Education in Sri Lanka is compulsory for ages 5 to 14 and free at government schools from kindergarten to the university level. It is the parents' responsibility to make sure their children go to school. Because of the variety of ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, many schools teach only in either Sinhalese or in Tamil, though the elite schools also use English. [Source: D. O. Lodric, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009]

There are five years of elementary, three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary school, and two years of preparatory school for those wishing to attend university. An estimated 99 percent of primary-school-age children enroll in school. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”, 2007]

The present educational system of Sri Lanka derives from the British educational system, which was introduced by the British colonial masters in the 19th century. The British colonial government established colleges for boys and girls separately. These colleges consisted of Primary Schools, Lower Secondary and Higher Secondary Schools. In 1938 the education in government schools was made free of charge as consequence of the Universal Franchise granted in 1931.Subsequently many government schools called maha vidyalayas and were started in all parts of the country. The medium of education of maha vidyalaya’s was either Sinhala or Tamil. [Source: My Sri Lanka ]

Schools in Sri Lanka

There are around 12,000 schools in Sri Lanka of which 10,013 government schools including 350 are national schools run by the Ministry of Education and 736 pirivenas (schools for Buddhist monks, associated with Buddhist monasteries) — as well as a 1,000 or madrasas and Islamic schools and 104 private schools. There are a few other kinds of schools. Most government schools are run by provincial councils.The vast majority or schools are primary schools. In 2000, there were 9,554 primary schools. [Source: Wikipedia]

In 1999, there were approximately 4.3 million primary and secondary students in 11,031 schools: 10,394 government schools, 306 national schools, 77 private schools, 560 pirivenas (schools for Buddhist monks), and 637 schools of other types. International schools are attended mainly by children from wealthy and elite families. [Source:“World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “During the 1990s, in spite of ongoing civil war, the people of Sri Lanka witnessed a steady increase in the number of primary and secondary schools of all types, except private schools. This was coupled with a steady increase in literacy among Sri Lanka's school-age population. Private schools declined by two during the period 1995 to 1999, although at 77 the number of private schools was still higher than the 61 private schools in 1990. Preprimary education is voluntary and entirely private. Most of the schools are in urban areas.

School Life in Sri Lanka

About 4.5 million children are enrolled in school in Sri Lanka. There is an almost equal number of boys and girls. According to the CIA World Factbook: School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):total: 15 years; male: 15 years; female: 16 years (2016). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

As we said before, education is free and compulsory from ages 5 to 12. There are a handful of private schools. They cater mainly to the lite are often referred to as “English medium” schools because the language of instruction is often English. School dropout rates were a problem in the past. In the 1990s, the median education level was estimated at five to nine years, with 40 percent of school-age children dropping out within nine years. This is less of a problem today. [Source: Robert T. Francoeur, Victor C. de Munck, Ph.D., Patricia Weerakoon, Ph.D., “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”, 2002]

The language of instruction in schools is either Sinhala or Tamil depending on the native language of the majority of students. The first language and the mathematics are compulsory subjects. All primary and junior secondary pupils get their schools uniforms and text books free of charge from the government.

Many students wear all-white uniforms. The uniform for many Tamil boys is dark socks, shoes and short pants with a white shirt and tie. There is a strong emphasis on rote learning, deference to authority and avoidance of vocational training. The latter is the case is at least in part because children do not want to be encouraged to pursue training associated with a lower caste.

According to “Countries and Their Cultures”: “In Sri Lanka, education has always been highly valued and encouraged. Children often attend preschool and typically continue their education until the completion of the secondary level. Academic competition starts early, as parents scramble to place their children in the better primary schools, and continues with three sets of standardized exams that determine access to subsequent educational privileges. To prepare for these exams and other academic challenges, almost all children attend private tutorial sessions in addition to their regular schooling. [Source: Bambi L. Chapin and Kalinga Tudor Silva,“Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

According to the Sri Lankan law, all children must attend school through grade nine at which point they can choose to continue their education or drop out and engage in apprenticeship for a job or farming. Even so the Ministry of Education strongly advises all students to continue with their studies at least till the G.C.E Ordinary Level, which is achieved after two years of senior secondary school through grade 11..

