Teaching English in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, the small, beautifully formed neighbour to the south-east of India, may not be the first destination that comes to mind when contemplating teaching abroad, but this exciting, vibrant, diverse country is ripe for exploring. There are idyllic beaches with spectacular coral reefs and world-class surfing.  The country’s impressive array of castles, temples, and ruined ancient cities that date back to 500BC, provides endless exploration for culture enthusiasts.  If wildlife is your passion, a trip to one of the many game reserves gives ample opportunity to see wild elephant, spotted leopard, sloth bear and jackal – to name but a few.  Alternatively, if you’re more of a nightlife enthusiast, then you may be a little disappointed. Colombo does offer bars, clubs and casinos, but by western standards, they can seem a little grim. Also, the beach destinations in the south of the island have some entertainment, but if you like to party, you might find it a little too quiet. Over the last few years, the tourist industry has seen a sharp increase in visitors, and this trend looks likely to continue. Sri Lankans are very optimistic about the stability of their nation, and with stability comes the opportunity to explore a truly magical island. Check out our top reasons to teach English in Sri Lanka…

World TEFL guide

Teaching English in Sri Lanka

So, you really want to teach in Sri Lanka, but what opportunities are there?  The answer is many. English is standard in Sri Lankan government agencies, and most savvy Sri Lankans are aware of the benefits of learning the world’s premier business language. Now that the tourist industry is gaining momentum, there is a constant demand for qualified English teachers. And if the country continues on its current path, this demand will surely rise.

Now the downside; if you’re looking to make any kind of financial gain by working here, you should probably consider somewhere else. Sri Lanka is still a poor nation and its teaching infrastructure is quite underdeveloped.  Most opportunities lie within private schools. These jobs can be very hard to come by, and often the pay is very low.  Another option is to advertise in local newspapers for private tuition, but you will have to compete with the many voluntary services that operate in the country, and few locals will pay when free lessons are available.

This leaves voluntary work as the most attractive option. There are several organisations that provide free accommodation and food, and if you have some savings already, you can live a modest and comfortable lifestyle. Many teachers find Sri Lanka a fantastic place to do voluntary work, while at the same time, gain invaluable teaching experience.

The People

Sri Lanka has a population of around 20 million. Colombo, the capital, has a population of around 2.2 million. The country’s official languages are: Sinhala and Tamil.  The main ethnic groups are Sinhalese, which accounts for around 75%; Tamils just under 20%; Muslims around 5%. The main religion is Buddhism at around 70%, with Hinduism, Christianity and Islam making up the rest.

Must See

Sigiriya is an ancient fortress which dates back to the 4th century AD. It is renowned for its ancient wall paintings, ruined palace, gardens and moats.  Before the fortress was built, the site had been used as a mountain monastery from around the 5th century BC. It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka, and in recent years has become a major tourist attraction in the country

Must do

Trekking in Sri Lanka offers the unique and unforgettable experience of traveling through spice gardens, waterfalls, tropical forest, hills and mountains. The Central Highlands are especially attractive, and the north-central plains give visitors a chance to visit cultural sites not often seen. Tours are relatively inexpensive and there are numerous companies to choose from.

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  1. paul woodd

    is there an age limit?

    • Rebecca Potts

      Hi Paul

      Thanks for getting in touch. Which TEFL trip are you interested in? There’s different age limits for different trips.

      Your i-to-i team

  2. Pujan Shrestha

    Hi, I have been wanting to teach English in Sri Lanka. How would I go about finding a place where I could teach?

  3. Ahmad

    Dear Sir/Madam
    What are the possibilities of teaching in Sri Lanka?

    What are the benefits ?

    Thank you

    • catherinegreenwood

      Hi Ahmad, thanks for getting in touch. There are opportunities to teach in Sri Lanka but you’ll need a TEFL qualification and you’ll need to check the visa requirements to see if you fit these. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our TEFL experts by clicking here and requesting a call-back. All the best!

  4. Michael Rochester

    I have a 2nd home in Sri Lanka and would encourage any Native English speaker with TEFL training to consider exporting their skills out here. The problem I see regarding the current teaching of English is that Sri Lankans are teaching Sri Lankans generation after generation, so there is an inevitable dilution of the delivery, accuracy, breadth of vocabulary and accent over time. A direct injection of your unaccented Standard English could be very beneficial indeed.

  5. Margriet

    Dear Michael,

    That is great feedback!

    I planning on heading the South in about 2,5 months time and am wanting to get involved in supporting local communities as I know it is quite difficult and takes significant time for younger students to travel to Galle or Matara for English lesson. Not in it for financial gain. Would you have any recommendations? I have a TEFL Level 5 cert and a bachelor degree in Business Administration.

  6. Renato Tse

    Hi Michael! I’ve taught English for 2 years but did not really bother to get a certificate since I was a naïve, stupid, partying 22-year old person back then who didn’t care much about the world. However, I am not a graduate of a course related to anything remotely close to that of teaching BUT, the parents of the kids I taught reached back to me and extended their gratitude saying their kids had improved. So, since I believe that I have matured and is now living with a stable mind, I’d like to take a chance in Sri Lanka. As of the moment though, I still have a job to finish so I’m pretty looking at places to volunteer.

    Also, I’m not a native English speaker: my American accent fooled my friends though. ;)

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