Primary and Secondary Education

Sri Lanka's education structure is divided into five parts: primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, collegiate and tertiary. Primary education lasts five to six years (Grades 1-5) and at the end of this period, the students may elect to write a national exam called the Scholarship exam. This exam allows students with exceptional skills to move on to better schools. After primary education, the junior secondary level (referred to as middle school in some schools) lasts for 4 years (Grades 6-9) followed by 2 years (Grades 10-11) of the senior secondary level which is the preparation for the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E) Ordinary Level (O/Ls). According to the Sri Lankan law, it is compulsory that all children go to school till grade 9 (age 14) at which point they can choose to continue their education or drop out and engage in apprenticeship for a job or farming. However, the Ministry of Education strongly advises all students to continue with their studies at least till the G.C.E Ordinary Level. Students who are pursuing tertiary education must pass the G.C.E O/Ls in order to enter the collegiate level to study for another 2 years (grades 12-13) to sit for the G.C.E Advanced Level. On successful completion of this exam, students can move on to tertiary education, there for the GCE A/Ls is the university entrance exam in Sri Lanka.

Due to the variety of ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, many schools teach only in either Sinhala medium or in Tamil medium and not the English medium. The elite colleges in major cities such as Colombo and Kandy, teach in all three media.

Normal ages

Kindergarten: 4-5 year olds
Grade 1: 5-6 year olds
Grade 2: 6-7 year olds
Grade 3: 7-8 year olds
Grade 4: 8-9 year olds
Grade 5: 9-10 year olds - Scholarship Examination

Junior secondary
Grade 6: 10-11 year olds
Grade 7: 11-12 year olds
Grade 8: 12-13 year olds
Grade 9: 13-14 year olds

Senior secondary
Grade 10: 14-15 year olds
Grade 11: 15-16 year olds - G.C.E Ordinary Level Examination

Grade 12: 16-18 year olds
Grade 13: 17-19 year olds - G.C.E Advance Level Examination

Government schools
Most of the schools in Sri Lanka are maintained by the government as a part of the free education. Currently there are 10,012 government schools with a student population of 4.2 million and 235,924 teachers, 736Pirivenas and also 104 privet schools with 127,968 students.<> With the establishment if the provincial council system in the 1980s the central government handed control of most schools to local governments. However the old schools which had been around since the colonial times were retained by the central government, this creating three types of government schools;
National Schools
Provincial Schools
Pirivenas (Schools for Buddhist priests)

National schools
National schools come under the direct control of the Ministry of Education and therefore have direct funding from the ministry. Most of these schools were established during the colonial period and therefore are established institutions. These few are referred to as famous schools or elite schools since they have a rich history and better maintained facilities than the average public school. This is mainly due the support of their alumni. In recent years newer schools and several central colleges have been upgraded to national schools from time to time, thereby making the total number of national schools 350.

Provincial schools
Provincial Schools consists of the vast majority of schools in Sri Lanka. Funded and controlled by the local governments many suffer from poor facilities and a shortage of teachers.

Piriven are monastic colleges (similar to a seminary) for the education of Buddhist priests. These have been the centers of secondary and higher education in ancient times for lay people as well. Today 561 Piriven are funded and maintained by the Ministry of Education. Young priests undergo training at these pirivenas prior to being their Ordination and study for GCE O/L and A/L examinations. They may gain entrance to State Universities for higher religious studies.

Non-government schools
Private schools

There has been a considerable increase in the number of private schools in Sri Lanka, due to the emergence of the upper-middle class during the colonial era. These private schools follow the local curriculum set up by the Ministry of Education in the local language mediums of Sinhala, Tamil or English. Many of the private schools have access to newer facilities than state run schools. Currently there are 66 Private schools (registered before 1960 and not since then) of these, 33 non-fee-levying Assisted Private Schools (also known as semi-government schools) and 33 fee levying autonomous Private Schools, in addition to the Government Schools.

International schools
International schools in Sri Lanka are not restricted to the expatriate community, anyone with the ability and willingness to pay can join these schools. Starting in the late 1980s these schools have no regulation or control by the Ministry of Education as it comes under the Board of Investment (BOI), due to this the standard of education varies greatly between schools and with lesser levels of student discipline compared with other types of schools. The schools are mainly for the children of the expatriate community, charge high tuition fees and can therefore provide good facilities and high standards.

The majority of International schools prepares students for the Edexcel General Certificate of Education (IGCSE) Ordinary, Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A2) Level examinations, which is the most popular qualification. Preparation for Cambridge International Examinations is also offered by a few schools but it is less popular. Both exams are offered under the supervision of the British Council, whereas some schools offer a direct partnership with the examination body in order to improve standards.