Provincial councils oversee provincial schools. Each province has a provincial Ministry of Education governed by a designated Minister of Education and assisted by a designated Provincial Secretary of Education. In terms of quality of education and consistency of student outcomes, provincial administration is an area of concern. While national schools under the central government maintain standards for teachers and academic programs, provincial councils regulate education policies in a more decentralized manner.
Problems with Sri Lanka’s education system
This has led to inconsistent curricula of variable quality in some provinces, and questions about whether or not students are prepared to enter the workforce if they cannot pursue further studies. According to a report by the Ministry of Education , there are 9, government schools offering free education in Sri Lanka, as well as 98 recognized private schools, many of which are fee-based international schools.
In , over 1. Sri Lanka has achieved almost universal elementary school attendance , youth literacy rates, and gender parity in schools. Most government schools provide elementary and secondary education at the same location. Only four percent of schools in Sri Lanka are exclusively secondary education institutions. At the secondary level, the government provides textbooks, and uniforms to students and also offers other welfare benefits, such as subsidized transportation and health services, to help students from disadvantaged families.
At the same time, educational quality is impacted by comparatively low levels of education spending. This is below the spending levels in other South Asian lower-middle-income countries like India and Pakistan, where education expenditures amounted to 3. While the private sector remains relatively small, and private school attendance is mostly limited to wealthier segments of society in urban centers, the overall number of recognized private schools has almost tripled from 37 in to 98 today.
Private international schools are viewed as a good way for Sri Lankan students to prepare for study abroad, but depending on the type of curriculum taught, may not always provide for admission to public universities in Sri Lanka, which require A-Levels and may not recognize international school credentials, such as the International Baccalaureate. As in other countries, quality of the private sector can be uneven. However, the Ministry is only directly in charge of two universities and one institute.
The UGC oversees 15 universities, and 18 institutes, and recognizes degree programs at a number of public and private institutions.
It also sets minimum admission requirements for students. These are described in greater detail below. Under the UGC, the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council is responsible for the accreditation of public and private universities. The board is made up of representatives from universities, the Ministry of Higher Education, and officials from the UGC itself.
Higher education institutions under the University Grants Commission are required to adhere to a regional quota system. In addition to the institutions under the Ministry of Higher Education and the UGC, higher education is administered by other governmental institutions in Sri Lanka. For instance:. The Sri Lankan government recognizes the need to increase the employability rates of youth, a group that experienced an unemployment rate of To that end, two ministries — the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training and Ministry of Youth Affairs are tasked with providing technical and vocational training to prepare youth and young adults for careers in a wide range of occupational fields.
Specific fields, oversight authorities, and requirements are discussed below. Boys and girls in Sri Lanka are mostly schooled together, although some single-sex schools exist. Elementary school students across the island follow a national curriculum that consists of six subjects; first national language, second national language, English, Mathematics, Religion, and Environment a combination of social, biological, and physical sciences.
These subjects are mixed in with non-academic activities such as play. However, desk work is gradually increased each year from grades At the end of grade 5, students have the option of taking a scholarship examination to gain entry to a prestigious national secondary school. Students attend the junior secondary level of schooling between grades 6 and 9.
Students undergo coursework in the first language, English, a second national language, mathematics, religion, history, science and technology, health and physical education, practical and technical skills, social studies, life competencies and aesthetic studies. Progression is based on exams at the end of each school year. The exceptions are children who, at the end of grade 5, win scholarships to national schools, and those who attend private schools. Students attend the senior secondary level of schooling between grades 10 and Admission to upper secondary school is extremely competitive with fewer places than interested students.
Though students do not pay for schooling at the secondary level, many pay for private tutoring and prep courses so they can succeed on their General Certificate of Education GCE exams. Other subjects can include civics, art, dancing, entrepreneurship, commerce, agriculture, etc. Students who pass their exams in their first language, mathematics, and three other subjects at higher or the same level of credit can proceed to the GCE, Advanced level stage. According to a report by the Ministry of Education, about 60 percent of students pass O-Levels and move on to A-Levels. The rest pursue vocational education or go directly into the labor market.
The collegiate level, or GCE A-Level , lasts two years and is the prerequisite for entry into tertiary education. Students can chose to study in science, commerce, arts, or technology streams, and elect three corresponding subjects. The final A-Level examinations cover these stream-related subjects, as well as an English language exam, and a general paper.
Of this group, only about 17 percent were admitted into a university-level institution, according to the UGC. Minimum admissions requirements at universities include a minimum mark of 30 percent on the general paper, as well as passing grades in all three stream-related subjects in one test sitting. Students are ranked and admitted in accordance with a standardized scoring system based on their A-Level examination results.
