spirit of giving in the Buddhist tradition and be ever-prepared to work for the benefit of others and society.
Maintaining the Dharmaraja identity requires that a certain brand identity regarding the college is maintained in all its activities. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders – old boys, teachers, administrators and students – to safeguard this identity in all activities relating to the school. Any event that carries the name of Dharmaraja should align itself with the Dharmaraja ethos and has to be handled in a professional manner that is reflective of the Dharmaraja brand.
Dharmaraja has always distinguished itself in the academic performance of its students. The school has consistently maintained high levels of achievement at public examinations in Sri Lanka and a large number of Rajans enter the state university system every year in various disciplines. In a system that is becoming even more competitive Dharamaraja must ensure that its academic standards are maintained. However, at the same time it is necessary to understand in today’s context that academic performance is not determined by performance at examinations alone. Given the crisis in state education in the country, many students now pursue non-traditional means of obtaining higher education qualifications. The school needs to recognize this reality and equip students with the knowledge and ability to pursue these nontraditional means of attaining academic qualification and accreditation. There is also a critical need to balance the competitiveness of academic performance with the values of giving and compassion described in theme one. Academic competitiveness should not be seen as mutually exclusive from a sensitive and giving Rajan – the two need to co-exist and thrive.
Personal Social and Spiritual Development of Students
In today’s context many educationists, society leaders, etc., will agree that there is a serious lack of concern about the social and spiritual development of students within education. Driven by larger pressures about employability and the competitive examination culture in the country, the spiritual and personal and social growth of students is neglected. Teaching of religion as a subject is not the answer to this problem. Spiritual growth of students must be integrated into school culture and mainstreamed into a range of activities students engage in school. In addition to the traditional view of spiritual growth which is largely associated with religion, there is also a need to attend to psycho-social needs of students through professional counselling services. Overall, a Rajan product needs to be someone who is spiritually rich and is able to see value in life and society that is not merely material or commercial.
This theme is connected to Academic Performance. The two are closely interlinked. In today’s world of work academic qualifications alone are no guarantee of successful or gainful employment. It is very important that the school is able to expose students from a young age to a diversity of career and entrepreneurial options available in society. Traditionally the Sri Lankan education system prepares students for a limited set of professions. However, a school like Dharmaraja has a responsibility to prepare students for a much broader notion of career. The one-career-for-life mentality needs to be challenged and students need to be given the confidence and ability to re-skill themselves and remain competitive in the job market. At the same time there are a range of non-traditional career options available in Sri Lanka and overseas and students should be made aware of these and the school should foster attitudinal change so that students will see such careers as viable options.
ICT and International Coloboration
Under this theme the use of ICT for education will be explored in depth. Within the Sri Lankan education system student exposure to ICT remains limited. The definition of ICT in most contexts is the use of a computer and various software for daily uses. However, ICT in today’s world saturates every aspect of human life and there is a need to expose students to this diversity and provide them with the skills to engage in ICT in a wide range of activities. One way in which students can be encouraged to engage with ICT more directly is through the use of an Online Learning Management System (LMS).
As part of this theme it is also envisaged that the School’s and the OBUs online presence will be significantly enhanced. The school needs to have a much bolder and vibrant online presence and the potential of ICT needs to be more efficiently exploited to draw upon the resources of old boys located in various parts of the world.
Sports, Physical Education and Co-extracurricular Activities
The focus here is to develop a broad program to uplift the sports and physical education areas in the school. Sports should not be seen as ancillary to the activities of the school but an integral part of education. The presence of Dharmaraja in all sporting domains needs to be enhanced and the physical and human resources necessary to develop sports in the school needs to be provided. In addition, the range and scope of co-extracurricular activities in the school needs to be expanded. Connected to the theme of academic performance core-extracurricular activities should not be seen as an additional burden or activities of lesser importance but a core-part of a well-rounded education. This also relates to the idea of building a Rajan identity. A Rajan product should not be a bookish individual simply interested in text-book knowledge but a mature individual who has a range of skills that allow him to deal with the challenges of life effectively.
Staff Welfare & Development
Next to students the greatest human resource a school has is its staff. The school and the OBU has a responsibility to ensure that the staff have the resources and working environment in which they are happy and productive. Being a state school, there are limitations as to what the school or OBU can do for staff welfare. However, within these limits it is possible to contribute actively towards staff welfare. At the same time the OBU with its wide range of human resources can also contribute to the continuous professional development (CPD) of staff members. The more such opportunities are provided the more students will benefit from higher quality teaching and learning. Just as we look at the whole person growth of students we should be looking at the whole person growth of staff so they can contribute more productively to the teaching and learning environment of the school.
Dharmaraja college requires an integrated physical infrastructure development plan which takes into consideration the school’s medium and long term requirements. The 53-acre campus of Dharmaraja is unique in both its size and varied topography in the education system in Sri Lanka. Even some universities in the country do not hold such extensive or varied land resources. The physical landscape of the school is therefore is one of its primary assets.
At the moment the school has a number of physical infrastructure facilities such as the swimming pool and auditorium which have enhanced the school-going experience for students. However, there needs to be a more visionary plan to upgrade existing infrastructure and to acquire new infrastructure where necessary. It is also necessary to regulate and systematically utilize the land resources of the school in a sustainable manner and in a way that aesthetic appeal and practical utility are balanced effectively. Twenty-first century land-use management and architectural principles need to be applied in the planning and execution of new infrastructure projects.