National Education System
The population of Sri Lanka is nearly 18 million. There are more or less 4.2 million children enrolled in over 9,790 public schools around the country. All public schools follw the National Curriculum. Schools are classified into five types namely;
1A, 1B Schools with GCE (Advance Level) classes.
Type 1C Schools with GCE (Advance Level) art and commerce classes.
Type 2 Schools with classes up to year 11 (GCE O/L)
Yype 3 (i) Elementary schools with classes up to year 8
Type 3 (ii) Primary schools with classes up to year 5
There were 9790 schools around the country in 2003; 1AB -606, 1C –1752, Type 1- 4267, Type 2 - 3165
The education system in the country is a vast structure with a teaching force of around 200,000 in these 9790 schools. The government annually spends 2.8% of GDP for education amounting to rupees 14 billion.
There are three categories of schools in the non-state sector which follows the National Curriculam, they are namely;
1. Private Fee Levying Schools
2. Private Non-Fee Levying Schools
These are schools that have chosen to remain private when the free education scheme was introduced. These schools began their activities during 1951-1960 with the approval of the Department of Education. The Ministry of Education does not provide any financial assistance to these schools so that fees are charged to cover expenses. These schools are nevertheless subject to supervision by the Education authorities. These schools follow the National Curriculum and some schools prepare students for London O/L and A/L examinations too.
These schools chose to remain private in 1960 when schools were being taken over by the government. The state assists these schools by paying salaries of teachers while facilities fees are charged on the same basis as in government schools. These schools are also subject to supervision by the Education authorities.
Only private individuals and institutions, local government authorities and NGOs offer pre-primary education. Pre-primary schools generally cater to children aged 3-5. Although on a non-systematic basis, about 50% of children attend pre-schools.
Well-organized activities for early childhood development are yet evolving in the country. The most well known are the pre-schools which are primarily expected to prepare three to five year old children for schooling. There are day care centres, which look after young children, from infants to toddlers, mainly to help working mothers. All these institutions are run mainly by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector. Not all pre-schools are designed or equipped to promote the growth and development of young children. They seek primarily to teach the children to write letters, count and even work out sums. This unfortunately is what the parents and even the primary schools expect as well.
Education of Children with Special Needs
The compulsory education regulations recognizes the right of all children to education, and needless to say this includes children with special needs. The 1997 Education Reforms drew attention to the need to provide such children a education within or outside the classroom. The reforms introduced competency and activity based learning-teaching methodology and extended continuous assessment, creating a learning environment that is more conducive to meeting the needs of such children. A special programme for teachers is being conducted by the National Institute of Education. The Ministry of Social Welfare has also developed a National Policy to the general education system.
Primary Education from grade 1-5 in junior schools lasts five years, after which the students sit a scholarship examination. Those who have passed the scholarship examination qualify themselves to be admitted to popular schools and are granted monthly financial support until they pass out from the university. During this five years in the school, the child is attracted, settled, disciplined, focused and inducted to systematic learning through a mix of play, activity and desk work. Under the recent reforms, the curriculum is competency based rather than subject based. The basic competencies moulds a child to be competence in communication using words, numbers and pictorial forms and the competencies in the areas of Ethics and Religion, Environment, Leisure and Learning.
Junior Secondary stage is grade 6-9. Grade 6 is the bridging year between the primary and secondary. The common curriculum comprises nine subjects. Those are; First Language, English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, Life Skills, Religion, Aesthetics, Health and Physical Education. A second language ( Tamil for Sinhala students and Sinhala for Tamil students) too is taught when teachers are available. It is important to notice that the teaching methodology emphasizes on learning through projects and practicals. Concept of peace education, conflict resolution and human rights and environmental conservation are integrated to the subject content into the Social Studies and other relevant subjects.
Senior Secondary Education
Senior Secondary (O/L) education lasts for two years, grade 10- 11, after which students have to sit for the G.C.E. ordinary level to qualify for Senior Secondary G.C.E. (A/L) education which lasts another two years until students are prepared for the G.C.E. Advanced level examination. There are eight core subjects ( Religion, First Language, English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Science and History, Aesthetic Studies and Technical subjects. With the above subjects, students are permitted to select three optional subjects ( Sinhala / Tamil as a second Language, History, Geography, Health and Physical Education, Literature (Sinhala/Tamil/ English) and Modern or Classical Languages).
Senior Secondary (A/L) education lasts for two years, grade 12-13, after which students have to sit for G. C. E. (A/L) examination. This is mainly a selection exam for University admission. Studies are mainly in Bio Science stream, Physical Science stream, Arts stream and Commerce stream. Many reforms were introduced to this stage as well as to other early stages in order to find career paths to those who fail to gain admission to Universities.
There are four main subject streams available at the A/L examination and they are;
1. Arts 2. Commerce
3. Biological Science and 4. Physical Science