Few boys in school uniform Interacting with Each Other; One of the Best Things about Secondary Education System in Sri Lanka
Interacting with Each Other; One of the Best Things about the Secondary Education System in Sri Lanka

Education plays a vital role in every child’s life. Besides, it is a great factor that impacts the future of a country as well. Thus, it has become a primary right of a child to be able to get an education. And when considering Sri Lanka, the concern the country has on child education is indeed impressive. Starting from primary education, the path to excel in academics is already paved within the country, and the majority of the Sri Lankans benefit from it beyond a doubt. Usually, after completing primary education, children start their secondary education as the next step. However, secondary education is a bit different from primary education. Therefore, it happens to be a new phase of a child’s life, that many pay attention to. Hence, we thought of focusing this read on secondary education in Sri Lanka, to get to know about the best things of it!

How is the Education System in Sri Lanka?

At present, there are approximately 10,390 government schools that provide education in Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Education is responsible for approving the curriculums that are implemented in the education system. In Sri Lanka, it is a must to provide education for children between the ages of 5 to 13 years. Moreover, free education is available in Sri Lanka at all levels up to the university level. The state funds the education system with free textbooks, meals, and school uniforms encouraging the children to go to schools and get educated in return. However, after the independence as a nation in 1948, the literacy rate and the educational achievements have firmly improved up until now.

The Government is responsible for prioritizing the improvements of the national education system and the increments in access to education in order to increase the standards of the education system. Children have the ability to do their studies in Sinhala, Tamil, and English mediums according to their choice. In addition to the public schools, there are also private schools that teach either the local syllabus or the British syllabus. Moreover, visually and auditory impaired children have the ability to continue their secondary education at a few separate schools in Sri Lanka, using the sign language and braille method respectively.

However, after spending a few years at the secondary education stage, one can enter the higher education stage. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has 15 state universities that provide free education. Admission to these universities is solely based on the results of the government examination named GCE (A/L). Students with the highest results are eligible to study at state universities. Apart from the state and private universities, there are vocational and technical schools, national colleges of education, vocational training centres reserved for higher educational purposes in Sri Lanka.

What Comes Before Secondary Education?

As you might already know, before starting secondary education, a student should complete primary education. A student can continue primary education in three mediums according to the student’s wish. However, the majority of the students choose their first language as the medium. At the end of primary education, a national examination is held which is known as the Grade Five Scholarship Examination. The students with exceptional results will be given the opportunity to enter the schools with more facilities and resources to proceed with their secondary education. However, primary education lays the foundation for secondary education and that makes primary education as important as secondary education. Moreover, primary education contains the following subjects.

  1. First Language (Sinhala or Tamil)
  2. Second Language (Tamil or Sinhala)
  3. English
  4. Religion
  5. Mathematics
  6. Environment-related activities
  7. Co-curricular activities

In addition, children need to engage in morning exercises, drill displays, and religious activities during the morning assembly to improve mental and physical health. Thorough attention is paid to the meals of the students and breakfast is given a high priority. The government provides breakfast for students from families with low income. In addition, primary education teaches table manners and common ethics to a child. The students have the ability to develop their communication skills through various activities. Playing games and doing handicrafts with clay are other activities continued as a part of primary education. The intention is to improve the creativity and team spirit among children.

All the children who belong to the primary education age should enrol in the schools and the guardians of the children are responsible for this. However, they will be punished by the law if they do not provide the children with primary education. The government organizes awareness sessions on the importance of primary education in a child’s future life.

What is Meant by Secondary Education?

Secondary education in Sri Lanka is basically of two sections as Junior Secondary Education and Senior Secondary Education. Junior secondary education is from grade six to grade nine. Moreover, senior secondary education ranges from grade ten to grade thirteen. Therefore, in total, a student has to spend eight years to complete secondary education in Sri Lanka. Moreover, as in Sri Lanka, after the first national examination which is the grade five scholarship examination, a child can start his secondary education regardless of the results of that exam. Therefore, secondary education is a golden opportunity for students in Sri Lanka to improve their skills in many fields.

