Disaster in Education : Case in Sri Lanka: 51% Students Fail GCE O/L in 2006 : Kawda Mewatta Wagakiyanne?

Posted on May 16, 2007  /  28 Comments

Disaster in Education : Case in Sri Lanka

We need to address following issues

1) is this the result of so called FREE ( Free of Charge- Nomile) Education in Sri Lanka ?

2) We have a strong feeling that the 48+% who passed the GCE have attended tution classes?

3) Do examiners qualified to set papers? ( Of course they are Senior Academics). Can they or teachers answer them in examination conditions successfully?

4) Even if all 100% pass the GCE(O/L) is it an achievment? . We don’t think it will not make any change in this country

5) What is the % of politicians who passed GCE(O/L) and GCE(A/L)?

6) We have a strong belief that next year results will be better. We all know why?

7) Do you need 10,000 schools, 200,000 teachers to get this results ?

8) Do we need the Ministry of Education, NIE, Provincail Ministries and Departments, Teacher Training Colleges and a Large number of Officials to run /ruin this education for ever ?

9) Do you need one eduction minister and 9 provincial ministers for education for this achievment?

10) Is Education in Sri Lanka a Disaster?

Please note that for last six years we had six Ministers of Education. Are we idiots?

1) 2000 – Mr. R. Pathirana

2) 2001- Mr. S. Premajayantha

3) 2001- Dr. S. Amunugama

4) 2002- Mr/Dr. K. Kodithuwakku

5) 2004- Mrs. C.B. Kumaratunga

6) 2005- Mr. S. Premajaynthe

We need to understand the present Cabinet Ministers were in the Government since 1994 ( Except 2002-2004) . Can they take the responsibilty for this disaster in education?

Source : http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2007/5/14853.html

Commissioner General of Examinations Anura Edirisinghe reveals that over 51 per cent of students have failed the GCE (O/L) this year. Over 5, 25, 000 candidates, including 2, 96, 358 school candidates, sat the examination and of them only 48. 7 per cent have qualified for the G. C. E. Advanced Level.

Mr. Edirisinghe said about 21, 813 candidates had failed to secure a single pass. Of them about 4128 were from Colombo district, 3,564 from the Central province, 3,404 from the Southern province, 2,668 from the Sabaragamuwa province, 2,277 form the Uva province, 2,056 from the North Central province, 2039 from the North Western province, 773 from the Eastern province and 704 from the Northern Province.

He said not a single student in nine schools in Colombo had qualified for the G. C. E. Advanced Level. The situation was similar in three schools in Homagama, three in Jayewardenepura, 12 schools in Galle, seven schools in Ambalangoda, 13 schools in Ratnapura educational zones and 40 Pirivena institutions countrywide.

Mr. Edirisnghe said it was unfortunate given the large amount of funds that the government expended on free education.

The school with the lowest performance at the G. C. E. O/ L Examination, 2006 is Thanbana Primary School in Dambagalla in Moneragala district. Others are respectively, Dodampahala Kanishta Vidyalaya in Dickwella, Palugollewa Vidyalaya in Anuradhapura, Amban Ganga Dakunu Ela Vidyalaya in Polonnaruwa and Midalana Kanishta Vidyalaya in Baduraliya, Matugama.

The Commissioner General said that English remained the most difficult subject for students.

About 258,975 students had sat the English language paper and of them 63. 18 per cent had failed. About 259,263 faced the Mathematics paper and of them 57. 37 per cent had failed, while 258,948 students sat for the Science paper and of them 51. 65 per cent had failed secure even a simple pass.

`Numerous facilities such as school text books, laboratories, equipments etc, are provided by the government for teaching these three subjects. The performance of children at the examination is appalling. The geometry question of the mathematics paper is compulsory. But, 90 per cent of students failed to answer that. The reason is that teachers, and eveneducational directors did not know their geometry. At present teachers who are passing out from the Colleges of Education are teaching Mathematics in most schools. They don`t know geometry. The Education Department should take action train teachers in geometry,` Mr. Edirisnghe said.

The Island learns that the Education Minister Susil Premajayantha has for a detailed report from the Education Department to be submitted to the Cabinet this week.


  1. I don’t see a problem. Sri Lanka is a poor country and we need millions of housemaids, bus drivers, coconut pluckers, plumbers, gardeners, cleaners, coconut pluckers, garment factory workers, beach boys and so on. Why would any of them need to pass OLevels or ALevels. If they do, would they want to do any of these jobs for low salaries. Then who’d do them, you and your extended family? Who’d provide good jobs for these people, the government? What would happen to our country when there’s no more cheap labour? Our OLevel/ALevel standards are very high. You only need to pass them if you want to have a white collar job. Manual workers don’t need educational qualifications in Sri Lanka.

  2. Answers to your questions.

    1. No. It’s the result of setting the standards high enough to fail as many students as possible so that we’ll continue to have cheap labour.

    2. Quite possibly true.

    3. Yes, and yes.

    4. No. More should fail.

    5. Almost 100%, excluding TNA. That question is only applicable to 70s/80s politicians.

    6. Unlikely.

    7. Absolutely.

    8. Yes.

    9. Yes, again.

    10. Absolutely not. It’s perfectly fine.

    11. We had 5 ministers (CBK doesn’t count) and 5 regime changes (

  3. Please understand the reality.
    I understand in the rural schools there are no teachers to guide the students. When these students reach the age they will have to sit for the examination. Very pathetic status.
    Sometimes the teachers are appointed from the unemployed group without any training and so on.
    According to the commissioner there are 9 Colombo Schools without proper gradings. I wish if he could give the locations of the 9 schools.Even in Colombo these may be located in neglected areas.

    2. Yes I do think so. Because I fund 3 students from Urugamuwa – Dikwella – My wife and I contribute for their special classes.

    5. I think most of them do not process any technical knowledge.

    7. We need qualified teachers with some dedication to the students. Proper salaries and their needs have to be addressed.

    8. We need an administrative body one single properly managed main body with teachers training institutes

    9.One qualified Minister would do.

    10.Yes– because it is not properly administered. Need long term planing which has to be carried out irrespective to the political agenda

    About 258,975 students had sat the English language paper and of them 63. 18 per cent had failed

    I do we achieve 50% IT enable goal in 2010 without the Sinhala language in computers

    Donald Gaminitillake

  4. JM Bardo has a point about the standards of the GCE O/L and A/L and their fit with current demands of the laobr market.Yes, we have too many menial workers in our labor force (% Elementary workers Malaysia in 2005 was is 10.6%. In Sri Lanka it was 26.6%).
    (See http://www.educationforum.lk/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/IDRC2_Report.pdf publication for more details)

    We need an education system that focuses on this bottom of the pyramid in human resources. How can we help them move on to become skilled workers and associate professionals? Do we teach too much content in the schools ? Has the content become too heavy on theory? Who sits in those committees that decide the content? Do we have too many university academics in those committees? Should we not have the people who can create the nest lelvels of jobs (skilled workers and associate professionals serving in those committees?

  5. JM Bardo,

    Yes, you raise a valid point. If we remain a poor country, say for the next two decades, it is indeed a blessing that such a high percentage do not complete their O/Ls. Higher the percentage of passes, higher the problem, because there is a section in our society that think unemployment (or underemployment) among educated is much worse than the unemployment among uneducated.

    Employment of O/L dropouts is one thing, and employment of graduates is definitely something else. Somebody who drops out at O/L might find a job in a petrol shed or garage and contribute to the national economy in a small way. On the other hand, one who completes a degree demands a job from government thus forcing the populist politicians to print money to pay him. So the latter does only a negative contribution to the economy.

    So perhaps we should celebrate this news. Any one got a bottle of Champagne?