Due to the ethnic make up of Sri Lanka, many schools teach only in either Sinhala or Tamil. Generally in Sinhalese areas primary education is conducted in Sinhala and in Tamil areas primary education is conducted in Tamil. Since 2002, English medium have been conducted in majority of government schools. Elite schools in the major cities such as Colombo and Kandy teach in Sinhala, Tamil and English but generally emphasize English or Sinhala.

Types of Schools in Sri Lanka

In the late 2010s, there were 10,012 government schools with a student population of 4.2 million and 235,924 teachers. Under the provincial council system in the 1980s the central government handed control of most schools to local governments. 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, provincial schools and pirivens. [Source: Wikipedia]

National schools are 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. These few are referred to as famous schools or elite schools since they have a rich history and better maintained facilities than the average public school. This is mainly due to the support of their alumni. In recent years newer schools and several central colleges have been upgraded to national schools from time to time. There are 350 national schools.

Provincial Schools comprises of the vast majority of schools in Sri Lanka. With the establishment of the provincial council system in the 1980s the central government handed control of most schools to local governments. Funded and controlled by the local governments many suffer from poor facilities and a shortage of teachers.

Piriven are monastic colleges (similar to a seminary) for the education of Buddhist monks and priests. These have been the centers of secondary and higher education in ancient times for lay people as well. Today 561 Piriven are funded and maintained by the Ministry of Education under the Pirivena Education Act, No, 64 of 1979. Young priests undergo training at these pirivenas prior to being their ordination and study for GCE O/L and A/L examinations. They may gain entrance to State Universities for higher religious studies.

Private Schools in Sri Lanka

There were 104 private schools in Sri Lanka in the late 2010s with 127,968 students There has been a considerable increase in the number of private schools in Sri Lanka, due to the emergence of the upper-middle class during the colonial era. These private schools follow the local curriculum set up by the Ministry of Education in the local language mediums of Sinhala, Tamil or English. Many of the private schools have access to newer facilities than state run schools. Currently there are 66 private schools that have been registered with the government at least before 1960. Of these, 33 are non- tuition Assisted Private Schools (also known as semi-government schools) and 33 tuition- levying autonomous Private Schools.

International Schools for the most part prepare students for the Edexcel General Certificate of Education (IGCSE) Ordinary, Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A2) Level examinations, which is the most popular qualification. Preparation for Cambridge International Examinations is also offered by a few schools but it is less popular. Both exams are offered under the supervision of the British Council, whereas some schools offer a direct partnership with the examination body in order to improve standards. International schools in Sri Lanka are open to everyone, not just members of the expatriate community, that can pay the fees and meet the entrance criteria. These schools are not regulated or control by the Ministry of Education but rather are under the jurisdiction of the Board of Investment (BOI). The quality of these schools varies greatly. They generally charge high tuition fees.

Madrasas are Islamic schools. As of 2013, there were 205 madrasas registered with the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs. These schools have mostly been built and are maintained by independent Islamic foundations such as All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and the Thareeqathul Aroosiyyathil Qaadhiriyyah Association in Sri Lanka. There are an additional 750 or so Muslim schools in Sri Lanka not registered with government..

Semi Government Schools including prominent institutions such as Wesley College, Colombo, Zahira College, Colombo, St. Joseph's College, Colombo and St. Peter's College, Colombo. There are quite a few semi-government schools in Sri Lanka that are run as a government-private collaboration, where the government provides the textbooks, uniforms, and other facilities such as the ability to sit for national exams and the government-paid teachers.

