Sri Lanka provides free education to all children in government schools and some of the private
schools. A very few private schools charge tuition fees from students. As such, the Government is responsible for the management of schools. But the community plays a participatory role through the School Development Societies. These welfare measures have contributed to better school attendance, higher participation and increased literacy rates.
At present there are 9,714 government schools and 93 private schools. There are also 653 Buddhist centres of learning called pirivenas. A new type of school known as ‘international schools’ teaching in English medium have come up recently, now numbering around 200. The overall teacher pupil ratio is 1:19, which is one of the most favourable teacher pupil ratios among the developing countries.
The education system is divided into various stages according to age and, at the highest levels, by types of education. All education is provided free by the Government except for pre-school education and some types of vocational education. Children progress through the various stages as follows:
NFE programmes are conducted by the NFE Branch of the MOE. These programmes cater to the needs of out-of-school children and adult groups in the community, with a focus on the needs of the disadvantaged groups in society. These programmes are an important strategy to enhance access, equity and inclusion. This branch also conducts a few special programmes such as centres for street children and literacy centres for adults which are organized in places where there is a need.