  6. It would be interesting to find the failure rate between urban and rural cebnters, western province vs rest of the country. The fact remains except in Cololmbo and few urban centres; Kandy, Galle/Matara, Kurunegala, Matale, Gampaha the quality of education (government scool + quality of private tution masters) is absolutely pathetic. We have teachers who are poorly paid, not inspired to develop next generation leaders and perhaps who don’t have the capability to do so in charge of few millions of students. So could we expect any better results?

    We have a huge, outdated and thehargic and ignotant education adminstration and dumb politicians in charge of education. If we have to erevamp education;

    1) get ouytside help- look for India or Korea and study what they ahve done
    2) import qualityy teachers and trainers from India

    Otherwise we will continue to ship housemaids (unmarried) and drivers while Singapoe and India sending people to take over 21st ecntury’s global economy.

  7. http://www.indi.ca/2005/04/lanka-education-value/ has province-level pass rates etc. taken from the Treasures of Sri Lankan Education report.

  8. In a country which does not have a clear vision of future, no wonder that such things happen and at least we should be glad that rest of the 49% got through the exam!But god knows that even out of those , how many will be able to pass G.C.E A/L!

  9. Well, first of all we have to decide whether there is any worth of these two exams.

    No employer (except perhaps army and some government ministries) is serious about all the subjects in GCE (O/L). All what matters is English and sometimes Maths. That too only at the entry level. Specially in private sector employers are not worries whether an employee had passed GCE (O/L) if he/she can do the work assigned to.

    Same for the A/Ls. Sometimes employees use GEC (A/L) results to scan the applicants but I do not think anyone takes the results seriously. Even Banks employ people with one or two ‘F’s in A/L. Sometimes a Credit in English in GCE (O/L) is more important than GCE(A/L)

    I know so many Euro-Lankans (Burgers) who could not even complete GCE (O/L) because their Sinhala knowledge is not adequate doing executive level jobs.

    What matter is to produce men and women who have skills to live a satisfactory life without depending on others, not a set of donkeys with certificates.

    I will not be surprised, if I find many of the 51% who failed doing better jobs and living better lives in another 15-20 years time.

  10. Have you seen this project

    could be a solution

  11. As a student who wrote G.C.E O/L in 2006 I think Maths and Science were the most difficult subjects that I answered. So the difficulty of main subject “Maths” is the point to fail 51% of students in 2006 O/L.

    So I start a web site just for A/L students for their help. You can visit it by http://www.gceal.info

  12. Btw the overall pass rate has been steadily increasing.


    We’re right on target for future changes in the labour market. Stop whingeing people. The only thing I’m worried about is the high failure rate for English. That’s probably the easiest of the lot. I remember getting 90%+ for an OL English paper when I was in grade 4.

  13. We have always forgotten the basics.
    1. We develop schools but out of nearly 300,000 A/Lstudents about 150,000 qualify to enter universities but no universities to go.Only 17000 places available.But some faculties in the Universities are are having less than 15 in a batch.Why no one speaks of having more universities?whether private or Government to do justice to students about 130,000 who are getting eligible to enter universities/Why cant our dons proposed to increase the undergraduate student number to 100,000 and charge the students who can pay for their education?Why are these learned people are scared to tell the truth fealessly?
    2.How many places are available at technical Colleges? less than 10,000 Why cannot this be expanded?
    3.Our solution is for students to get A passes in all three subjects so that they will never read a news paper,book,film or even meet their relations.What will be the finish product of these students?
    4.Our higher/university education student need only to study the note.He should never go to a library as he will fail in three our examination incapble of presenting the knowlege if he study more.No need to have librarires and in any event they are out dated.
    5.What is the present position/standard of our Advance Level?Is it equivalent to London A/L. we have three subjects. our Simple pass is equivalent to a fail for international standards. Those who made A/L three subjects were never aware of the grading system or international assesments. The total score for all three subjects – s passes in Sri lanka O/L is less than D passes in London A/L as they have four subjects
    6. why are we having English as a subject for Advance Level when no one recognise it
    7. Our teaching system only impart data eg.english being taudht by asking the students to by heart the dictionary.There is no role for student to play to enhance their skills
    8.Recently we spent more tha uS $ 50 million to change the education by three world bank projects rename schools and traing colleges.However nothing happen-Why

  14. All should understand that this is the result of Asian Development Bank (ADB) Funded SEMP( Secondary Education Modernization Project). We had SEMP1, SEMP11 and Now we manage SEMP111 at the Ministry to improve the secondary educaytion in Sri Lanka.We have spent a couple of hundred millions US Dollers on this. We have funded all the Ministers and Secretaries foerign trips from these funds. We have very good PRADOS at our office. We had huge commissions from all our deals

    Don’t worry World Bank also supporting us.

  15. My conclusion is that the “root cause” of everything afflicting Sri Lanka, including the ethnic issue stems from our system of education. So I conclude before I begin a very uneducated thing to do! I go on the premise that “nothing is free”. It is so sad to see the state of education- the limited budget allocated means that it is not a zero based budget!! But based on what is allocated so if you take 22 Billion and spread it equally by the say 10,000 schools it is simple to figure out that monthly there isn’t enough money to sustain each school. So the whole system is fractioned to the lowest common denominator! Teachers are the lowest paid group of people in government. They are meant to teach the future of our Nation. You should check out their ability and attitude? Heaven help us! Like another writer before me says “we dont have enough tertiary institutions”, I think i.e. because of the communistic JVP preventing the obvious need for fee levying schools. It is true that those able to afford these schools will have a better education. But that is not an argument to deprive the Nation of oppotunity to afford a education. The teaching profession which was once a vocation is no longer so. Parents are paying fees not to schools but to tutories after school or to teachers who teach when they are paid properly after school at tuition! It is a long debate.

    I say focus on the primary schools give the foundation free and make it excellent. I would define primary from grades 1-5. Thereafter, have a fee structure to provide education, provide scholarships to those who cannot afford it, not like the Mahapola scholarship which i know goes to, and is even taken by top doctors children. Tertiary education will have to be on a grant base which has to be re-paid when the recipient gains employment even if it is over their life time.

    No point giving a free education that is useless like giving someone aids! I dont think just tinkering with the structure is enough. Bring back English as an option to students- interestingly most Ministers children get educations with an English language ethos why? No teachers get them from India or retired teachers from England and other English speaking countries. Have the sciences taught in English and History etc in the language of the parents choice. It is funny but given an option a vast majority might opt for a high degree of English at least then our house maids will get paid more because they can communicate (how sad is that).

    The idea of “free education” is lovely like the idea of a country without conflict ever heard of Utopia?… I dont mean E-thiopia! but the Karl Marx like idea written about by Jeremy Bentham in the book of the same name.

    I am not finished… but then the clock is ticking.


  16. Dhanapala Jayatillake

    High school results shock Lankans

    Over to you Minister,
    Now you have worldwide publicity on your work.


    PK Balachandran, Hindustan Times
    Colombo, May 21, 2007

    Sri Lanka has the highest level of literacy (91%) in the South Asian region. An overwhelming majority of its school going population (4 million) enjoys free education from the kindergarten to the university undergraduate level.

    But the quality of the education does not match the quantitative achievement.

    In this year’s General Certificate of Education-Ordinary Level
    (GCA-OL) exam, held after 11 years of schooling, 51 per cent had failed. The
    failure rate in Maths was 57 per cent; in Science, 51 per cent; and in English, 63 per cent.

    21,813 students had crashed in all the subjects. But the most shocking aspect was that 4,128 of these came from schools in Colombo district, which supposedly has the best facilities.

    A recent survey conducted by the National Education Commission (NEC) found that out of a representative sample of 4,054 students from 70 schools taken from across the country, 18 per cent of the 6 th. Graders could not write at all! Only 35 per cent of the 10th graders could take down a passage dictated to them.

    “This is alarming,” said Dr ST Hettige, Professor of Sociology atColombo University. “But not unusual,” added the noted expert on school education, Prof. S Sandarasegaram. “Performance has been deteriorating over time,” he said.

    But the really worrying part, according to him, is that there should be such poor performance when the O Level exam is not tough at all. Secondly, the returns are not at all commensurate with the huge expenditure on school education.

    “It is LKR 4000 crore ($363 million) per year overall, and LKR 8,500 per student, with the World Bank contributing a substantial part of it,” Sandarasegaram said.

    Inadequate staff, poor quality of teaching, political interference in appointments and lack of autonomy are blamed for the sorry state of school education. Many Tamil medium schools, especially in the war-affected North East and in the plantation areas, go without a full complement of staff.

    Hardly 200,000 students are in autonomous, private, and fee levying schools, getting a decent education. Nearly four million are in state-run schools where teachers’ appointments are made on political considerations and influence, sacrificing qualifications and quality.

    “The lackadaisical attitude of the teachers results in the students having no motivation to study and do well. The curricula are not relevant to the needs of the students. Teaching methods are archaic. Schools are ill-equipped and not at all child-friendly. There is also violence in our schools,” Sandarasegaram said.

    “The Principals lack autonomy, with the result, Principals and teachers with innovative ideas find no outlet. What we need to promote now, is the bottom-up approach, where ideas come from the school level, and not imposed from the top, where the officials are not familiar with the ground conditions which vary from place to place,”
    he suggested.

    No doubt there are centres of excellence. But these are few and far between and concentrated in a few towns. Parents, politicians and officials try hard, and use fair means and foul, to get their wards into the few good schools. But they forget to improve the bad ones,which are the vast majority.

  17. “It has been observed that the senior students of various University
    faculties impose a great deal of hardships to the newcomers during
    their initial few weeks to the university. This is done in the name of
    socializing with them. The common incidents observed are; use of
    abusive language, Asking fresher to perform various acts leading to
    mental and physical agony. These are not accepted by the cultured
    society. In the recent years a trend is also developing to physically
    harm the fresher, especially the boys who resist the torture imposed
    on them. This unfortunate trend is causing irreparable damage to the
    young minds changing their personalities and, at time making them
    worse raggers in the following year.

    The University administration and the academic staff have tried
    various methods to curb this menace but found little success. It is
    time that something constructive is done to address this issue. I shall
    be very grateful if you could make suggestions that might help in this

  18. Respected ladies and Gentlemen,

    We appreciate the view point as appended below.

    But as pointed out earlier, have we achieved the objectives of the education.

    If you look around for evidence of the end result……….

    The best evidence is the parliament as it represents the leaders of the society. It is a cross section of the society well represented.

    If someone says that we have made a big mistake over the history…then there is an opportunity to do better….look in that way….

    Blaming will not take anyone anywhere….

    We all need three abilities to live a life.

    1.Knowledge 2. Skills 3.Attitudes

    Lets take the second one….


    Do we know the standard of skills & kind of skills required to take the country forward and the required numbers to cater 19

    million population

    which is yet growing day by day .

    Have we taken the aging effect into consideration…..( There will be an army of 60+ in years to come to defend this country)

    Are we producing the required numbers in required skills to overcome employment issues.

    Then start with Man power planning…like the ancient kings did…..Stop getting advices from out….

    My simple proposal is that if you start the education system with Manpower planning, this country can be pulled forward.

    You need not have rocket sciences…Heavy theories…

    Good luck..



  19. Dear Sir,

    The definition of education – long term learning activity to acquire a skill or knowledge in order to become

    1.A good citizen
    2.A good worker
    3.A good family member

    If the definition is right and accepted, lets have a closer look to see whether we have achieved atleast a fraction of it. Since the answer is well known to all my proposals are as


    Train teachers on Human Resource Management
    Introduce performance management of teachers using 360 degree evaluation system or Balance score card system.
    Take National Vocational Training centre and assess the skills required to achieve goals of education as explained under the definition, asses and certify them which will be more important that GCE O/L or A/L.
    The current education system is producing educated Animals than human beings – behaviourally.


