Basisonderwijs

Primary education in Sri Lanka lasts 5 years. Pupils aged 5-10 go through grades 1-5.

Types of schools

There are various types of schools for primary and secondary education. Some schools offer both primary and secondary education.

  • government schools;
  • private schools;
  • Pirivenas (Buddhist centres);
  • international schools.

National curriculum

In primary education, children are taught subjects in the 4 subject fields of the national curriculum: language, mathematics, environment related activities and religion.

In the language field, schools teach the native language (Sinhala or Tamil) in grade 1 and grade 2. Pupils are introduced to English in activity-based oral English (ABOE). This means that, although English is not an official subject in grade 1 and grade 2, children are already becoming acquainted with the language during daily activities.

From grade 3 on, pupils are taught English and the 2nd national language (Sinhala or Tamil) as subjects.

Grade 5 Scholarship Examination

At the end of the last year of primary education, pupils can take the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination. This is a competitive test administered by the Department of Examinations. The aim of the test is:

  • to select excellent pupils from poor families for scholarships;
  • to select the best pupils for leading secondary schools.

Secondary education

Secondary education in Sri Lanka lasts 8 years and comprises 2 phases:

  • junior secondary, grade 6-9;
  • senior secondary, grade 10-13.

Junior secondary

During junior secondary, students aged 10-14 go through grades 6-9. In this phase, depending on the curriculum f a schoo, they can take a maximum of 5 subjects with English as language of instruction.

Senior secondary

Senior secondary is divided into 2 stages:

Since 2016, education has been compulsory for Sri Lankan students through grade 11. They are allowed to continue with grade 12 if they achieve the following examination results:

  • A passing grade for 6 subjects, including at least a credit pass as exam result for their first language (Sinhala or Tamil), mathematics and 3 other subjects.

National examinations

The Department of Examinations is responsible for the national examinations that students take at the end of key stage 1 (grades 10-11) and key stage 2 (grades 12- 13). The Department of Examinations also awards the official diplomas:

  • General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level); and
  • General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level).

Please note: documents provided by secondary schools are thus not official.

    General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level)

    After grade 11 students take examens for the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) . The General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) is often abbreviated as GCE O/L.

    • Duration: 6 years (4 years, grades 6-9 + 2 years, grades 10-11).
    • Content: the curriculum comprises main subjects and elective subjects (see Curriculum GCE O/L). Students can choose a maximum of 5 subjects to take in English.
    • Diploma: General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level), issued by the Department of Examinations.

    We compare the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) in 6 subjects with marks ranging from A to C to at least a VMBO-T diploma

    Please note: 'at least a VMBO-T diploma' means that the diploma has a higher level than a VMBO-T diploma, but a lower level than a HAVO diploma. The level of the diploma lies between a VMBO-T diploma and a HAVO diploma.

    Curriculum GCE O/L

    In grade 6-9 the curriculum consists of 12 subjects:

    • religion;
    • Sinhala/Tamil language (first language);
    • English;
    • mathematics;
    • science;
    • history;
    • geography;
    • life competencies and citizenship education;
    • aesthetic subjects: music, art, dancing, drama and theatre;
    • practical and technical skills;
    • health and physical education; and
    • Sinhala/Tamil as a second language.

    In key stage 1 (grades 10-11), students take 6 main subjects: Sinhala or Tamil (first language), English (second language), science, mathematics, religion, history. In addition, they take 3 or 4 elective subjects from 3 fields:

    • languages and humanities;
    • aesthetic subjects; and
    • technical subjects.

    General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level)

    After grade 13 students take examens for the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) . The General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) is often abbreviated as GCE A/L.

    • Duration: 2 years (key stage 2: grades 12 + 13).
    • Content: there are 4 streams: science, commerce, arts and technology. Students choose at least 3 subjects within their stream. The national examination comprises these 3 (or more) subjects, an English language test (General English) and a Common General Test.
    • Diploma: General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level), issued by the Department of Examinations.

    We compare the combination of GCE O/L and GCE A/L to a HAVO diploma if:

    • the GCE O/L is obtained in 6 subjects with marks ranging from A to C; and
    • the GCE A/L is obtained with at least an Ordinary Pass (S) for 3 subjects and a score of at least 30% for the Common General Test.

    Please note:

    • The subject General English does not count as 1 of the 3 subjects.
    • In certain circumstances (if certain results are achieved), we can compare the the combination of GCE O/L and GCE A/L to a VWO diploma. Get in touch with us to make a request for a diploma evaluation.