Junior Secondary Education

Students from age 11 years to 14 years are in the junior secondary education stage. The curriculum contains twelve mandatory subjects that a student should learn during this period. They are as follows.

  1. Religion
  2. Mathematics
  3. First Language (Sinhala or Tamil)
  4. Aesthetic Subject (Art, Eastern music, Western music, Drama and theatre, Dancing)
  5. Science
  6. English
  7. Secondary Language (Tamil or Sinhala)
  8. Health and Physical Education
  9. History
  10. Geography
  11. Life Competencies and Citizenship Education
  12. Practical and Technical Skills

Apart from teaching these subjects, the education system has proper mechanisms to evaluate the children’s learnings as well. Accordingly, term-end examinations and assignment-based approaches are available to assess their improvements and to keep them on track.

Senior Secondary Education

One can find two phases of senior secondary education. They are as follows.

  1. Key Stage One
  2. Key Stage Two

Of course, you might be wondering what they are. Let us go through each of them, to know about them in detail.

1. Key Stage One

Key-stage one is from grade 10 to grade 11. The students from age 15 years to 16 years continue their studies in this stage. This phase concludes with a national examination called General Certificate Examination in Ordinary Level. This examination is also commonly known as GCE (O/L). The curriculum consists of the following six compulsory subjects.

  1. Religion
  2. Science (Chemistry, Physics, and Biology)
  3. History
  4. English Language
  5. Mother Language (Sinhala or Tamil)
  6. Mathematics

In addition, the students can choose three optional subjects. This is done by selecting one subject from each field according to their wish. It makes the number of subjects they have to study in total, nine. The provided fields are as follows.

  1. Aesthetic subjects
  2. Languages and humanities
  3. Technical subjects

The Department of Examinations in Sri Lanka is responsible for conducting the GCE O/L examination at the end of the 11th Grade, and based on the results of it, students may continue to the next phase in their journey of education.

2. Key Stage Two

Key stage two is for students of age 17 years to 19 years. Normally, they range between grades twelve to grade thirteen. This stage concludes with the national examination known as General Certificate Examination in Advanced Level. This examination is most common among Sri Lankans as GCE (A/L). However, a student should pass the GCE (O/L) as a prerequisite to GCE (A/L). The results obtained at the GCE (O/L) and the wish of the student are the key factors of selecting the subject stream in which they are going to continue their studies in this stage. However, a student has the ability to choose one of the following subject streams to continue their key stage two of senior secondary education.

  1. Biological Sciences
  2. Physical Sciences
  3. Commerce
  4. Arts
  5. Technology

After selecting the subject stream, students should choose three subjects within their selected stream. At the examination, they have to sit for 5 subjects in total including General English and the Common General Test.

What are the Functions of Secondary Education?

The functions of secondary education in Sri Lanka are to teach and practice the basic cultural elements along with humanistic, scientific, and artistic aspects. By the time these students are to be released to join the workforce of the country, they should be ready with the following abilities and good qualities.

  1. Taking responsibilities.
  2. The ability to respect each other (colleagues and seniors).
  3. Working together with team spirit.
  4. Maintaining the ethics of the profession that they are practising.
  5. Fulfilling the duties as a citizen to the country.
  6. Establishing and maintaining the peace of the country.
  7. Respecting gender difference and sexuality.
  8. Ability to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
  9. Protecting the physical hygiene of themselves and others as well.
  10. Being punctual.
  11. Ability to coexist with people from different races, ethnic groups, religions, and beliefs.
  12. Respect and tolerate the ideas of other people.
  13. Ability to listen to others and understand them and provide help if necessary.
  14. Ability to think rationally.
  15. Good quality of standing on the side of justice when necessary.
  16. To be independent enough to make their own decisions for themselves at the right time.
  17. Improving leadership qualities.

In addition, these young people should be able to think and act more like humans with a heart and they should be able to spread love instead of rage all over the country. However, the above-mentioned abilities and good qualities can be presented as some main functions of secondary education in Sri Lanka.

