THE AVINYA IMPACT
Talent is equally distributed around the world, but opportunity is not.
We plan to change that for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan culture has a long and storied relationship with Education Systems, with the earliest records dating back over two millennia. The Constitution of Sri Lanka mandates the “complete eradication of illiteracy and the assurance to all persons of the right to universal and equal access to education at all levels.”
The education system in Sri Lanka has provided free education since universal franchise was implemented in 1938. After the end of illegal British occupation in 1948, the number of schools and literacy rate increased substantially. Starting in 1998, Sri Lanka’s adult literacy rate has never dropped below 90%.
As of the 2020 census, the public education system in Sri Lanka comprises 10,155 schools, with 249,494 teachers educating 4,063,685 students island-wide. This statistic does not include the 15 higher education institutions that provide tuition-free education to 109,660 undergraduate students, and 41,074 graduate students every year.
With this strong foundation of pervasive public education infrastructure, Sri Lanka has a 2020 adult literacy rate of 92.38% according to the World Bank. In this metric, Sri Lanka exceeds nearly all of its geographical peers. Despite this, Sri Lanka’s PPP adjusted GDP per capita only ranks 101st globally.
While this was exacerbated by the Coronavirus Pandemic of the early 2020s, and downward pressure on the national balance of payments in recent years, Sri Lanka has not experienced the rapid economic growth implied by our high literacy rate. While this has myriad causes, Sri Lankan societal pressure plays a significant role; the general archetype is that anything short of a traditional 4-year education is considered failure.
This leads to many students (~80%) pursuing a University-track education, despite only ~10% ultimately receiving admission at one of the ultra-competitive National Universities. Fewer still have the financial resources to pursue education at one of the many private higher education facilities in Sri Lanka, with only a handful leaving the country for College.
Pathways in the Sri Lankan Education System
The high school (last 4 years, from 10th to 13th Grade) education system in Sri Lanka is bifurcated around two main examinations: the Ordinary Level (O/L) examination, taken at the end of the 11th Grade, and the Advanced Level (A/L) examination, taken at the end of the 13th Grade. Inherited from the British, this system is designed to filter students based on ability, with the end goal of using Advanced Level examination scores to select students for University admission.
While this system works well to identify students who would be good candidates in a traditional 4-year University setting, only 84.4% of students who take the O/L exam each year make it through to A/L. Of this cohort, only 41,000 (12.2%) get admission to a state funded degree-granting program. Ignoring non-state opportunities that exist for an ultra-minority of the population, this represents a nearly 90% drop out rate from the formal education system.
The Avinya Impact
This is very clearly a large problem to tackle. To that end, the Avinya Foundation will be establishing a series of Academies around Sri Lanka to target the most vulnerable cohort; the 16-17 year old students that Drop Out of the system after the O/L examination. At scale, the Avinya Foundation will enroll 38,400 students from this cohort in our Academies each year. We aim to deliver world-class vocational education to 115,200 students spanning 3 graduating classes, accounting for 2% of the total student population, and 11.5% of the – traditionally – A/L Cohort.