With a literacy rate of 92.3% and a continuing increase in primary school enrolment, the education system in Sri Lanka is constantly evolving and improving. Considering its history, a visible improvement is a high achievement, and will hopefully be maintained in the future.
Currently, there are 10,390 government schools in Sri Lanka. A curriculum set by the government is taught in Sinhalese, with English set as a second language. Education in Sri Lanka is free from primary through university level, but is only compulsory for those between the ages of 5 and 14. Facilities within the country are all state-funded and free materials are given to each child throughout their education.
Today, the education system of Sri Lanka faces many challenges as its weaknesses overpower its strengths. With a high literacy rate, it is easy to get a clouded judgment of the level of education. Overall, the quality of education is poor, with a mismatched curriculum of two different systems of private and public schools, and a substantial lack of training for teachers.
Added pressures of inefficient administration and limited government expenditure lead to difficulties in aiding children into education. Despite the compulsory requirement for 5 to 14-year-olds, only 92.2% are in full-time education, and attendance to lessons are very poor. The main reason is many children do not have a birth certificate, which means that they are technically not allowed an access to education within the country. Other reasons for poor attendance includes lack of interest or poor household backgrounds, where children are required to help their families as an alternative to education.
The Free Education Policy of 1947 enabled children to have an easier opportunity accessing education. The government spent four percent of its GDP on education, leading to mass improvements in facilities, and the level of education children receive. This was a major break-through in Sri Lanka but following weak economic conditions in the late 1960s, the government was unable to continue spending this amount of money. In 1970, the allocation for education dropped to three percent and then to less than two percent in 1977 following the introduction of Structural Adjustment policies. The quality of education deteriorated comparatively as a consequence.
Since these hard times, education reforms have been set in order to change the system and modernize it. The General Education Project-2, established in 1998, provided students with textbooks, changed the curriculum to make it more relevant and helped to develop school libraries.
While these projects and reforms have aided Sri Lanka in improving the level of education available to schoolchildren, it is still not as good as it could be. In order for education in Sri Lanka to improve, much higher levels of training need to be accessible to teachers, and schemes need to be put in place so that children who have difficulty accessing education can have equal opportunities.
– Georgia Boyle