An Improved Sri Lankan School System through an Empowered School Community

January 30, 2014


Parents world over are happy to go more than an extra mile to support their children’s education. It is no different for these parents of Grade One students of Akuraboda Kanishta Vidyalaya, Galewala; a school located in a remote village in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Parents, teachers and well-wishers jointly organized a ceremonial welcome for children walking into primary school for the first time in the New Year.

Dilinika Peiris/World Bank

  • The Program for School Improvement (PSI) has created an innovative way to manage and improve quality of public schools in Sri Lanka through community participation.
  • School communities comprising parents, teachers, past students and well-wishers from the local community, under the leadership of the school principal, are empowered to take actions to improve school performance, especially learning outcomes and soft skills of students.
  • One example, from Galewala Zone, one of the most remote and disadvantaged areas in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, demonstrate PSI activities implemented under the World Bank supported Transforming the School Education System as the Foundation of a Knowledge Hub Project (TSEP)

Galewala, Matale Sri Lanka – Kulatunga Adhikari, Principal of Divulgaskotuwa Primary School in Galewala recalls the time when school principals had to await for clearance from the Ministry of Education to take any action towards school improvements. Now he conducts his own school based teacher development programs with the support of the zonal director and facilitates improving school facilities and equipment with the support of a School Development Committee comprised of parents, teachers, past students and well-wishers. “We are now empowered to take decisions to improve education outcomes of our school” says Adhikari explaining the new opportunities and challenges he and his staff face together to become a recognized school in the area that prepares students for good quality secondary education.

Improving Access, Quality and Governance in the Education sector are the key pillars of Transforming the School Education System as the Foundation of a Knowledge Hub Project (TSEP) supported by the World Bank. These are aligned with the themes of the Government of Sri Lanka’s Education Sector Development Framework and Program for 2012-2016. This US$100-millon project is helping the government to strengthen the country’s education system at multiple levels, including national and provincial educational agencies, especially schools. Several innovative reforms are being supported, including the establishment of a system for conducting national assessments of learning outcomes which can feed into education policy, school-based management, and school-based teacher development. 


Health awareness camps, leadership development programs and purchase of equipment for the Information Communications Technology (ICT) lab are among projects completed by the School Development Committee.

Dilinika Peiris/World Bank

" It's my job to facilitate and ensure that the children are not over stressed and they get a well-balanced education. "

Ramyalatha Agalawatte



One parent engaged in clearing and cleaning the school premises expressed that he is keen to be engaged in school development activities because he wants to be involved and do the best he can to support his child’s education, which he sees as a path to a better future for his whole family.

Dilinika Peiris/World Bank

The Program for School Improvement (PSI)

PSI is a balanced control model of school based management introduced under the objective of improving Governance under TSEP. This program is aimed at empowering schools to take charge of school based management. It is changing the dynamics of school administration and community participation from a tightly centrally managed model to a more decentralized mechanism. The empowerment of schools has two major components: school-based management and the involvement of parents and communities in the work of schools.

School-based  management  has  been  introduced  in  40  percent  of  education  zones in Sri Lanka during  2012-2013.  About 2,400,000 students (55 percent of all students) are enrolled in schools in these zones. School-based teacher development programs have been conducted in 40 percent of education zones during 2012-2013. About 140,000 teachers (63 percent of all teachers) have benefited from these programs. The plan is to expand the program to cover all schools in the country by 2016.

Click here to learn more about the history of school empowerment in Sri Lanka with special emphasis on the Program for School Improvement (PSI), which commenced in 2006.

The Galewala Education Zone

In Galewala Education zone there are around 31,000 students and 1600 teachers.We have a shortfall of 400 teachers” said Mr. Zarudeen, Zonal Education Director of Galewala describing the challenge of recruiting teachers to remote areas. He is in charge of supervising 109 schools in the Galewala zone. Community contributions and community participation have helped some schools in remote areas to overcome challenges by improving access and quality of education as well as strengthening governance and delivery of education services.

Improving Access

Recently, the Galewala Model Primary School was re-opened with community participation to meet the schooling demands of the zone. This school was closed down Five years ago due to lack of teachers and limited number of students. Communities, including parents who could not get admission to other leading schools contributed in cash and labor to re-open the school. “It is encouraging to witness more ownership of the school with the school community” said Mr. Zarudeen, Zonal Director.

Improving Quality

“Compared to the past, we now live in a competitive society and parents will do anything to support their children achieve the best results in education” said Ramyalatha Agalawatte, Grade I teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. “It is my job to facilitate and ensure that the children are not over stressed and they get a well-balanced education” she said demonstrating that education is not just about reading and writing but also stimulating the child’s cognitive skills through dance, song, art and play.

School communities are engaged in improving learning outcomes of children, and their contributions have also supported the development of physical facilities and equipment ” said the Zonal Director of Galewala.

K. Saliya Kumara, 33 years old is a past student and a present parent of two girls attending Divulgaskotuwa Primary School in Galewala. He is a contractor by profession. Using his own labour and resources collected by the School Development Committee, he is in the process of building a community hall for the school.

Strengthening Governance at the School level

Akuraboda Kanishta Vidyalaya, has set an example to the community and students in good governance practices by adopting a transparent process in school admission and selection of committee members to the School Development Committee. The school also follows a merit based democratic process of identifying, voting and selecting student body leaders.

Promoting Community Participation

Children are their world” said Lalith Ratnasiri the Principal of Akuraboda Kanishta Vidyalaya in Galewala expressing his commitment to provide a well-balanced education for the children admitted under his leadership. “Parents engaged in the School Development activities have been extremely supportive in many ways and we have completed many projects together” he further added explaining the challenge schools experienced in managing and implementing educational activities and resource development within the limited government budget allocation. With the introduction of the Program for School Improvement (PSI), schools are now empowered to facilitate, develop and manage education services with support from parents, teachers, past-students and well-wishers from the community. 

Strong and equitable community participation in education in Sri Lanka is a catalytic agent to promoting shared prosperity and moving people out of poverty.