Sri Lanka has an excellent record on bringing children aged 5–14 years into school, following seven decades of universal free primary and secondary education, says the Country Study: Out of School Children in Sri Lanka report.
This Out of School Children Study in Sri Lanka is part of the Global Initiative on Out of School Children launched by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in 2010. Its objectives are to explore currently available statistical information on out of school children (OOSC), identify factors that contribute to exclusion from schooling, and examine existing policies that are effective in enhancing participation as well as the gaps in policy and in the implementation of policies and programmes.
The three main data sources used were the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2006/07, the Annual School Census 2010 and the Child Activity Survey 2008/09.
According to the DHS, 2006/07, it was concluded that Sri Lanka has a relatively small proportion of out of school children -1.5 percent of the primary school age children and 2.0percent of the lower secondary school age (Department of Census and Statistics, 2006), the report said.
The more recent and representative survey of Household Income and Expenditure, 2009/10
(Department of Census and Statistics, 2011) has reported that 98.2percent of boys and girls
in the 5-14 age group (primary and lower secondary levels) were in school- 98.6percent in the urban sector, 98.3percent in the rural sector, and 95.6percent in the estate sector, the report added.
Those who never attended school were 1.0percent of the age group and those who dropped out were 0.8percent, the highest percentages were 2.0percent and 2.3percent respectively in the estate sector.
Gender disparities in education have largely been eliminated in Sri Lanka as a result of the long-standing policy of free education. In fact, girls have higher retention rates than boys. By the end of the 1960s, there were more girls than boys in upper secondary grades as boys tended to dropout early to join the labour force and girls continued in schools in the context of the provision of free education.
In 2009, 57.5 percent of those enrolled in Grades 12 and 13 were girls (MOE, 2009a).
Clearly, the preponderance of coeducational schools (96.6 percent) has accelerated progress towards gender parity.
Sri Lanka has achieved the third Millennium Development Goal of eliminating disparities in enrollment in education in primary, secondary and tertiary education as a consequence of the positive social policies implemented over many decades, the report adds.
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