Education for social cohesion

Project description

Title: Education for social cohesion
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Sri Lanka
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Education
Overall term: 2016 to 2019


Sri Lanka has largely achieved the international education targets. The net school enrolment rate for children and teenagers of school age (five to fourteen) is 98.8 per cent, with equal numbers of girls and boys  attending primary and secondary schools. Despite success in terms of access to education, there are deficits in the quality of education and not all population groups share the same level of equal opportunities.

According to international assessments comparing students in mathematics and natural sciences, the development of pupils from Sri Lanka has been well below average in recent years. Many pupils do not pass the final examinations, especially in the core subjects of mathematics, natural sciences and languages. There are significant differences between the provinces, and urban and rural areas.

The structural causes of the conflict between the Singhalese majority and the Tamil minority have not yet been alleviated. The reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is still in its infancy. Insufficient integration in the labour market and a lack of career prospects created a dangerous pool of dissatisfied young men. In addition, religious intolerance since the end of the civil war has led to violent attacks on religious minorities such as Muslims.

The education sector plays an important role in the conflict transformation and reconciliation process. The examination-oriented and competitive school system means that not only individual students, but entire population groups are in competition with each other to attend privileged schools and  further education institutions (e.g. universities), and to secure apprenticeships. Disadvantages are perceived not only as a threat to individual career opportunities, but also as discrimination against the respective group. The segregation of the school system based on the ethnic, linguistic or religious origin of pupils has not yet been overcome. As a result, pupils of different origin hardly have any opportunity to learn together.


Schoolchildren learn to live together peacefully in Sri Lanka’s multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multilingual society.


The project is making an important contribution to conflict transformation and reconciliation in Sri Lanka with its conflict-sensitive promotion of education, adapted to particular situations. The project works towards achieving social cohesion and peace as part of the Ministry of Education’s education strategy and the national education policy.

The project’s strategy builds on the results achieved in previous projects and enables the dissemination of innovations and methods that have been tried-and-tested in 200 pilot schools.

The project is well embedded in the partner structure. It provides the Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Education with strategic and technical advice on refining and implementing the National Policy on Education for Social Cohesion and Peace. At provincial level, it supports the Provincial and Zonal Departments of Education and the National Colleges of Education (NCoE). At micro-level, the project promotes school development and the establishment of school networks to boost cooperation between schools.

The project therefore operates in three concerted fields of activity, namely education policy and management, teacher training and school development. Depending on the field of activity, individual, organisational and social skills in partner organisations are strengthened with the aid of capacity development measures.


• In recent years, the ESC project supported 200 pilot schools and trained 343 instructors, 2,904 teachers, 1,306 head teachers and 512 lecturers at the National Colleges of Education.

• Peace and value education (PVE) has been adopted as an integral component in the curriculum and in textbooks for children in grades 6 to 10. Student exchange programmes between Singhalese, Tamil and Muslim schools are a recognised part of peace and value education and are increasingly in demand from schools and education authorities.

• Together with the Sri Lankan authorities, the project has established school networks in all target province zones. These networks mean that pilot and non-pilot schools can work together and learn from each other.

• The pilot schools have qualified staff and learning materials, enabling them to offer lessons in the second language. 60 language instructors have been trained, who in turn have trained more than 1,900 teachers.

• The majority of the 200 pilot schools in the former conflict zones and poverty-stricken plantation areas now have qualified school advisors to provide psychosocial care at school. Together with the 125 trainers, these advisors form a network that enables them to share experiences, support each other and organise training sessions.

• Education coordinators have been appointed and trained in five provinces and 61 administrative zones.