Does Secondary Education in Sri Lanka Suit the Modern World?

Since we mainly discuss secondary education in Sri Lanka, it is vital to look into the fact whether the syllabus suits the modern world and whether it caters to the skills and the necessities of children to face the rapidly changing world with confidence. Due to several reasons, secondary education curricula in Sri Lanka are a little bit outdated. However, they should be reformed in a way that can guide the children to a world where they have more open opportunities. Accordingly, the future of education in Sri Lanka would be more beneficial, if a few more subjects are added to the syllabus for the betterment of the students’ future. The following sections will prove this fact to you in detail.

Information Technology to Deal with Modern Techniques

At present, the world has become a global village with the invention of the internet. In order to go forward with the technology that is evolving rapidly every minute, it is a must to learn Information Technology as well. To achieve the greatest results of the technology, students should know how to handle it at the very beginning. It is true that students can choose to study Information Technology as a technological subject for the GCE O/L, and GCE A/L examinations. Still, many students from rural areas of the country fear it and tend to leave such subjects.

Thus, it is important to have the syllabus upgraded to teach Information Technology to the students even from the beginning of junior secondary education as a mandatory subject, in an effective and well-organized structure. In addition, the use of computers and the internet for the betterment of people should be emphasized at the same time.

Finance Management for Better Life Standards

Finance management becomes useful when the students start earning money. The basic management theories in Finance Management are helping them to spend and invest the money they earned hard effectively and profitably. Therefore, the basics of how to manage finance should be added to the syllabus of secondary education.

Religion for a Peaceful World

Religion is a must to be taught. Yet, as at present, students focus their education only on one religion. Thus, this education system is framing the subject into the religion that they already believe in. Still, it is better if they have the opportunity to learn about the other religions as well. If so, they will be able to minimize the religious conflict while respecting every religion equally and maximizing the religious coexistence simultaneously. In addition, it will be helpful to minimize racism as much as possible by planting the seed saying all people are human, regardless of their beliefs and skin colour.

Aesthetic Subjects for Spiritual Development

A generation that has the ability to give birth to amazing arts, and a generation that has the ability to enjoy a piece of art is a blessing to a country’s future. In order to achieve this goal, aesthetic subjects should be prioritized. This will definitely lead to the growth of the mental stability of students.

However, by upgrading the syllabuses, secondary education in Sri Lanka can be uplifted to a whole new level. It will be helpful to achieve the goals efficiently and roll smoothly with the modern world.

What are the Challenges that Sri Lanka is Facing Today in Secondary Education?

As in every context, the secondary education of Sri Lanka also faces a set of challenges. Some of the key challenges are as follows.

1. High Rate of Dropouts

Without completing secondary education students tend to drop out from junior secondary education. In fact, many students from rural villages get into farming or join the labour force of the country to financially support their families. Even their parents, who are not that much educated, do not encourage the students to continue their education, owing to the financial barriers. However, this matter is somewhat in control, thanks to the free education system of the country, and the law. Still, a considerable percentage of the student population in Sri Lanka face this problem, and it indeed requires more attention to safeguard the right of education of these children.

2. Low Participation in Education

According to the United Nations, Sri Lanka is a country with a good literacy rate. Still, it is a must note that the number of students who participate in the educational institutes for studies decrease. Of course, several factors affect this situation, such as the low facilities in rural villages, poverty, lack of awareness, etc. Thus, this remains a major challenge that demands attention in the education system of Sri Lanka.

3. Poor Attendance

The attendance of students to school in Sri Lanka does not stand at a satisfactory level. This can happen due to reasons such as poor health, poor support given by the family for studies, ignorance of parents or guardians, poverty, transportation difficulties, socio-cultural issues, etc. Still, this happens to be a major aspect to be addressed, in paving the way ahead for a better future in education.

