Higher education is the third level education after leaving school. It takes place at universities and Further Education colleges and normally includes undergraduate and postgraduate study. Higher education allows students to study a subject that they are interested in and which can improve their career prospects and earning potential. It is an obvious fact that the education system plays a significant role in any of the countries, and it is the same with Sri Lanka.
What comes before Higher Education?
Higher education requires the successful completion of studies up to the secondary education stage. It is significant to complete this stage of the educational system because it contributes to the development of children’s personalities in a variety of ways. Secondary education is divided into junior and senior levels. The junior secondary education curriculum includes twelve subjects and culminates in the GCE (O/L) examination. To continue with higher education, a student must simply pass the GCE (O/L) examination. It is also a prerequisite for senior secondary education.
Senior secondary education is available to students in grades 12 to 13. And senior secondary education includes several subject streams from which students can choose as they wish according to their GCE (O/L) examination results. This is followed by the General Certificate in Advanced Level, GCE (A/L) examination and the Z – score obtained in this examination will determine the student’s higher education admission, the institute, and the course. Therefore the GCE A/Ls (A Levels) is the university entrance exam in Sri Lanka.
Higher Education in Sri Lanka
Higher education is not compulsory in Sri Lanka. Because higher education in Sri Lanka is optional, students can pursue their studies at private, semi-government, or state-run institutions. The main distinction between state and non-state higher educational institutes is that the studies are free. State institutions offer free education, whereas non-state institutions only offer education to those who can afford it and pay the tuition fees. As previously stated, the government holds the GCE (A/L) national examination to select students for them. The competency is very high since there are limited intakes from this examination and students can attempt only three times. When selecting students for state universities, the Z-score obtained during the examination will be taken into account. Apart from universities, some professional institutions provide vocational training for students studying higher education in Sri Lanka.
Higher educational institutes can be universities, teacher training schools, nursing training schools, institutes of technologies, technical training institutes etc. The Institute of Higher National Diplomas (HND) also helps students who have passed the GCE (A/L) examination to obtain higher education diplomas. It contains different fields such as engineering, management, information technology, English language etc. As a result, after successfully completing one of these course studies, students receive a valid named degree, diploma, or certificate of higher education.
Types of Higher Education in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has many different types of higher education under its education system. They are as follows:
- State University Education
- Private University Education
- Vocational Training Authority Education (VTA)
- Institute of Advanced Technological Education (SLIATE)
- Teachers Training Colleges
- Nurses Training Schools (NTS)
These higher educational institutes are managed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technical Education (SLIATE), and the Ministry of Higher Education and Highways. Furthermore, they handle admission, management, curriculum, and resources for these higher education institutions.
- State University Education
There are currently 15 state universities under the direct administration of the University Grants Commission (UGC). Universities award general degrees, special degrees, four-year degrees, and bachelor’s honors degrees. General degrees are typically three years long, while special and four-year degrees are four years long. However, in order to complete a special degree, a student must conduct independent research. Furthermore, the government provides bursaries and Mahapola scholarships to selected students from low-income families in order to financially support them.
- Private University Education
There are numerous private universities in Sri Lanka that offer degrees from various countries. Some of them look for GCE (A/L) results before enrolling in classes. To enter the university, students must have at least three ‘S’ passes. They have syllabuses from their respective mother universities overseas. Students choose courses and universities based on affordability because they must pay for every facility and benefit, they receive. For example, accommodation, Wi-Fi, and library services are charged separately. However, semester class fees should be paid in full or in installments. A private university requires far less time to complete a degree than a state university.
- Vocational Training Authority (VTA)
In Sri Lanka, vocational training is another type of higher education. The central government instituted this with the goal of providing job skills to young people who drop out of school due to poverty, failure in national examinations such as GCE (O/L) and GCE (A/L), and a variety of other factors. However, the administrative and management powers of these authorities, as well as the examination regulations, are held by the Vocational Training Authority (VTA). Indeed, these institutions are gaining popularity as they provide free higher education to students in the country’s most remote and impoverished areas. Furthermore, they provide students with new opportunities.
As with any other institute, vocational training institutes offer a variety of courses in a variety of fields such as engineering, commerce, business studies, agriculture, and so on. Students can choose the one that best suits their needs. Recognizing the increased demand for graduates in technical and vocational fields, the Sri Lankan government established the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission to develop and publish plans for five priority industry sectors: gems and jewelry, construction, printing, textiles and garments, and hotel and tourism. Further, government funds have been allocated to promote skill training at 33 private sector industrial establishments.
- Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education (SLIATE)
SLIATE is another institution in Sri Lanka that provides students with higher education opportunities. In the first step, students’ admission to these institutions is determined by their Z-score on the GCE A/L examination. The students who are chosen will then go through the second step, which is an interviewing process. SLIATE offers free education and housing (hostel facilities) to all students. Furthermore, similar to state universities, they offer scholarship programs for students from low-income families. The primary distinction between SLIATE and state universities is that universities award degrees, whereas SLIATE awards diplomas.
- Teacher Training Colleges
One can become a government school teacher by enrolling in a teacher training college. These are also known as ‘Vidya Peeta’ in the local language. A three-year pre-service professional course in teacher education will be awarded upon completion of the course. Students must have three passes in the GCE Advanced Level examination in one sitting, as well as credit passes in certain subjects in the GCE Ordinary Level examination, to be admitted to a teacher training college.
- Nurses Training Schools (NTS)
Nurses’ Training Schools run by the central government and train nurses for the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka. Student nurses are paid while they are in training. A student must pass all subjects in the GCE (A/L) examination in either the physical science or biological science stream in order to apply to one of these colleges. In these colleges, the government provides free education. Nursing schools award a three-year diploma in nursing. In addition, more than ten nursing academies have been established throughout the island. Some of them are affiliated with government hospitals, which are known as teaching hospitals. During the three-year course, student nurses learn both theoretical and clinical knowledge.
However, a student’s future career is typically determined by the higher education qualifications that person has obtained. As a result, students should be very careful when selecting courses and institutes to further their education. The ability of different institutes to deliver the same course varies according to their resources and facilities. Furthermore, there are establishments that specialize in specific fields, and some of them direct students to internship programs at the end of the course. Moreover, when looking into an institute for higher education, reputation and affordability are important factors to consider. However, there are not enough places for qualified university applicants in Sri Lanka. The most pressing issue in Sri Lanka today is finding meaningful work for its educated population. Educated people frequently have no better luck than uneducated people in finding work.