This chapter examines how education became a place of miscommunication and mistaken identity across the colonial divide. For centuries prior to the arrival of British colonialism, Burmese boys had learned to read in the monasteries as preparation for their ordination as novices. This training was key to Burmese acculturation and foundational for preserving the Buddha's words and his sāsana in the world—it created civilized Burmese and ensured the future of Buddhism. The nineteenth-century world of Burmese Buddhism, in many ways, centered around these boys. The colonial state viewed teaching literacy in monasteries as the same as secular education and sought to bring Buddhist practice into the service of colonial ends by turning monasteries into government-sponsored schools. This chapter considers how Burma's Buddhist associations sought to remedy failured efforts to bring the monasteries into the state program by taking up the mantle of creating a modern Buddhist education system, and in the process reshaped the role of religion in public life.
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