Primary Education in Sri Lanka

Primary education lasts for six years from kindergarten to grade, after which the students pupils take a scholarship examination. Those who pass scholarship examination qualify for prestigious national secondary schools and are granted monthly financial support until they complete the university. Normal ages for primary school: Kindergarten: 3-5 year olds; Grade 1: 5-6 year olds; Grade 2: 6-7 year olds; Grade 3: 7-8 year olds; Grade 4: 8-9 year olds; Grade 5: 9-10 year olds - Scholarship Examination. Attendance rates for primary education were around 90 percent in the late 1990s but are around 96 percent today. [Source: My Sri Lanka, Wikipedia]

The vast majority or schools are primary schools. In 2000, there were 9,554 primary schools, out of 11,000 total schools. At the elementary school level in Sri Lanka, boys and girls are mostly schooled together, although some single-sex schools exist. Entrance to elementary school is usually based on a student’s place of residence. Elementary school students throughout Sri Lanka follow the national curriculum, according to World Education News and Reviews, “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 1-5.” First and second national language generally refer to Sinhala and Tamil, with Sinhalese and Tamil each using their own language as the language of instruction but also studying the language of the other group. [Source: World Education News and Reviews]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: Primary education is free but, by tradition, was not compulsory until 1999, when the Sri Lankan government established new regulations making primary education compulsory as part of a reform program. An estimated 14 percent of children ages 5 to 10 years were not attending school. Village committees are now empowered with the authority to raise and monitor school attendance. Public awareness programs are being carried out to encourage educational attendance.The curriculum for the first three years of primary education includes religion, the mother tongue, English, and numbers. In grade four the same subjects are continued and physical education, constructive activities, and environmental studies added. The goal of primary education is to promote a useful role in the local community. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Secondary Education and A Levels in Sri Lanka

After primary education, junior secondary education lasts for five years, after which students take government examination called the G.C.E. — O Levels (Ordinary levels) to qualify for senior secondary education which last another two years. After this students take a very competitive university entrance examination which is called G.C.E. (A Level) Advanced level examination to get into university.The student to teacher ratio in secondary school in 2000 was: 22:1.

According to World Education News and Reviews: “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. If students do not qualify for university-level study after sitting for their exams, they may be eligible for admission to non-university higher education institutions that offer programs in “technology, business studies, and professions such as teaching and nursing.” [Source: World Education News and Reviews]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “Reforms at the junior secondary stage were implemented in 1999 for grades six to nine. New syllabi were developed and textbooks rewritten. The number of subjects required by students planning to qualify for the GCE (A/L) examination was reduced from four to three subject areas of study. A Common General Paper, designed for testing students' awareness of current affairs, reasoning ability, problems solving ability and communication skills, became a required part of the GCE (A/L) examination. A compulsory new course on general English was introduced for GCE (A/L) students, although the scores will not be added to the aggregate marks for university entrance. In addition, the government has offered a one-year pre-university course of instruction to improve entrance prospects for those from poorer, particularly Tamil, regions of the country. Other educational reforms at the secondary level include a program to develop better school facilities at divisional levels for disadvantaged groups, particularly rural children. A total of 325 existing schools have been designated for maintenance improvement, better teacher-training programs, and human resource development. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Junior Secondary School in Sri Lanka

Students attend the junior secondary school for four years from grade six to grade nine in accordance with the following ages: Grade 6: 10-11 year olds; Grade 7: 11-12 year olds; Grade 8: 12-13 year olds; Grade 9: 13-14 year olds

According to World Education News and Reviews: 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. As in elementary school, entrance to junior secondary school is usually based on a student’s place of residence. The exceptions are children who, at the end of grade 5, win scholarships to national schools, and those who attend private schools. [Source: World Education News and Reviews]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “The curriculum consists of 10 compulsory subjects including English and science. Technical and prevocational studies constitute 20 percent of the curriculum. Examinations in the mother tongue and mathematics are taken to establish eligibility for senior secondary education. Students must pass four other examinations from among English, science, religion, social studies, aesthetic studies, health and physical education, or technical subjects. Satisfactory passes in 'O' level are required to enter senior secondary school. Students may need to repeat the last year of junior secondary in order to achieve entry to senior secondary. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Senior Secondary Schools in Sri Lanka

