Real Issue is Pass rate at Grade 9?

Posted on June 1, 2007  /  8 Comments

A comment by Kusal in this forum about linking education and development prompted me to write this. He is right on target. We often hear about the 20,000 who qualify for university every year and how few actually get in. Now the latest furor is about only 48% passing the O/L when the pass rate has actually been increasing over the years.

The more important statistic, I believe, is the pass rate after Grade 9, the end of compulsory education in Sri Lanka.

01. Grade 1  –   5   – Primary Level (05 Years)


02. Grade 6  –   9   – Junior Secondary Level (04 Years)

03. Grade 10 – 11  – Senior Secondary Level (02 Years)

04. Grade 12 – 13  – Collegiate Level (02 Years)

We boast that that 93% of our 14 year olds are in school at Grade 9 but what have they learned? Actually, we don’t know because there is no formal assessment at Grade 9 but only at the GCE (O/L) after year 11, by which time 22% (of the 400,000 or so who entered school 11 years ago) have given up and left and another 53%* find that they can not cut it. If we had an assessment at Grade 9 we are very likely to find that these kids did not know what they were supposed to know even at the end the basic education at Grade 9.

Let us start talking about real issues. We boast that 93% complete Grade 9 and almost all hang on until end of Grade 11, but what did they know at Grade 9?

*If we look at the progress of a cohort entering school together, the drop-out rate would be higher than 53% (I am assuming that the 47% pass rate at GCE (O/L) refer to  the rate for all who sat the O/L including repeat students.


  1. “…there is no formal assessment at Grade 9”

    Isn’t there? How about the end-of-year examinations for Grade 9 students?

  2. No Jm No. otherwise how you pass?

  3. Whatever the statistics, which are not that important, I agree with the argument the writer tries to build.

    Few questions, though.

    (a) When and who abandoned the system of passing/failing at each grade?
    (b) Do they have such a system at international schools / private schools or just like govt. schools they to promote students to next grade irrespective of their performance?
    (c) Do local universities too follow such systems and decide only on the results of the final exam? (I know they don’t do so in Medicine and Engineering, but what about the other subjects?)

  4. (1) All schools I am sure are expected to do year-end assessments but the the standards would vary significantly. From what I can gather from the Internet there has not been a national assessment of basic competencies for children leaving school at Grade 9. A UNESCO survey of competencies after Grade 4 is shows that 98% may be completing primary school but 40% of so may not have achieved basic competenciesin 1998.
    Could not find newer data.

    1994 1998
    Literacy 62 61
    Numeracy 45 51
    Life Skills 27 55

    (2) The assessments in international schools too would vary but rates should be better overall, one would think.
    (3) No, universities now have continuous assessments, but as we know anecdotally, university students still lack basic competencies.There was a pilot to do English competency using IELTS scale. Whether they’ll have funds to do that full scale, I doubt. Will post the info I have on the IELTS pilot.

  5. Rajitha:

    a. Possibly in the 80s. Dr Ananda Tissa de Alwis?

    b. Yes. Private schools tend to perform better than your average govt school, but perhaps not as well as national schools (eg: Royal, Ananda, Visakha etc).

    c. I think govt unis have continual assessments. It’s the same for local A-Levels. Btw I did Cambridge A-Levels and I only had to sit one exam (I skipped AS). No assignments or anything.

    IELTS is not reliable.

  6. The comparison between the so called National Schools (Royal,Visakha) isn’t terribly Fair Mal, since they get in the best people from the grade 5 Scholarship, and also a good influx from those who Do O/Ls well for their A/L sections.

    So you cant really compare the number of people who get 8As and say they perform better. in fact, if you compare the pass rate of some of these i believe it’s St.Bridget’s who had the best stats until recently. (about 3 years ago.. donno now)

    The school as an ‘education institution’ particularly in an urban setting is failing, you don’t go to school to learn, you got there for other things, sports, brand, extra-co. the package. most of the learning happens in tuition classes, especially for the ‘main subjects’. in A/Ls this is almost exclusively the case, even in some (if not most) of the ‘international schools’.

    continual assessment, at least when i was in school, was just a redundant exercise. teachers don’t bother, you get red,and green dots (the marking criteria) on quite literally, ‘face value’. 🙂

  7. Agreed on all counts matchang. Btw aren’t you a Thomian.

    Have a look at this.

    Isn’t Devi Balika a rather non-elitist joint? All hope is not lost for free education.

    Has anyone considered the socioeconomic aspect? I come from a fairly academic middle class background, and I’ve always had to prove myself in school. When I got my OLevel results, my mom wasn’t happy because I got a C for Maths, although I had As for all other subjects. Compare that with my classmates C, who was so rich he had his own Merc at 15, and S, whose mother was a hooker in Sweden while his dad worked in a service station in Borella. Both of them failed OLevels. Their parents did not give a flyf about their education.

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