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Effectiveness of senior secondary schools in Sri Lanka


AM Hettige

Department of Social Science Education, Faculty of Education, University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
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It is widely accepted that, in spite of the availability of a national policy, common educational objectives, curricula, text books, evaluation and examination systems to guide the general education process in Sri Lanka, there are clear inequalities within the system in terms of quality and effectiveness. The main reason for this diversity is that there are various factors affecting school effectiveness. It is difficult to provide a precise definition of, or statistical data, on school effectiveness based on the findings of studies done in different countries on the subject. Yet, it is possible to identify factors that determine effectiveness of schools in a particular country or area.

The main objective of the present study is to examine the factors that affect effectiveness of senior secondary schools in Sri Lanka. In order to achieve this objective, an exploratory research design involving sample surveys and case studies was employed. While questionnaires, observations, interviews and documentary analysis have been used as techniques of data collection, statistical methods were used for data analysis. The study was conducted in two stages in order to facilitate the use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative data was collected in stage one, while in stage two, case studies of six schools were undertaken in order to collect qualitative data. In the first stage of the study, 36 schools were drawn on the basis of a stratified random sample representing senior secondary schools in all educational divisions in the Colombo district. Then a sample of 500 stakeholders was drawn from these schools. The data collected from these respondents have been analyzed and interpreted in keeping with the objectives of the study.

Firstly, the researcher, based on the conceptual framework developed on the basis of the literature survey, formulated a questionnaire covering twelve factors and 95 criteria suitable to measure school effectiveness. Based on observations and questionnaires administered among stakeholders, the extent of the presence of school effectiveness factors were estimated. It was found that the principal’s leadership, school mission and objectives, school culture and environment, curricula, student centeredness, and teachers’ commitment were satisfactory in the sample schools. Yet, the situation with regard to school-community relations, student - teacher welfare, extent of extra - curricular activities and student expectations in schools and physical resources were not satisfactory. The factors that contribute to school effectiveness in the country as identified by stakeholders in descending order of importance are; school mission and objectives, school culture, principal’s leadership, teacher commitment, student expectations, student-centeredness of the curriculum, adequacy of resources and community relations.

A clear relationship was found between factors of school effectiveness and GCE Ordinary Level results. The weakest relationship was found between factors of school effectiveness and Grade Five scholarship examination results.

A school effectiveness index was developed and used to rank schools in terms of school effectiveness. Accordingly, schools were divided into three levels ranging from the highest to the lowest level of effectiveness.

The above classification helped explain disparities among schools in terms of zone, school category, type of administration, composition and location. Accordingly, the greatest disparities were found in the Colombo division, while the least disparities were found in the Homagama division. As regards the type of schools, 9 out of 10 highest ranking schools belonged to 1AB (Schools with GCE A/L Science, Commerce and Arts classes) category. In other words, 1AB schools were more effective than 1C (Schools with GCE A/L Arts and Commerce classes) schools. However, among 1AB schools, national schools were higher in rank than provincial schools and private schools were higher in rank in comparison to both national and provincial schools. Among the government schools, national schools ranked higher than provincial schools and private schools ranked higher than government schools. As for student composition, male schools ranked higher than mixed schools. Yet, female schools ranked higher than male schools. Among mixed schools there are still disparities between 1AB and 1C schools, the former ranking higher. As for the location, disparities were greater among schools in Municipal areas than elsewhere.

In-depth analysis carried out confirmed the earlier findings as regards the factors determining school effectiveness. Moreover, in-depth data also confirmed the validity of the school effectiveness index developed on the basis of the quantitative survey. Accordingly, the conclusions derived from the study could be generalized with respect to schools in other parts of Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences 2010/2011 33/34 (1 & 2) 31-42

How to Cite: Hettige, A., 2013. Effectiveness of senior secondary schools in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences, 33(1-2), pp.31–42. DOI:
Published on 26 Apr 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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