4. Poor Performance in Mathematics and Science

Statistics from the World Bank 2013 have proved that the performance of students in mathematics and science are relatively poor in the secondary education phase. This happens to be a major issue, especially among the children of rural villages. Lack of interest in subjects and lack of proper guidance happens to be the main reasons behind these failures, and the Sri Lankan government is focusing on overcoming this challenge, with proper teaching training, creative learning methods, and improved education facilities.

5. Inequality in Distribution of Resources among Schools

Inequality in the distribution of different resources among schools leads to an increase in the gap between popular schools and rural schools. As a result, the students in some rural areas do not have enough essential resources to carry on their education. In fact, some schools do not even possess the basic needs of a school, to cater for the hygiene requirement of the children. Besides, some schools in rural areas do not have the human resources, and other educational facilities to educate the children in those areas. Likewise, inequality in the distribution of resources among schools is a major challenge the Sri Lankan education system faces at present, and indeed is a reason for the students to leave education as well.

6. Overloaded Curriculum

The workload of a student who is at the secondary education stage has become too much at present. They have several subjects to focus on, and the six mandatory subjects of the curriculum place an extra burden on the students who do not prefer such areas of knowledge. Moreover, private tuition has become compulsory rather than optional due to the competitive nature of the current system of education in Sri Lanka, and thus, children lack time to enjoy their childhood. Owing to these facts, the overloaded curriculum of the Sri Lankan education system has become a major challenge in the present, that demands some sort of a solution, for the betterment of the children.

7. Lack of English Language Skills among Students

Students’ lack of English skills is mainly because of the lesser use of English in their day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, some students do not even have teachers to teach English in remote areas. As a result, learning English has become a luxury for those students. However, the government is setting plans to overcome this challenge, by making the children aware of the importance of the English language, and encouraging them to use the language as much as possible. If succeeded, the future of education in Sri Lanka would be brighter for sure.

8. High Competition among Students and the Rapid Increase in Private Tuition Fees

Owing to the competitiveness of the education system in Sri Lanka, and due to the lack of resources in certain schools, every parent who can afford, tries to provide their children with private tuition. Still, the government has become unable to regulate the tuition fees in private tuitions. As a result, the students with financial issues have less chance to participate in these private tuitions to improve their secondary education due to the high cost.

9. The Government Deducting the Allocation of Spending on Education via Annual Budget

As you might already know, Sri Lanka is still a developing country, and it is facing several financial issues even in the present. Therefore, the government has become unable to increase the resources allocated for the education sector through the budget. This leads to more closed opportunities for students at present. Further, this happens to be one of the major reasons that have paved the way for many of the above-discussed challenges as well. Thus, the future of education in Sri Lanka would be more beneficial on a day that the government could improve the allocation of spending on education via the annual budget.

Future of Secondary Education in Sri Lanka

The future of secondary education in Sri Lanka is in a bit of a chaotic situation due to the high competition among the students as well as teachers and parents. In fact, secondary education is more like a competition than learning what students are interested in and passionate about. The parents are only prioritizing the curricular activities and they do not encourage the children to participate in anything extra-curricular. Moreover, this age group is good for defining one’s self and students will not have the necessary freedom and the time to do the necessary thinking for that. As a result, the future of secondary education is going to be dark if the students will not have the power to think, imagine, adapt and adjust according to different situations.

However, the future of secondary education is more important as it is laying the foundation for the future of higher and tertiary education as well. It is a must to pay close attention to the future of secondary education because during this age group a child is going through mental and physical changes drastically. Therefore, secondary education should be able to cater to the satisfactory answers to the questions that arise among them. The government should pay thorough attention to this matter and come up with appropriate solutions. The reason is that the government is the body that has the necessary funds and authority to change the future of secondary education for the betterment of the country.

The Bottom Line

Conclusively, let us highlight to you that the secondary education of Sri Lanka still stands strong, even with the few challenges that it faces. And why not? The service it has done in moulding generations of students is simply impressive. Thus, we cannot ignore the fact that secondary education remains a major aspect of the education system in Sri Lanka. Besides, it will further evolve and turn out to be more beneficial in the future for sure. Let’s hope for the best!