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Improving Access, Quality and Governance in the Education Sector of Sri Lanka

April 16, 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

Since 2011, the Transforming the School Education System project, through a $100 million IDA grant, is promoting equitable access to secondary education, working to improve the quality of education and strengthen governance and delivery of education services.

Several innovative reforms are being supported, including the establishment of a system for conducting national assessments of learning outcomes, school-based management, and school-based teacher development. The project has improved student completion rates, introduced more localized management, and trained 140,000 teachers in development programs. 


Despite the past progress in the general education system of Sri Lanka, the country faces the challenge of skills and competencies required to realize its true potential of becoming a modern knowledge-based Middle Income Country in lasting peace. At the start of the project in 2011, 52 percent of children were failing to master their first language, 47 percent in mathematics and 81 percent English language ability. Moreover there are marked disparities in performance by province, location, school type, gender and medium of instruction. Out of the 2,650 school offering GCE Advance Level course (ages 16-18) only 27 percent of schools offer mathematics and science subjects and only 8 percent of secondary schools are of adequate standard in subjects such as science, mathematics and Information Technology needed for knowledge based economy. Further, the ability of the education system to deliver a high quality education experience for school children is tightly constrained by the relatively low level of public investment in education. Another challenge the education system has taken is to meet broad social goals including the promotion of civic values and good citizenship among students. This includes inculcating values, attitudes and behavior needed for a modern political democracy. This is with the aim of fostering a favorable environment for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society.

" Community contributions and community participation have helped schools in remote areas to overcome challenges by improving access and quality of education. "


Zonal Education Director of Galewala


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


Transforming the School Education System as the Foundation of a Knowledge Hub Project (TSEP) builds on the results of the previous education project called Education Sector Development Project (ESDP). The project is designed to improve access to primary and secondary education, improve the quality of education and strengthen governance and delivery of education services, and its components are aligned with the themes of the Government of Sri Lanka’s Education Sector Development Framework and Program for 2012-2016. The project is implemented using the Disbursement Linked Indicator approach.


· The survival rate of students through grade 11 improved from 82 percent to 84 percent (87 percent for girls and 81 percent for boys) at the end of 2012.

· A national assessment of learning outcomes of children at grade 8 was completed in 2012 and the report of its results has been disseminated. A national assessment for grade 4 was conducted at the end of 2013.

· School-based  management  has  been  introduced  in  44  percent  of  education  zones  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 44 percent of education zones during 2012-2013.

· About 140,000 teachers (63 percent of all teachers) have benefited from these programs.

Dilinika Peiris/World Bank

Bank Contribution

Transforming the School Education System as the Foundation of a Knowledge Hub Project (TSEP) included a US$ 100 million IDA grant covering June 2012 – June 2017, of which US$ 28.2 million has already been disbursed as of February 2014.


The World Bank, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, Germany’s GIZ, the Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Korean International Cooperation Agency, and the United Nations Children’s Fund are active development partners in the education sector in Sri Lanka and are working in support of the government’s overall Education Sector Development Framework and Program for 2012-2016.

The World Bank is a coordinating agency and ensures that the activities done by development partners are harmonized with the government program. A joint review mission is undertaken annually by the Bank team with interested development partners.

Australian Government supports the Education Sector Development Framework and Program through a trust fund agreement with the World Bank.

Moving Forward

The project will continue to help the government strengthen the country’s education system at multiple levels, including national, provincial educational agencies and schools. Linking financial support to the achievement of results, the focus has shifted from the input to the output.


The school principle of a community managed school.      

Dilinika Peiris/World Bank

140,000 teachers
have been enrolled in teacher development programs
Source »