There are many very good primary & secondary schools in Sri Lanka. What’s best for your child depends primarily on what kind of experience you want them to have and how much you can afford to (or are willing to) pay.

As free schools, public schools attract the most diverse population. Further, the best public schools are what are called “national schools” and they attract and admit really good students from all over the country. Many of these schools are also often steeped in long tradition and tend to have a massive network of “old boys” or “old girls” who keep the network strong.

At the other extreme, expensive international schools attract an exclusive crowd. The social system of the school tends to reflect that and many students are expecting to study abroad at a university level right from the time they enter school.

Private schools, in comparison to interational schools, tend to be a mid-point in the social spectrum represented within the school. While public schools attract a diverse crowd and international schools attract an exclusive crowd, private schools tend to attract a more upper-middle class (or higher) socio-economic group.

The remainder of this page gives you more information on each of the types of schools and how to go about getting your child into them.

Government Schools

With the introduction of free education system in 1938, education has been available to all through a vast network of national and sub-national level schools.

Government schools comprise of time-honoured schools that were founded by wealthy philanthropists, Christian Missionaries or the British Government around the country during colonial times. These were later absorbed to the government system and are now categorised further as National Schools, Maha Vidyalayas and Madhya Maha Vidyalayas within each district with “National Schools” being the most sought after in the hierarchy.

Student enter government schools through several categories such as:

  • Distance to school
  • Past pupils categories
  • Special categories – Where quotas are reserved for children of the armed forces, doctors and other groups in government service

The “Grade 5-Scholarship Examination” facilitates upward mobility in the hierarchy of schools, giving the cream of students from all over the country opportunities to study in top ranked government schools.

Government schools also have an intake at Grade 12 for Advanced Level classes.

Admission into schools at all three main entry points is very, very competitive.

Government schools in large urban areas are all single-gender schools. More rural, village level schools are often co-ed. Students are expected to wear a uniform to school and adhere to a strict code of discipline.


The Ministry of Education website provides a lot of useful information about public and other acredited schoos. Visit them for more information:

Private Schools

Most of the well established, reputed private schools are those founded in the colonial times by the very same groups mentioned above. However, their administration alongside those of more recently established private schools are not overseen by the government, but by private patrons and groups associated with the founders.

The growing need to provide children a holistic education in a multi-cultural environment, which still promotes traditional values have made private schools a popular choice for many parents who want the best of both worlds for their kids.

As with government schools, admission into these schools could be sought at nursery, Grade 1 or Grade 12 and at other grades if vacancies exists. It must also be noted that past pupil categories and those who represent the main ethnic/religious origins of the school may be given first preference during the competitive admission process.

School fees are levied per term and are often quoted as reasonable by most parents whose children attend these schools, with additional costs incurred during the school year mainly on extra-curricular activities.

Similar to government schools, almost all private schools are single-gender schools. Students are expected to wear a uniform to school and adhere to a strict code of discipline.

International schools

While there are several International Schools that were founded to provide an international, English Medium education over 25 years ago, due to the high competition at entrance to government and private schools, International Schools have grown in number to absorb the excess demand.

Entrance into leading International Schools can be very competitive, and preference may be given to students who cannot be integrated into the local educational system. This often includes children from the expatriate community, as well as those children who have studied international curriculums for the better part of their school life and are returning to Sri Lanka close to completion of their secondary education.

Term fees can also be very expensive in the leading International Schools in Colombo and its suburbs, whilst methods of education employed in these schools will vary, based on administration, facilities and the demographics of students/teachers.

Unlike government and private schools, almost all international schools are co-ed. Students are expected to wear a uniform to school (in most cases). Discpline tends to be less strict in international schools.


The International Schools of Sri Lanka is an association of international schools. Visit them for more information: