Did You Know?

Early this year, we were looking for an English Medium boarding school for my son. We found boarding schools. We found English medium schools. But there are no English Medium boarding schools in Sri Lanka.

In other words, if your child does not speak either Sinhala or Tamil, he cannot study in any government or private school in Sri Lanka. He would only be able to study in an “international” school – the kind that operates under business licences and not monitored or regulated by the ministry of education.

So why would schools such as Royal, St. Thomas’, St Joseph’s, Trinity or Museaus claim they have an “English” medium when half the subjects are taught in one of the native languages? What would someone who doesn’t speak Sinhala or Tamil do – go back to where they came from?

They say that the quality of a country’s workforce is a direct reflection of the standard of education. Ours, is in shambles. We boast of very high literacy rate, but send our kids overseas for higher education. As a country, we spend too much money in “purchasing knowledge” from the US, UK, Australia and Singapore (now India, Malaysia) etc, when, as a whole, we could have built fabulous universities with that money, right here, in our own land so that more and more generations could have reaped the results.

Our aging education module needs desperate change. It is the 21st century, yet we still don’t breed certain skill sets that are needed for today’s world. For example, the advertising industry needs creative professionals – but none of the universities actually produce them. I would love to hire a few art directors or graphic designers for our network overseas, but unfortunately, the Sri Lankans are not on par with the rest of the world.

Planners, stylists, animators and touch-point marketers etc will never come out of our universities. Jobs we do today should have been in our education system 10 years ago, not 10 year later.

Like this video claims, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.

The radio took 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, while Facebook did it in 2 years.

The number of internet devices in 1984 was 1,000. In 1992 it was a million and in 2008 it was a billion. Increased by a million times in just 24 years. When the world is moving at such speed, why are we stuck in yesteryear?

How will Sri Lanka cope when 2030 dawns..? Are we future ready..?


  1. I think S. Thomas' has English medium from Grade 6 upwards, not too sure though... But agree with you on the gap between what jobs demand and what our unis are producing. It's sad to see so much precious talent being sent overseas because our universities aren't adequate to accommodate them...

  2. IMO the problem with English medium teaching in government schools is finding teachers to do that. I was a student at Royal when it started first English classes. There were only few teachers who stepped up to teach in English. Even some of them had trouble doing ti we remember making fun of them (not something to be proud of).

    When an school taking initiative to teaching in English they always have to work with teachers they have. Those teachers are often educated in Sinhalese or Tamil and they have been teaching in those languages too long. If there is a program which help them to make the switch it will be very good in the long run.

    Because IMO knowing the language is one thing, but using it to teach require more skills which most of the educators in our school system have not given an opportunity to improve.

  3. I am a product of a boarding school in England. I don't think there are boarding schools in that style in SL anymore (there were many good ones in the past), whatever the language of teaching.

    While the quality of education varies in International schools, I am sure you will be able to judge which ones serve your purpose and put your kids in an appropriate one, but I am afraid you will have to give up the boarding option until an all boarding international school comes on stream for which I am sure there is a pent-up demand.
    Not being silly, I think St.Thomas Gurutalawa has the infrastructure for that, and ideal location, if only someone with a passion for a quality education can take it over and do the needful.
    Under the circumstances, I hope your kids get the next best alternative to care for them, that's you!

  4. Hi...I so wish they did have an EM boarding school there! I had been looking for it too few years back for my kids A levels...U r so right the tertiary education system in SL cud do with some more uni's !


  5. @Chavie: Yes, most schools including Royal College has EM from Grade 6 onwards. As for the Uni’s, I think we need at least another 50 more (of various disciplines) to cater to the demand.

    @rakuniverse: I agree. That’s why there needs to be a well-thought out national plan with national objectives and targets – like India’s 2020.

    @Rajarataral: Well, St. Thomas’ Guru is THE best option. In fact, now it is under direct supervision of Colombo, the Headmaster is a product of STC Mount and the school is surely turning around.
    Yep, I wish I could be with the kids, unfortunately my work would keep me away from home for another couple of years.

    @Indyana: Yep, I know. Someone should start something instead of roadside “institutes” I guess...

  6. hi..
    i know what you mean...because of inadequate teachers and lack of study material i studied in Sinhalese even though i was more fluent in English...
    But now i too am away from home and so are most of my friends who are brilliant..pursuing higher education in other countries..and eventually..they might not return..:(sad stories...

  7. Penny, yep - have heard of that story so many times – probably my kids would end up that way too. The worst part is that you get to pursue a field you’d love in a foreign uni and find that there are no opportunities in Sri Lanka – even if you really wanted to come home... ;(

  8. The education system in Sri Lanka does need improvement. Contact the VC of the university of moratuwa.(vc@mrt.ac.lk) You can tell him about degree courses needed. You can make a contribution.
    Please don't send your kids to boarding school. I hated it. The kids won't be with you forever. Enjoy them. My kids were in a local school in English medium. The local syllabuses are designed to torture kids.