Students that qualify to attend senior secondary school for two years from grade ten to grade 11 in accordance with the following ages: Grade 10: 14-15 year olds and Grade 11: 15-16 year olds - G.C.E Ordinary Level Examination. Students pursuing tertiary education must pass the G.C.E O/Ls (O Levels).Those that pass the O level exams attend Collegiate schools for two years from grade 12 to grade 13 in accordance with the following ages: Grade 12: 16-18 year olds; Grade 13: 17-19 year olds - G.C.E Advanced Level Examination. On successful completion of this exam, students can move on to tertiary education. The GCE A/Ls (A Levels) is the university entrance exam in Sri Lanka. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “ Five curriculum areas are available for students: physical sciences, biological sciences, social studies, humanities, and commerce. Specialist curricula are designed to groom students for university entrance requirements. This course of study lasts two years and leads to the Sri Lanka General Certificate of Education (A/L) examination for university entrance. Only one out of every 100 students is accepted into a Sri Lankan university after 12 to 14 years of education. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

According to the World Education News and Reviews: Students attend the senior secondary level of schooling between grades 10 and 11. 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. According to the Ministry of Education, the curriculum consists of “six core subjects and three or four optional subjects.” Mandatory subjects include first language, second language, math, science, history, and religion. Other subjects can include civics, art, dancing, entrepreneurship, commerce, agriculture, etc. [Source: World Education News and Reviews]

“Grade 11 culminates in the award of the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary level (GCE O-Level). 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 2013 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.

University Entrance Exam in Sri Lanka

After completing Grade 13 at a Collegiate school students can take the G.C.E Advanced Level Examination. Those that pass this exam technically qualify for tertiary education but many still do not attend university.. The GCE A/Ls (A Levels) is the university entrance exam in Sri Lanka. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to World Education News and Reviews: Sri Lanka’s university admissions process is highly competitive. In 2012, about 60 percent of students passed the GCE A-Level examinations. 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. [Source: World Education News and Reviews]

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. Recently, the Ministry implemented a “laptop loan scheme” that provides university students with interest-free loans to purchase laptops up to around USD $500.”

Teachers in Sri Lanka

In 2000, there were 66,339 primary school teachers, 103,572 secondary school teachers: Primary and 2,636 teachers, instructor and professors in higher education. The Student-teacher Ratio in primary school was: 28:1 The student to teacher ratio in secondary school was: 22:1. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

In the mid 2000s, the student-to-teacher ratio was 23 to 1 in primary school and 20 to 1 in secondary school. The student-teacher ratio at that time was 43 to 1 in the developing world 16 to 1 in the developed world and 15 to 1 in the United States, In 1999, the student teacher ratio was 22 to 1, a decline of one student since 1990. At that time the majority of teachers (60 percent) were trained, and 27 percent graduated from a teaching college or university. The remaining teaching staff consisted of certified teachers, uncertified teachers, and volunteer teachers. The number of teachers at both the primary and secondary levels increased from 184,822 in 1990 to 196,726 in 1999. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001; “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”, 2007]

According to World Education News and Reviews: “Teachers are either trained at 19 national Colleges of Education overseen by the National Institute of Education (NIE) or in Bachelor of Education programs at Sri Lanka’s public universities. Elementary and lower-secondary school teachers must hold a Trained Teachers Certificate, which is a three-year program that is typically entered on the basis of A-Levels, and comprises of two years of class room instruction and one year of in-service teaching. Teaching in upper secondary schools requires a Bachelor of Education degree, respectively a Diploma of Education or Postgraduate Diploma in Education, a credential earned upon completion of a one-year graduate program following a bachelor’s degree in another discipline. [Source: World Education News and Reviews]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia” in 2001: There are 12,000 untrained teachers in the educational system. A distancelearning program is in place with 9,625 teachers enrolled. The remaining untrained teachers will be sent to teachers' colleges. The government has set the year 2002 as a deadline for achieving a completely trained teaching faculty. There will be no further recruitment of untrained teachers. The National Colleges of Education have been designated to train all new teachers. There will be 84 Teacher Centers, 72 of which had been established by 1999 with money provided by the World Bank under the Teacher Education and Teacher Deployment Project. Renewal courses, as part of teacher in-service training, were extended to 30,704 educators. [Source: “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

