What we do

Learning Years



Learning Years

© UNICEF_Sri Lanka/2006

School in Sri Lanka is free and compulsory. The country’s investment since the 1940s in universal access to education from primary school through university has resulted in high rates of enrolment (97.2%) and high levels of basic literacy (92%) and numeracy among both girls and boys. But while access to basic education is good, a number of elements hamper the quality of education received. High drop-out rates and low achievement levels are common, with only small percentages of students reaching mastery levels in numeracy and their first language.

Education poses a unique challenge to young minds, as Sri Lanka’s children struggle to learn in overcrowded classrooms and in schools often lacking basic facilities in water and sanitation. They are faced with a severe shortage of qualified teachers. Some 15 per cent of girls and boys in Sri Lanka do not attend school. High absenteeism and a 50 % dropout rate are reported in disadvantaged areas, which include estates, low-income groups, urban slums and remote rural areas. The tsunami has exacerbated this situation by destroying schools and damaging the educational infrastructure in affected areas.

The lingering impacts of war, displacement and poverty are among the factors leading to low learning achievement in schools. A chronic shortage of competent, trained teachers, inadequate teaching methods and materials and insufficient resources continue to hamper the learning environment.

A 2002 Census found that only about 62% of teachers are trained. Teacher shortages are most acute in conflict-affected areas of the North and East, with an estimated shortfall of about 5,000 teachers.



For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection