'Feminization' of Teaching Profession in Sri Lanka

Scientific Essay, 2011

35 Pages



Effect of Gender of Teacher on Students:

Background of the Status of Women in Sri Lanka:

The System of Education in Sri Lanka:

Feminisation Of The Teaching Profession In South Asia


Feminization Of Teaching Profession In Sri Lanka
A. Feminization Across Sectors Of Education
B. Differences Between Rural And Urban Areas:
C. Differing Levels Of Gender Representation In Leadership And Management Positions:
D. Differing Levels Between Government, Private And Community/NGO Schools:
E. Differences Between Regions Or Low, Middle And High Income Countries:
F. Any Correlation Between Access, Retention Or Attainment Of Students And “Feminization” Of The Teaching Profession:

Feminization Of Teaching Is Related To Sexual And Class Divisions In Society;

Comparative Advantages:
Family Friendliness in Teaching:
Equal Opportunity and Gender Parity:

The Real Impact of Feminazation is Not Known



Upali M. Sedere Ph.D. (Iowa)

Effect of Gender of Teacher on Students:

Krieg (2005[1] ) in his review of impact of teacher gender on student gender states that while a large body of research focuses on the gender of students, less research explores the impacts of a teacher's gender on students (Hopf & Hatzichristou 1999[2] ). Evidence suggests that male teachers tend to be more authoritative whereas female teachers tend to be more supportive and expressive (Meece, 1987[3] ). A survey of 20 teachers indicates that male teachers are likely to select a more aggressive disciplinary approach toward boys while teachers of either gender tended to ignore boys' disruptive behavior than that of girls when the behavior was not aggressive (Rodriguez, 2002). Krieg (2005) further reveals that researchers have found that teachers interact differently with students of similar gender than they do with students of opposite gender Einarsson, C., & Granström, K. (2002[4] ) This includes evidence suggesting disciplinary procedures and proclivity to discipline vary by both student and teacher gender. Likewise, a teacher’s perception of student characteristics and abilities appear to systematically vary by gender. Other studies find male students benefit at the expense of female students in the amount and quality of interaction received from teachers of both genders. What has yet to be determined is how these differences in discipline, perceptions of student ability, and interactions between student and teacher influence student outcomes as measured by standardized exams.

Krieg (2005) exploring the impact of gender on achievement concludes that after controlling for measurable student and teacher characteristics, this paper demonstrates three interesting findings. First, like a considerable amount of previous research suggests, boys score considerably worse on the math, reading, and writing sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) after controlling for test scores given during previous academic years. Secondly, on average, students of male teachers score worse on the WASL than do students of female teachers. Finally, although students of either gender score worse on the WASL when instructed by a male teacher, there is no differential impact of male teachers on the WASL scores of boys compared to girls. This evidence suggests that although disciplinary procedures, perceptions of gender differences, and interactions with students may differ between teachers by gender, these differences do not result in differential test scores between boys and girls.

Background of the Status of Women in Sri Lanka:

The Sri Lankan woman exercised universal franchise in 1932 long before the women of England, the women of the colonial masters who were ruling Sri Lanka. Even before the ratification of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, universal franchise, equal rights to contest elections was granted to the Sri Lankan woman in 1931, and equal access to free education and health services came into effect in the 1940s. These have had already contributed to gender equality in some spheres of life of the Sri Lankan women. The majority of the population (70%) being Buddhists, there was even a longer heritage and cultural tradition of gender equality in Sri Lanka. In the Buddhist religion the women’s clergy-hood was established during the time of the Lord Buddha, which is a unique event as in no other religion a clergy-hood for women was established during the time of the prophets. Though various cultural practices and the influences of other cultures suppressed the women not allowing her to enjoy the full freedom as of men, the imbedded Buddhist ideology always accepted the principle of gender equity. Sri Lanka’s in 1960 by electing Mrs. Srima Bandaranayake as Prime Minister acclaimed the honor of electing the first woman Prime Minister in the world and was not a coincidence, it is due to the long established principle of equity in the Buddhist culture, and further backed by three decades of electing women politicians to the parliament. There was greater acceptance of the woman’s right by the Sri Lankan society. Mrs. Bandaranayake was the longest serving Prime Minister in Sri Lanka.

It was long after that in 1978, the constitutional provision provided equal rights without discrimination on the grounds of sex and women have equal rights in the general law. However, Sri Lanka acclaiming a 3000 year old history, and having multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities, the family laws of each community contains discriminatory provisions in varying degrees concerning marriage, divorce, property, and financial transactions. Women were denied equal rights to land in state-assisted settlements. Labor legislation conforms to international practice but enforcement is relatively weak, and informal sector workers, many of whom are women, do not benefit from labor laws. The amendments to the Penal Code in 1995 and 1998 and the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act 2005 have strengthened legislation, yet the problems remain to a lesser degree in certain communities.

Sri Lankan women enjoy a relatively better status than women in many other developing countries. However, yet they have not achieved full gender equality or empowerment as per the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Report 2006, Sri Lanka’s gender development index (GDI) in year 2004 was 0.749, compared with the human development index (HDI) of 0.755, but the gender empowerment Index (GEI) was only 0.372 (Thomas and Hunt 2010[5].; ADB 2008[6] ). This shows that gender parity is yet to be achieved in many quarters of life. By 2009 the UNDP Human Development Report gives the HPI-1 value of 16.8% for Sri Lanka, ranks 67th among 135 countries for which the index has been calculated. Further the report states that Sri Lanka's GDI value, 0.756 should be compared to its HDI value of 0.759. Its GDI value is 99.6% of its HDI value. Out of the 155 countries with both HDI and GDI values, 35 countries have a better ratio than Sri Lanka's (UNDP Human Development Report 2009)[7].

Though the Sri Lankan women’s dominance is more in the teaching profession, yet there is more unemployment amongst the women and no gender parity in certain jobs. This is partly due to gender stereotypes in the jobs. Today, there are more females entering many highly reputed fields such as commerce and accounting, banking, medicine, law etc. However, the entry to engineering fields though is increasing, yet dominated by men. The system of education provides equal opportunity to girls and boys and the coeducation system also has enabled the girls and boys to compete under the same school roof.

The System of Education in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka an Island nation in South Asia has been one of the better performing education systems amongst the developing nations. Sri Lanka’s has a free education system which was introduced as early as in 1944, before the independence from the British. The early start on free education as well as vernacular media of instruction enabled Sri Lanka to achieve universal primary education as early as I 1980. The present free education system offer free schooling, free textbooks, school uniforms, mid-day meals and free school transport from Grade 1 through Grade 11. The system of education is a 13 years of general education; Grade 1 through 13 and Grade one entry age is 05 years. The medium of instruction in the primary school is the mother tongue and Sri Lanka being a plural society with two major ethnic groups Sinhala and Tamil are considered the vernacular media of instruction. English is an official language and minority populations other than Sinhala and Tamil could offer education in English medium. Beyond Grade six a child could follow bilingual instruction either Sinhala and English or Tamil and English. Grades 1 – 5 is designated as Primary School, Grade 6 – 11 as Junior Secondary phase leading to General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE OL), and Grade 12 – 13 leading to General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE AL). The compulsory education is declared Grade 1 – 9 and is to be raised to Grade 11 - (GCE OL), under the new policy to be announced soon. At the end of the Grade 13 with GCE AL qualification students seek admission to University. However, students leaving at GCE OL and AL could join the Vocational Training and other Professional/Vocational Schools such as Colleges of Education, Nursing Schools, and Agricultural Schools etc. Beside the public education system a parallel private education system exists. The school dropout rates grade repetition rates are very low respectively around 1.2% and < 1%. 98% completes primary cycle and 89% enters the secondary cycle and 85% goes all the way to GCE OL and 55% sit for the GCE AL. Gender parity is found at every level. However from Grade one to GCE AL gradually the enrollment is higher for girls than boys. The enrollment in the vocational schools is rather low as every child is aiming to enter university education. The recent educational reforms promotes vocational training stream as a parallel stream to universities. The numbers in the professional schools such as Schools of Nursing and Colleges of Education are catering more to the females. Over 80% females currently enrolled in the Colleges of Education and over 90% are females in the Schools of Nursing.

Sri Lanka is one of the higher performance nations in the filed of human resource develop met and has already reached the EFA goals and is very much focused on the Millennium Development goals. In the UNDP Report Between 1980 and 2010 Sri Lanka's HDI rose by 0.8% annually from 0.513 to 0.658 today, which gives the country a rank of 91 out of 169 countries with comparable data. The HDI of South Asia as a region increased from 0.315 in 1980 to 0.516 today, placing Sri Lanka above the regional average (UNDP 2010).

Feminisation Of The Teaching Profession In South Asia

Sri Lanka has long tradition of having more female teachers in the public school system (Jayaweera 2008)[8]. The Table - 1 shows that in the year 1971 the female percentage in the teaching profession was 53.4%. This gradually increased and passed the 60% by 1985 and passed the 70% by 2005. Today there are 71% female teachers in the Primary and Secondary sub-sectors. The percentage wise distribution varies from an administrative district to another, yet all districts show over 55% female teachers.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

In the District of Colombo the percentage increased from 78% in 1996 to 81% in 2009. The same trend is seen in all three districts and this is further illustrated in the next section of this paper.

The historical perspective of this development is the gradual expansion of education for all started in 1939 during the rule of the British and the Ministerial Portfolio of Education was in the hand of the elected State Councillors who were Sri Lankans. The debate had two important dimensions. One is to what an extent the free education to be offered and the other is the place of vernacular media of instruction at a time of English rule. This debate went on for a long time until the 1947 Ordinance. And compulsory education was fixed at 14 years, which is continued up to now. Free education continued all the way to Universities. Vernacular media and bilingual policy had many different operational policies and practices. In October 1945 the primary school medium became Sinhala and Tamil with no option of an English medium. The post-primary medium was optional English or bi-lingual and this policy continued until January 1953. In 1953, English medium was removed from Grade VI and gradually at other grade levels in the respective years. In December 1956 the English option was removed and even the High School Certificate (HSC) was also made available in vernacular media (Jayasooriya 1969)[9]. These policy changes always brought greater equity and opened the door for rural children and girls to overcome conservative cultural practices at that time. At the time of independence from the British Sri Lanka had only 3,091 schools with 1.17millio student enrolment and 32,700 teachers, One University with 1600 students and 200 students graduated annually from University of Ceylon (Central Bank 1998)[10]. In 1953, the rate of literacy was 69%, and 55.5% for females. The literacy level rose to over 90% by 1991 (Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka 1995[11] ; Central Bank of 1998). In 1960 the government took over the management of private schools and this removed the log established elitism in education. During the 1960-1966 period government placed high priority to the expansion of education to the rural areas. Of the 9,665 schools today in Sri Lanka, over 4,500 schools were built during this period and also expanded the secondary education to the rural areas by establishing and up-grading primary schools to secondary level (Maha Vidiyalayas). Further, in 1970 Sri Lanka changed its Constitution and its name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka and established a Socialist Democratic Republic. 1972 curriculum and teacher education reforms also created a new demand for teachers. The University of Colombo and University of Vidiyalankara (now Kelaniya University) started a new Bachelor of Education degree with over 1500 undergraduates to meet the increasing demand for teachers. There were over 70% females in this new batch of undergraduates entered the B.Ed. degree program to become teachers. In 1980 another round of reforms were introduced and 18 Colleges of Education were set up to provide the increasing demand for teachers. These colleges were specialised colleges and the percentage of females in these batches was above 70%. This trend prevailed over time.

Once the rate of female teachers exceeded 70%, the trend has slowed down. This is a natural situation when the percentages reach higher levels, the room for any further expansion limits by itself. However, it is clearly seen that from the number of trainees at the Colleges of Education who are the future teachers, out of 3071 trainee teachers 2578 or 83% are female trainees, indicating the trend though has slowed down is continuing.

In Bangladesh in 1991 there were only 11% female teachers in primary schools and in 1993 the policy was introduced to increase the female share in future new teacher recruitments to the primary schools to 65% (World Bank 1988)[12]. As a result of this policy today Bangladesh has 46% female teachers serving primary schools. However the share of female teachers in the secondary sub-sector remains around 16% (Statistical Yearbook of Bangladesh 2007).

In Pakistan the number of female teachers in primary and secondary schools has steadily increased. It is reported that the percentage of female teachers at primary level was only 33.4% in year 1990 and the percentage dropped to 31% by 1995, and has increased to 44.2% by 2001 (Farah & Shera 2007). According to the same source the percentage of female teachers at secondary schools was 31.9% in 1990, had a drop to 31.6% by 1995 and then has increased to 54.3% by 2001(Page 14, Farah & Shera 2007)[13]. The authors further states the largest increase happened in Balochistan province where the percentage of female teachers was only 14% in 1990 and the percentage rose to 41% by 2001. However the regional differences are obvious when compared with Punjab province and Sindh province.

In India the lack of female teachers is another potential barrier to girls’ education. Girls are more likely to attend school and have higher academic achievement if they have female teachers. This is particularly true in highly gender-segregated societies such as India In year 1993, women account for only 29 percent of teachers at the primary level (MHRD, 1993). The proportion of teachers who are female is even lower at the university level, 22 percent of instructors (CSO, 1992). These proportions reflect the historic paucity of women with the educational qualifications to be teachers. However, the proportions were nearly half of those being trained as teachers. Again there are differences among the states; the states with the highest literacy rates are also the states with the highest proportion of female teachers (Velcoff 1998)[14]. The year 2008-09 reported female teacher percentage is much higher than 1993. Today India has 5.79million teachers in the primary or elementary schools and of this number 43.46% are female teachers (Press Information Bureau 2010)[15].

