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The Educational System of Sri Lanka


Present school system : Today, there are 10,390 government schools. The curriculum offered is approved by the Ministry of Education.

Schooling is compulsory for children from 5 + to 13 years of age. Education is state funded and offered free of charge at all levels, including the university level. The government also provides free textbooks to schoolchildren. Literacy rates and educational attainment levels rose steadily after Sri Lanka became an independent nation in 1948 and today the youth literacy rate stands at 97%. The government gives high priority to improving the national education system and access to education. The medium of language could be Sinhala, Tamil or English. English is taught as a second language. Students sit the G.C.E O/L at the end of 11 years of formal education and G.C.E. A/L examinations at the end of 13 years.

The education structure is divided into five parts: primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, collegiate and tertiary.

Educational System in Sri Lanka

In addition to the Government Schools there are 33 non-fee-levying Assisted Private Schools and 33 fee- levying autonomous Private Schools. These schools offer the local syllabus as well as the British system. There is another category of English medium International Schools approved and registered by the Board of Investment, Sri Lanka. Some international schools offer the curriculum for the IB Diploma while others coach students for the Edexcel G.C.E Ordinary Level (O/L) Advanced Subsidiary (A/S) and Advanced Level (A2) examinations. A few schools offer the curriculum for the Cambridge Examinations as well.

Sri Lankan G.C.E (A/L) is comparable to the UK qualification of GCE standard on a subject-for-subject basis.

Tertiary Level : Sri Lanka has 15 universities, all of which are public institutions. Other institutions of higher education include medical schools, engineering schools, schools of law, and technical and vocational training schools and National Colleges of Education.

Universities : Admission at undergraduate level to these public universities are based solely on the results of the G.C.E.(A/L) Examination and the Z-score, which considers the difficulty level of the subjects..  Due to restricted facilities admissions have become extremely competitive.  Only 6% of the students who sit the examination are admitted to the universities. Combined with the fact that those who take the British examinations are not permitted to apply for admission, an increasing number of students are looking for opportunities abroad for continuing their higher studies.

First stage : Certificate, Diploma, and Bachelor’s Degree.
Certificates and diplomas are conferred after one or two years. A Bachelor’s Degree is earned after three years as a General Degree or after 4 years as a Special Degree.  A degree in Medicine is awarded after 5 years of study with an additional year of internship, which is compulsory.

Typical degrees : BA/BSc – (General degree) – 3 years, BA/BSc – (Special degree) and Bachelor of Commerce degrees – 4 years, MBBS 5 years, LLB-3years

Second stage : Master’s Degree, M Phil, Postgraduate Diploma.
A Master’s Degree is obtained after two years of study beyond the Bachelor’s Degree and has a dissertation in addition to papers on theory. The M.Phil /PhD syllabus consists mainly of research and may go on for 3 years after the Masters degree. Postgraduate Diplomas, unless stated otherwise, generally require one year of study. Typical degrees: MA/MSc/MBA – 2 years, PhD – 3 years after a Masters degree.

Institutes recognized by the Ministry of Education as degree granting authorities as of April /07

15 national Universities

  • University of Colombo                                    
  • University of Peradeniya
  • University of Sri Jayewardenepura
  • University of Kelaniya
  • University of Moratuwa
  • University of Jaffna
  • University of Ruhuna
  • Open University of Sri Lanka
  • Eastern University of Sri Lanka
  • Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
  • Wayamba University of Sri Lanka
  • South Eastern University of Sri Lanka
  • Uva Wellassa University
  • University of the Visual & Performing Arts
  • Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka

7 Post Graduate Institutes

  • Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture                         
  • Postgraduate Institute of  Medicine
  • Postgraduate Institute of Pali & Buddhist Studies
  • Postgraduate Institute of Management
  • Postgraduate Institute of Archeology
  • Postgraduate Institute of Science
  • Postgraduate Institute of English

In addition there are 9 Higher Educational Institutes and 7 Other Degree Awarding Institutes.

Reference :

Vocational and Technical Schools :  These offer one to two year diploma programs and are under the Technical and Vocational Commission. Admission requirements differs according to the program.

National Colleges of Education : A 3 year diploma for teacher training is offered at these schools and the entry requirement is 3 passes at the G.C.E.

Vocational Training : There are also a large number of training institutes run by the Government as well as the private sector for vocational training, catering to the needs of those who leave the school system at different levels.

Contact information : US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission, 7, Flower Terrace, Colombo 7 Sri Lanka

Adviser: Edna Selvanayagam
E-mail: [email protected]