Junior secondary education covers grades six to eight. The curriculum consists of 10 compulsory subjects including English and science. Technical and prevocational studies constitute 20 percent of the curriculum. Examinations in the mother tongue and mathematics are taken to establish eligibility for senior secondary education. Students must pass four other examinations from among English, science, religion, social studies, aesthetic studies, health and physical education, or technical subjects. Satisfactory passes in 'O' level are required to enter senior secondary school. Students may need to repeat the last year of junior secondary in order to achieve entry to senior secondary.
Senior secondary education begins at grade nine. Five curriculum areas are available for students: physical sciences, biological sciences, social studies, humanities, and commerce. Specialist curricula are designed to groom students for university entrance requirements. This course of study lasts two years and leads to the Sri Lanka General Certificate of Education (A/L) examination for university entrance. Only one out of every 100 students is accepted into a Sri Lankan university after 12 to 14 years of education.
Reforms at the junior secondary stage were implemented in 1999 for grades six to nine. New syllabi were developed and textbooks rewritten. The number of subjects required by students planning to qualify for the GCE (A/L) examination was reduced from four to three subject areas of study. A Common General Paper, designed for testing students' awareness of current affairs, reasoning ability, problems solving ability and communication skills, became a required part of the GCE (A/L) examination. A compulsory new course on general English was introduced for GCE (A/L) students, although the scores will not be added to the aggregate marks for university entrance. In addition, the government has offered a one-year pre-university course of instruction to improve entrance prospects for those from poorer, particularly Tamil, regions of the country. Other educational reforms at the secondary level include a program to develop better school facilities at divisional levels for disadvantaged groups, particularly rural children. A total of 325 existing schools have been designated for maintenance improvement, better teacher-training programs, and human resource development.
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