Buddhist school moving into digital age

Buddhist school moving into digital age

KUALA LUMPUR - Under the shade of a bodhi tree in Brickfields, five young children sat listening intently to a teacher, whose sole purpose was to teach them how to read and write.

That was how the religious school at the Buddhist Maha Vihara started in 1929.

Eighty-six years later, it has flourished from its humble beginnings.

Now in a three-storey building, the Buddhist Institute Sunday Dhamma School is attended by 500 students every week to learn Buddha's teachings.

Its principal, the Ven K. Siri Dhamma, who leads 120 volunteer-teachers, said the school would undergo more changes in the digital era.

He explained that the textbooks used in the school were more than 10 years old and no longer as relevant to students today.

"We are improving standards (in order) to appeal to children of this modern century," said Siri Dhamma.

He is proud of one of the temple's productions, called The Abbot and the Orphan, a 3D animated series which was used to teach children attending the school.

Leading the syllabus revamp is Vijaya Samarawickrama, who is the voice behind the animated abbot.

He said the syllabus had been translated into simpler English.

But it would still feature three vital elements - interesting stories, living skills and examples of how to practise the teachings in daily life, he said.

Fondly known as Uncle Vijaya, he said his team was in the phase of making the textbooks available through digital platforms.

"We want the children to be able to do self-assessments on their level of knowledge.

"We are looking at digital textbooks that can guide the children to Buddhist resources on the Internet," he said.

Siri Dhamma revealed that the temple also planned to enlarge the school to cope with the increasing number of students.

"We need more classrooms and will build counselling rooms, as well as lifts to help senior citizens move between the floors," he said.

The temple has so far collected donations amounting to RM1.8mil (S$658,000), 30 per cent of the funds required to complete the renovations.

Siri Dhamma is optimistic that renovation work will start soon.

"We hope to start by year-end," he said.

Led by temple chief, the Ven Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana Nayaka Maha Thero, Buddhist Maha Vihara will conduct its annual Wesak Day celebration on May 3.

Expected to be attended by about 50,000 devotees, the celebration will include a procession, a blessing session and a blood donation campaign.

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