Education in Sri Lanka has a long history that dates back two millennia. While the Constitution of Sri Lanka does not provide free education as a fundamental right, the constitution mentions that 'the complete eradication of illiteracy and the assurance to all persons of the right to universal and equal access to education at all levels".
Sri Lanka's population had an adult literacy rate of 96.3% in 2015, which is above average by world and regional standards. Computer literacy in 2017 28.3% and phone users in 2017 105%, website users 32% in 2017. Education plays a major part in the life and culture of the country which dates back to 543 BC. Sri Lanka's modern educational system was brought about by its integration into the British Empire in the 19th century. Education currently falls under the control of both the Central Government and the Provincial Councils, with some responsibilities lying with the Central Government and the Provincial Council having autonomy for others.
In 1942 a special committee was appointed to observe the education system and, among the suggestions that followed, the following play an important role:
- Make available to all children a good education free of charge, so that education ceases to be a commodity purchasable only by the urban affluent.
- Make national languages the media of instruction in place of English so that opportunities for higher education, lucrative employment open only to a small number of the urban affluent, would become available to others as well.
- Rationalize the school system so that educational provision is adequate, efficient and economical. Ensure that every child is provided with instruction in the religion of his/her parents.
- Protect teachers from exploitation by managers of schools.
- Make adequate provision for adult education.
After independence, the number of schools and the literacy rate substantially increased. According to the Ministry of Statistics, today, there are approximately 10,012 public schools serving close to 4,037,157 students all around the island. Education structure
Sri Lanka's education structure is divided into five parts: primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, collegiate, and tertiary.
- Primary education lasts five years (Grade 1 to 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.
- Junior secondary level (referred to as middle school in some schools) lasts for 4 years (Grades 6-9)
- Senior secondary level 2 years (Grades 10-11), which is the preparation for the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E) Ordinary Level (O/L). According to the Sri Lankan law, it is compulsory that all children go to school till grade 9 (age 14), which at this 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.C.E Ordinary Level. Students who are pursuing tertiary education must pass the G.C.E O/L in order to enter the collegiate level to study.
- College level 2 years (grades 12-13) to sit for the G.C.E Advanced Level. On successful completion of this exam, students can move on to tertiary education; there for the GCE A/L is the university entrance exam in Sri Lanka.
- University level.
Undergraduate education in state universities is free but extremely competitive, limited and standardized. Fewer than 16% (less than 16,000 students) of those who qualify get admission to state universities. Admission to the university system is based on the highly competitive GCE Advanced Level examination. Selection of students is done based on rank order on average Z Scores obtained by candidates at the GCE Advanced Level under a transparent national policy to replicate a district basis representation. Only the top students from each district get admissions.
The top students from urban and rural districts get the chance to have tertiary education. However, top students who got qualified under the minimum Z Scores requirements for admissions from remote districts may get in with relatively lower marks than those from urban districts. As a result, many students who are not granted admission find other means of higher education. Around 8% those qualified but could not get admission for higher education go abroad to pursue their studies.
Some study for entrance/membership for professional bodies, both foreign (such as CIMA, BCS, ACCA, etc.) and local (such as ICASL, SLIM) or do studies at vocational-technical colleges that specialize in mechanical and electronic subjects. Government has schemes to provide financial aid in addition to free education to support those qualified to get admission to state universities financially.
In summary, after studying a considerable period and with immense effort, there are a huge number of students who have fallen from the list due to our public university capacity. At present, more and more of these students seeking higher study options abroad due to various reasons such as foreign exposure, multicultural living, etc...
Not like those days now, more and more parents and students tend to find suitable destinations than popular destinations to make it more profitable. UK, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada are falling out from the list and Russia, Belarus, China are considering as the most suitable destinations for Sri-Lankan students.
Not only tuition fees but also the living cost and living standards are being compared and found these suitable destinations have far more benefits than the other category.