For the few students who make it to university in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Higher Education offers various scholarship opportunities to offset the price of school supplies and other related expenses. In , there was a male-female ratio amongst undergraduate students. That same year, 68 percent of university graduates were female. While women are more educated than men at the undergraduate level, and almost equally educated at the postgraduate level, this fails to translate into more jobs for women, especially for positions of power.
In , 8. In , only 6 percent of the seats in the national parliament were held by women. Given the capacity shortages at public universities , the number of private higher education providers in Sri Lanka is growing. The Ministry of Higher Education can grant private institutions degree-awarding authority or program-based recognition, and the UGC currently lists 11 non-state institutions with degree-granting status on its website , as well as 6 non-state institutions with recognized programs.
Total enrollments at non-state institutions are said to have reached roughly 69, students as of Admission to private institutions is typically based on A-Level examination results, although admission standards may be less rigorous than at public universities. In addition to recognized private institutions, there are a number of unregistered providers, which avoid the lengthy and costly recognition procedures stipulated by the government by taking advantage of a regulatory loophole that allows them to operate by seeking affiliation with foreign universities.
Under current law, affiliated institutions can freely enter franchising and validation agreements to offer degree programs in partnership with foreign providers, although the UGC does not recognize the final degrees awarded by foreign institutions. In , a reported 4, students were enrolled at unregistered higher education institutions, most of them in business-related programs.
Education System in Sri Lanka
Such tertiary-level private education is controversial. At the request of the government, SAITM suspended new student enrollment in May while awaiting a Supreme Court decision that will determine if graduates of the institute can be awarded medical degrees. See additional detail below. This is not the first time that the Sri Lankan government has scaled back private education initiatives after protests. When it tried to legitimize private education in , the related legislation faced significant protest from teachers and students.
Protesters felt that the government should invest more resources into public education rather than relegating education to the private sector, especially as that might mean an erosion of free education. The project aimed to expand distance education, including online education, and upgrade the capabilities of the Open University of Sri Lanka see sidebar.
Outbound Student Mobility
Since then, there has been a significant increase in the number of online programs offered in Sri Lanka, even though the resulting gain in tertiary enrollments rates was by still below the expectations of the ministry, attributable to the fact that online degrees are not yet held in the same regard as traditional degrees. The Open University of Sri Lanka is the only university in the country that provides open and distance learning education at all academic levels, from short-term certificate programs to Ph.
In , over 38, students were enrolled at the Open University, making it by far the largest higher education institution in Sri Lanka in terms of the number of students. Zahira College, Colombo is considered to be the oldest Muslim school initiated in the country by T. Higher education in Sri Lanka has been based on the several prominent pirivenas during the local kingdoms.
The origins of the modern university system in Sri Lanka dates back to when a University College , the Ceylon University College was established at the former premises of Royal College Colombo affiliated to the University of London. However, the beginning of modern higher education in Ceylon was in when the Ceylon Medical School  was established followed by Colombo Law College ,  School of Agriculture and the Government Technical College The university was in Colombo.
Several years later a second campus was built in Peradeniya. This gave way for creation of separate universities after the Universities Act No. Even though new universities of independent identities were created, the government maintained its direct control and centralized administration though the University Grants Commission. Late Hon. Lalith Athulathmudali as Minister of Education developed an initiative to develop the higher education of the country in the s, the Mahapola Fund, established by him provided scholarship and much-needed founding to higher education institution to this day.
Until amendments to the University Act were made in only state universities were allowed to grant undergraduate degrees; this has since changed. Sri Lanka's education structure is divided into five parts: primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, collegiate, and tertiary. Primary education lasts five to six years Kindergarten through grade 5 and at the end of this period, the students may elect to write a national exam called the Scholarship exam. This exam allows students with exceptional skills to move on to better schools.
After primary education, the junior secondary level referred to as middle school in some schools lasts for 4 years Grades followed by 2 years Grades of the senior secondary level which is the preparation for the General Certificate of Education G. According to the Sri Lankan law, it is compulsory that all children go to school till grade 9 age 14 at which point they can choose to continue their education or drop out and engage in apprenticeship for a job or farming.
However, the Ministry of Education strongly advises all students to continue with their studies at least till the G.
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E Ordinary Level. Students who are pursuing tertiary education must pass the G. E Advanced Level.
Due to the variety of ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, many schools teach only in either Sinhala medium or in Tamil medium and not the English medium. The elite colleges in major cities such as Colombo and Kandy , teach in all three media. Most of the schools in Sri Lanka are maintained by the government as a part of the free education.
Currently there are 10, government schools with a student population of 4.
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However the old schools which had been around since the colonial times were retained by the central government, this creating three types of government schools;. National schools come under the direct control of the Ministry of Education and therefore have direct funding from the ministry. Most of these schools were established during the colonial period and therefore are established institutions.