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Sri Lanka

Ensuring Transparency and Impartiality in Teacher Recruitment Policy and Process in Sri Lanka (LK0004)



Action Plan: Sri Lanka National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive


Lead Institution: Ministry of Education

Support Institution(s): Viluthu

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Education, Open Data, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: Sri Lanka End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Sri Lanka Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i



Sri Lanka faces many challenges with regards to availability and quality of teachers. Each year, teachers are recruited to meet the needs arising from both enrolment increases and teacher attrition. There are over 230,000 teachers in the school system in Sri Lanka– 84 per cent and 16 per cent of them are in provincial and national schools, respectively. There are two entry paths into public teaching: recruitment by the Provincial Councils; or by the Ministry of Education. Recruitment under both paths is generally based on subject- specific job vacancies. A recent study on public school teacher management in Sri Lanka highlights three trends: “First, the numbers of entrants with a master’s degree or higher are small in each of the years, and the numbers of entrants with a GCE ordinary level qualification become negligible after the 1990s. Second, there are large spikes in the numbers of entrants in some years such as 1989, 1990, and 2005, when over 15,000 entered service in each of those years. Third, the ratio of entrants with a GCE advanced level qualification to those with a bachelor’s degree varies markedly across the years, from a low of 1:5 in 1985 to a high of 4:1 in 2007 (an average of 3:2 over the entire period). While these patterns are mainly due to formal adjustments in recruitment rules and requirements, some patterns—for example the recruitment spikes in certain years—are arguably due to arbitrary adjustments in recruitment requirements stemming from political considerations”. The report also records instances when rules related to minimum academic qualifications and subject-specific vacancies were relaxed. For example, Provincial Councils at times recruited individuals with GCE advanced level qualifications, rather than university degree holders, to fill critical vacancies in certain subjects or at disadvantaged locations. As political concession, public sector jobs were dispensed to university degree holders during periods when the private labor market was weak. At these times, teacher recruitment was based on total vacancies rather than their subject breakdown, leading to over-recruitment in certain subjects (for example, arts and social science subjects) and under-recruitment in others (for example, science, math, English, and computer literacy). Under gridding these trends and observations is the lack of transparency in the recruitment and transfer policies. Issues to be Addressed: Lack of transparency regarding teacher appointments and transfers. Main Objective: To create an open and transparent process on recruitments and postings of teachers.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

4. Transparent Teacher Recruitment Policy

Commitment Text:

  1. Ensuring transparency and impartiality in teacher recruitment policy and process in Sri Lanka


Main Objective:

Increase transparency in the recruitment, appointment, promotion and transfer of teachers.


  • 1 Ministry of Education to publish and make transparent criteria and data about teacher selection, appointment, transfers, and subject selection, on Ministry website, newspaper (in all languages) and regular circulars. The datasets will be made available in open data format and hosted in the open data portal of government of Sri Lanka.
  • 2 Ministry of Education to appoint an independent review committee consisting of government (including teachers) and civil society stakeholders (including parents) to review the process of appointments and subject allocation, enhance information sharing and publish review recommendations in the public domain.
  • 3 Report of the independent review committee will be widely disseminated in the public domain through ministry website, print and visual media and consultations with sector CSOs.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Education

Supporting institution(s): N/A

Start date: August 2016.......    End date: June 2018

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full text of the commitment, see the Sri Lanka National Action Plan 2016–2018 at

Commitment Aim:

This commitment aimed to increase transparency in the recruitment, appointment, promotion, and transfer of schoolteachers in the public education system. Greater transparency in these processes may contribute to greater consistency in the quality of teachers being recruited, obviate instances of politically motivated or ad-hoc appointments, and increase equity in teacher transfer and promotion.


Midterm: Limited

This commitment achieved limited completion by the midterm. The Ministry of Education uploaded basic information containing criteria and protocol on teacher recruitment and transfer to its website (Milestone 4.1). This included the teacher transfer policy and trilingual government circulars. [68] However, there continued to be gaps in information pertaining to the appointment and promotion of teachers, inconsistent availability of translations, and a failure to broadcast material through multiple platforms. The published data was not available in open data format.

By the midterm, the Ministry of Education had also not appointed a multistakeholder independent review committee to review and present recommendations on processes related to teacher transfer and appointment (Milestones 4.2–4.3).

End of term: Limited

Despite repeated attempts via telephone and email, the Ministry of Education could not be reached for comment throughout the period of the action plan. However, according to a representative from Viluthu—a civil society organisation promoting transparency in public education—there has been no progress on this commitment since the midterm.

Milestones 4.1–4.3: Although the Ministry of Education had translated and uploaded the teacher transfer policy to its website, consolidated data and information on teacher recruitment, appointment, and promotion remained yet unavailable. The Ministry of Education had also still not appointed the independent multistakeholder review committee.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

This commitment marginally improved access to information and open government overall. It did not, however, contribute to any noticeable improvement in civic participation.

At the outset of the action plan, the inaccessibility, or lack of, clear policies and guidelines on teacher recruitment, appointment, promotion, and transfer, meant that related decisions were ad-hoc, rarely impartial, and/or often politically motivated. [69] Stakeholders felt this contributed to poor teacher quality and, thereby, weak educational outcomes. [70] Compounding this further, education is a devolved subject under the constitution; therefore, the nine different provinces may create different policies through their provincial councils. [71] The lack of a unifying, cohesive policy has led to inconsistent standards and confusion among teachers. [72]

However, as the commitment was not fully implemented, Viluthu confirmed only marginal improvement regarding access to information. [73] The Ministry of Education published the teacher transfer policy in all three languages on its website, but other data and criteria pertaining to recruitment, appointment, and promotion remains unavailable. The ministry did not transmit the information across multiple platforms, or make the information available in open data format.

The commitment did not contribute to any change in relation to civic participation. The Ministry of Education did not appoint a multistakeholder forum to review processes on teacher management and, therefore, did not provide an opportunity for the public to inform related decision making.

Carried Forward?

Sri Lanka’s second action plan was not released at the time of this report. As this commitment achieved only limited completion by the end of term, the IRM researcher recommends that this commitment is carried forward into the next action plan. Specifically, the Ministry of Education is recommended to adopt immediate measures to expedite publication of criteria and data on teacher recruitment, appointment, and promotion. The criteria and data should be published on multiple platforms and in open data format. Concurrently, the Ministry should conduct inclusive multistakeholder consultations, with representatives from civil society and provincial councils, to review processes relating to teacher management.

Thereafter, in order to move this commitment forward, the IRM researcher reiterates broad recommendations included in 2016–2017 IRM Progress Report. These include: developing a decentralised mechanism to evaluate the performance of school teachers; and introducing grievance-redress mechanisms at the provincial and central level, to receive and respond to complaints in relation to recruitment, appointment, promotion, and transfer of public school teachers.

[68] See “Circulars – Teacher Transfer Unit” (Ministry of Education)

[69] Sarojini Kanendran (Viluthu, Centre for Human Resource Development) and Nandhini Wijayaratnam (Viluthu, Sri Lanka National Association of Counsellors), interview by IRM researcher, 26 September 2017.

[70] N. Arunatillake, “Quality of Teachers Does Matter in Sri Lanka: Lessons from the Best Education Systems,” Talking Economics – Institute for Policy Studies (17 November 2014)

[71] Viluthu conducted independent consultations in three districts toward consolidating the provincial policies and positions. Viluthu presented these findings to the Ministry of Education, but they were not taken up for further consideration. Maithreyi Rajasingam, Viluthu, interview by IRM researcher, 5 September 2018.

[72] Id.

[73] Id.


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