Shifts in the Qualifications Structure of Sri Lanka following Economic Liberalisation.


This report examines shifts in the qualifications structure of Sri Lanka following the policies of economic liberalisation introduced from 1978. Because of the focus on impact and change the study necessarily examines the qualifications structure in the period prior to liberalisation. This study is based mainly on analyses of secondary sources and interviews.
Changes arising following economic liberalisation include:

  • the qualifications structure has diversified, with the entry of an increasing number of private education and training institutions, including foreign or foreign-affiliated institutions
  • high fees charged by providers of higher-level and higher-quality training exclude young people from lower-class backgrounds
  • there has been a significant increase in the number and volume of vocational qualifications offered by vocational training institutions
  • increased demand for management, accountancy, IT, technology and English qualifications by employers and young people
  • many more young people seek entry to foreign higher education institutions.

The review finds that economic liberalisation in Sri Lanka brought about a contraction of employment opportunities in the public sector, and an expansion in private sector employment opportunities. However, private sector employers continued to favour urban English speaking youth in filling relatively more lucrative white-collar positions in their establishments. As a result, young people from poorer and rural areas, who might previously have been employed in the government sector, have had difficulties competing with privileged urban youth who graduate from the more expensive international schools, private colleges and overseas universities.

The report concludes that this dynamic is bringing about a problematic situation in which the vast majority of youth continue to depend on state funded qualification bodies for academic, vocational and professional qualifications, while the value of these qualifications is diminishing in an employment market increasingly dominated by the private corporate sector.


Institute of Education, University of London, UK. Report Number 4, 41 pp.

Shifts in the Qualifications Structure of Sri Lanka following Economic Liberalisation.

Published 1 January 2005