  20. To all

    Itis very interesting a constructive dailog is taking place in the cyberspace. We need to continue this healthy dailog without personal agendas aiming at building a platform to debate on building a suitable education system for us. lets work together for a common agenda.

    Dilanthe Withanage

  21. We should appreciate the affort of Deshan on supporting students through the web. Congratulations!

    It is important to notice that this is without government or foerign funded projects support. We should promote of such initiatives. This is the dream I had for e-Society

    I repeat Desahans Comment bellow

    Deshan Says:
    May 19th, 2007 at 11:40 am
    As a student who wrote G.C.E O/L in 2006 I think Maths and Science were the most difficult subjects that I answered. So the difficulty of main subject “Maths” is the point to fail 51% of students in 2006 O/L.

    So I start a web site just for A/L students for their help. You can visit it by http://www.gceal.info

  22. Are you stupid Dhanapala? PK Balachandran is a pathetic Indian tool who tries to feel good by dissing SL. India is half illiterate and incredibly poor and backward compared to Sri Lanka. This is not world publicity.

    Why are you blaming the minister? 49% is actually the highest ever pass rate in the Sri Lankan history for OLevels.

  23. I don’t think no one is trying to blame the minister. no an idividual can be blamed for this. this is the reflection of the sick society and system

    what is needed is not to blame anybody but to solve burning issues of our country. education is very critical in this aspect. we need work to find a truly sri lankan education system to replace this sick education system

  24. I think each one of these people have taken the trouble to write here. I wonder how many people take the trouble to write to their Ministers? Literacy rate is a sham no one talks about functional literacy. Literacy is defined very simplistically to something like ones ability to read the headlines of a newspapers so 91% can do that but then functional literacy is where one can understand what one read? If you read the 3 leading English daily papers you would think you are living in 3 different countries? Do we understand that all we read is not true that there may be more than what it says on the surface. Statistics, statistics… and damned lies. Total up the numbers reportedly killed in the war and one will see that the bad guys! Should have been annhilated? Then who are the bad guys? Have they been made bad by us? Or are we being manipulated like puppets in a far bigger game- yes we need to be educated to not just be literate but become functionally literate. The teledrama that is our local politics playing to the gallery. When do we vote with our minds and not just our heart. Whe will we realize that what we are told by vote seeking politicians is anyhting but the truth. Deeds and actions are much louder than words but to a shallow literate but dysfunctional people we can eat words.


  25. Dear Colleagues,

    I read most of your comments with interest. I am no expert in education to comment on all the mega issues the SL Education System is saddled with. However, I would like to put forward some ideas that may serve as food for thought. Your comments are welcome.

    I feel that we should try and use the technology as much as possible to bridge the gap between the rural and urban communities of our country. Use of computer-aided learning (CAL) materials (in CD-ROMs, etc.) for subjects such as maths and science would provide teachers and students with additional teaching and learning resources in addition to traditional face-to-face methods. Appropriately designed CAL material would provide consistency in the learning content (tutorial), opportunity for students to drill and practise, and receive immediate feedback and make self assessment of their standings. Availability of such materials could also address the shortage of teachers to teach these important subjects and also train students to be less dependent on the teachers and to take more responsibility in the learning process.

    Elsewhere in this forum I read a title some thing similar to this: “Colombata Internet, Gamata Kekirinet”. This title summarises a very important issue we all agree with. The new technology, if properly used and provided will serve as an excellent opportunity to minimise the social inequalities that exist between rural and urban communities of our country. If technology is provided to rural communiites with apropriately trained staff and appropriately designed learning materials (CAL), the existing inequalities can be minimised. If this opportunity is not used, the rural communities will be further marginalised by what is called ‘digital divide’.


    Gamini Padmaperuma
    (former Senior Lecturer of OUSL)

  26. Not exactly on topic, but not too far as well. Possibility to study in Croatia. Visit:
    They say presentation will be held in Marsh in Colombo.

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