School Year in Sri Lanka

The academic year in Sri Lanka lasts from January to December. There are three terms, each followed by a two week vacation (roughly): 1) January to April; 2) April to August; 3) September to December. There are large breaks too for exams. The first term usually starts on the first Monday in January. Some schools start a week later to allow enough time for correcting O level exam papers. The main school holidays last for around two weeks and coincide with with Sinhala & Tamil New Year in April, summer vacation in August and end of the year vacation in December.

For the 2021 school year, the Sri Lankan government stated: All schools in Sri Lanka except in the Western Province and other isolated areas opened for grades 2-13 from January 11. The Minister of Education Professor G.L. Peiris said that the grade 11 of the schools in the Western Province started from 25th of January. The third term of Government schools will end on December 23. [Source: Sri Lanka School Vacation Holidays News, August 28, 2020]

Key dates in 2020 and 2021:
Grade 5 scholarship Examination October 11, 2020
Advanced Level examination October 12 to November 6, 2020.
Schools closed from October 10 to November 8.
Third school term started on November 9 and ended on December 23.
The year-end school vacation starts on December 24 and ends on January 1, 2021.
New school term of the year 2021 commenced on January 4.
Ordinary Level examination January 18 to January 27, 2021. This time period will be a special vacation for all schools.
A study leave period will be given from January 1, 2021 to January 17 only to the students sitting for G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination.
The schools will be reopened from February 1, 2021 after the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination.

Children in Rural Schools In Sri Lanka

Provincial Schools in rural areas comprises of the vast majority of schools in Sri Lanka. With the establishment of the provincial council system in the 1980s the central government handed control of most schools to local governments. Funded and controlled by the local governments many suffer from poor facilities and a shortage of teachers.

Dr. Tissa K. Dissanayake wrote in the Sunday Leader, a Sri Lankan newspaper: “ I found that the rural children are in the fields with their parents at young ages, usually before they begin attending school at age five. The children help parents with plugging out the harvest, weeding the grass, fertilizing, and watering the farm using buckets added to which sometimes is metal crushing, fishing in nearby streams all of which help transfer skills to children at young ages. Though parents like to see their children pursue education to the highest level, they also believe that agriculture should be sustained, such being their source of sole income. Parents are accustomed to this pattern, as it has continued through generations. [Source: Dr. Tissa K. Dissanayake, Sunday Leader, August 28, 2016]

“A teacher who serves in a rural community school in the North Central Province explained that all most all the students in her class do not attend school during the tobacco harvesting season. People select tobacco harvesting over rice cultivation due to the high income earning potential despite the hazardous health conditions that the former brings about. A considerable population working in tobacco fields experience heart diseases such as breathing difficulty, fluctuations in blood pressure or heart rate, and increased perspiration and salivation. Despite such, parents encourage children to work in tobacco fields over attending school.

“A youngster who followed this pattern (who worked in the fields with her parents after school like any other kid in the neighborhood) is now a university graduate teacher. She was the only student who passed the G.C.E Ordinary Level Examination after seven years in that rural school and was able to balance her farm work and education at immense sacrifice, to accomplish her goal of working for the government sector. However, most school aged children do not have success stories. Financial difficulties in households force children to be employed in fields, full time. This is a significant factor resulting in high percentages of under educated youth from rural communities.

“A household thus makes a sacrifice to send a child to school continuously at the loss of a supplementary income to the family. It is a hard choice between investing in education for the future, versus surviving each day from hunger. The rulers have not implemented policies to support the school aged children in ultra-poor rural communities. Short term decision making, of keeping children at home for supplemental income through unskilled labor (later these employments will be the main stream income) do not contribute towards up lifting the standards of life which also results in adverse macro-economic development of the nation.”

