Policy Dialogue #11: Bottom-up Solutions to the Grade 1 Admission Problem

Posted on January 14, 2021  /  1 Comments

A policy dialogue on “Bottom-up Solutions to the Grade 1 Admission Problem” was held by the Education Forum Sri Lanka (EFSL) on January 16, 2021, via Zoom.

Full Video: PD#11, 2 hours 23 minutes

Mini clips:



Grade One school admissions is a serious national issue – Dr Tara de Mel

Responses by:

  • Mr. Lal Dissanayake (former principal Gampaha Bandaranaike Vidyalaya, & ZED Matugama W)
  • Ms. SR Hasanthi, Director, Maha Oya Education Zone, EP
  • Mrs Dilekha Kudachchi, Senior Assistant Secretary,  Ministry of Education, SP

Every year, beginning its cycle in June and ending in January of the following year, the issue of Grade 1 Admissions rears its head, posing problems for parents, teachers, principals and education administrators alike. Among Sri Lanka’s 373 national schools, around 70 (less than 20%) are considered ‘popular’ schools, having the highest demand, across districts such as Colombo, Kurunegala, Kandy, Galle, and Matara. With parents wanting the best education for their children, they attempt to ensure that their children will be eligible for entry into popular schools, oftentimes engaging in fraudulent practices, such as altering certificates and addresses, and providing bribes to principals to meet this purpose. International education experts have noted that 1 teacher can optimally manage 30-35 students at primary level and 20 students at A/L class level. The demand for positions in schools far exceeds the vacancies available, and political interventions frequently feature in the Grade 1 Admission process to increase, above the suggested amount, the places granted to students. A current education reform proposed by the government is to increase the number of national schools in the country to 1000. However, a solution to this issue must feature a range of other factors such as: 1) a process of decentralisation, where rather than relying on the Ministry of Education for all decisions, localised provincial level systems must be promoted with different criteria to suit the province, and 2) a feasibility study conducted across education zones to allocate resources to 30% of the schools in each division. After 3 years of this repeated process, all schools of a particular division can become popular/elite schools.


1 Comment

  1. In this discussion the Zonal Directors participated very clearly stated infrastructure is not the key element for the demand for a school in the provinces. ( In major town areas demand for the popular schools stems from the ” Brand Name”) One Zonal Director said a school which have classes under trees is more popular than nearby other schools. According to them it is the best teaching-learning situation and the leadership given by the Principal is the main factors for the demand of a school. Not the infrastructure development. Those who are at higher levels think if a school is given buildings and other facilities they can get the attraction. Based on that view several projects have been introduces by the MOE. Isurupasal, Langama Pasala Hondama Pasala are examples. But those Zonal Directors gave the ground situation for the demand. Therefore appointing principals who could provide “Instructional Leadership” to teachers and who could inspire teachers is a main factor for the attraction of a school. Then the school would naturally have an attractive “Teaching-Learning” environment in those schools. That will create the demand for that schools. There are lots of examples of small schools that were on the brink of closure got revived by such principals. So policy makes have to take that into account.
    On the other hand schools which have brand names developed that status over decades. It takes lot of time. I can remember in 1980s as a solution to the demand for popular schools in Colombo MOE developed new schools like Sirmavo BMV, Mahanama, Asoka, DS Senanayake etc. with very good principals. Very soon they also got the attraction and developed the brand names over time.

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