Teachers in a Rural School in Sri Lanka

Dr. Tissa K. Dissanayake wrote in the Sunday Leader: On the other hand, paucity in infrastructure development is another significant factor contributing towards under developed rural communities. A school principal whom I interviewed stated, “The teachers under my administration (Only three in the school) live from 15 Kilometers to 40 Kilometers far from the school. They selected the school, because its location was close to their home town” (Ranasignhe, personal Interview, February 02, 2015). However the selection is not without difficulty, due to lessened infrastructure facilities. [Source: Dr. Tissa K. Dissanayake, Sunday Leader, August 28, 2016]

“One of the teachers walks 2-3 Kilometers (1.25-1.87 miles) from his home to board a bus. After the bus ride of 4 Kilometers (2.5 miles), he walks another 3 Kilometers (1.87 miles) to the school. The teacher spends an hour to one and a half hours each way, a total of around 3 hours, for a productive teaching time of six hours (school hours being 7.30am -1.30 pm.). The final 3 Kilometers (1.87 miles) to school was walked by all his staff members, students and parents due to the lack of a motorable road. He intentionally walks the first 2-3 Kilometers (1.25-1.87 miles) to school, because he could save SLR 500 ($3.50) a month. School teachers who serve in such deprived areas are entitled to an extra monthly allowance of SLR 1500 (US$ 10.60). This extra allowance becomes insignificant for teachers who live far from the school. The government subsidized monthly season ticket to ride on the state owned bus service becomes irrelevant as they do not operate in a timely fashion. Instead, extra money is spent on traveling in private buses.

“Reward structures for teachers between rural and city schools are not comparable due to such poor infrastructure facilities. The specialized teachers, college graduates, and skilled teachers turn away from rural schools due to lack of amenities. Rural school teachers are not provided with housing facilities and have to be satisfied with whatever provided by the villagers. These have no running water, inadequate bathroom/toilet facilities, and are temporary structures. Access to nutritious food or desired meals is a luxury.

“Besides such, the fear of wild animal attacks is another major concern. A teacher from the North Central Province mentioned that, “both students and teachers do not attend school when wild elephants are around” (Dulanjali, personal interview, March 03, 2015). No actions have been taken to tackle down these issues.

“Consequently, the lack of infrastructure led to teacher shortage in deprived communities. For instance, one school has only a single appointed teacher. He is the principal as well as the teacher of all four grades. The second school has four teachers including the principal for five grades. A parent mentioned, “My daughter is good at dancing, there is no teacher to improve her skill” (Ranjini, personal interview, February 15, 2015). Though much importance is attached to English as a second language, parents complain that there is a severe dearth of teachers in rural areas. The government’s monthly incentive of SLR 1500 (US $ 10.60), has in no way induced teachers to take appointments and stay for long, under rural conditions.”

Mobile Phones Banned in Sri Lanka Schools After Suicide

In 2009, Sri Lanka banned students from using mobile phones at school following the suicide of a teenager disciplined for using her device, officials say. The BBC reported: “An education ministry spokesman said the ban would apply in public and private schools. Students say high-tech mobile phones offer them opportunities to text messages, pictures and surf the net. But teachers and education officials are now opposing the idea of mobile phones in classrooms. [Source: BBC, July 8, 2009]

“A 14-year-old girl hanged herself last week after being disciplined for having a phone inside school premises. Another student from the same school in the capital Colombo attempted suicide after receiving a similar reprimand. Both students were reportedly afraid that they would receive a severe punishment and be reported to their parents.

Now the government says it has imposed a total ban on mobile phones in all schools. “The ban on mobile phone comes into effect immediately. We have received many complaints from parents, principals and the public (about mobile phones)," Susil Premajayantha, Sri Lankan Minister of Education told the BBC Sinhala service. The government has also advised teachers to restrict the use of their mobile phones inside school premises.

“Some blame the parents for providing phones to their children as students below the age of 18 are not eligible to get mobile phone contracts on their own. More than half the Sri Lankan population of about 20 million people use mobile phones and their reach is spreading further because of falling line rentals and intense business competition.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (, Government of Sri Lanka (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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