It must be noted that in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan the recruitment criteria for female candidates to teaching is set at a lower level than that for the male candidates. Whereas in Sri Lanka the females and males compete at equal levels in academic as well as other extra curricular qualifications. However, there are Voluntary Teachers serving in the schools, particularly in the war torn North, and Eastern provinces and many of them do not have the same qualifications and though the Government has taken steps to regularize them if they successfully complete the three year teacher training that the government has now arranged through the National Institute of Education.


This study is largely based on the reanalysis of primary data collected through the School Census Data of the Ministry of Education. The data reported were never analysed on these lines before and a re-analysis was carried out of the available as well as comparable data from 2001 to 2009. The School Census before that has not been collected on the same variables therefore only comparable data is analysed. The data reported for the years earlier than 2009 are secondary data taken from the published documents. Also need to note that the most recent available data is of the School Census 2009.

The analysis also went into greater details of examining the provincial and district wise estimates, qualifications-wise and school subject-wise analysis. Further the teachers; school principals and managers categories wise trends were also examined.

After making the observations the research also had two focus group discussions one with a available sample of 30 Managers or the Sri Lanka Education Administrative Service personnel and the other with a sample of 36 Teachers and 10 Teacher Educators. The focus group discussions were used mostly for the interpretations and explaining of the factors affecting the observed situation.

Feminization Of Teaching Profession In Sri Lanka

A. Feminization Across Sectors Of Education

- year 2009 Sri Lanka had 215,963 teachers employed in the primary and secondary level public schools and 6,262 university academic staff serving in the 14 Sate Universities. In year 2010, this number further increases with the scheduled recruitment of another 7,000 teachers. Amongst the above reported number of primary and secondary school teachers 153,279 or 71% are female teachers. This includes primary and secondary levels. The Table 2 shows the actual number of female teachers at different levels primary, secondary, trainees at colleges of education, private schools, and universities – senior staff and junior staff levels.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

However the rate of female teachers across the nine provinces of the decentralized administration varies from 80% for the Western Province to 58% in the Eastern Province. (See Map 1 for location of district towns on the Map of Sri Lanka). The distribution across the administrative districts varies from 81% for Colombo district of the Western Province to 55% in the Trincomalee district of the Eastern Province. The Table - 3 presents the female teacher distribution in year 2009 across the districts and the respective provinces and the source of data is the Annual Schools Census of the Ministry of Education. The information on Table 3 clearly shows that all 25 districts have over 55% female teachers. The percentages of the distribution of female teachers may decrease if analysis could have performed at the divisional level, the next lower level of administrative set-up. The deployment of female teachers to remote rural schools is difficult because of lack of basic facilities such as housing, water, satisfactory level of sanitation, and transport etc. The Map of Sri Lanka on the next page shows most of the district centres.

B. Differences Between Rural And Urban Areas:

All the Tables given here can be interpreted to explain the rural urban situation because urbanization is very much in certain districts of Sri Lanka. Table – 3 is indicative of the urban rural distribution of female teachers because most of the urbanized districts of each province or amongst the provinces also could be clearly identified. The urban sector in Sri Lanka is largely concentrated in several districts. The highest level of urbanization is in the District of Colombo in the Western Province. The rural districts in each of the provinces could also be easily identified. Most of the provinces are predominantly rural areas. In the Central Province the Nuwara Eliya and Matale districts are more rural, yet the female teacher percentages are 67% and 71% respectively for the most rural Nuwara Eliya and Matale districts. In Southern Province the most rural district is Hambantota and has 70% of female teachers. In the Northern province Mannar and Vavuniya are not only the remote rural areas but also were the war affected areas and respectively 66% and 68% of the teachers in primary and secondary schools are females.


[1] Krieg, J. M. (2005, April 12). Student Gender and Teacher Gender: What is the Impact on High Stakes Test Scores? Current Issues in Education [On-line], 8(9). Available: http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume8/number9/

[2] Hopf, D. & Hatzichristou, C. (1999). Teacher Gender-Related Influences in Greek Schools. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, pp. 1 – 18.

[3] Meece, J.L., (1987). The Influence of School Experiences on the Development of Gender Schemata. In L.S. Liben & M.L. Signorella (eds.), Children’s Gender Schemata: Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 57 – 73.

[4] Einarsson, C., & Granström, K. (2002). Gender-biased Interaction in the Classroom: The Influence of Gender and Age in the Relationship Between Teacher and Pupil. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 46, pp. 117 – 127.

[5] Helen T. Thomas & Juliet Hunt (2010) : Gender Equality Results in

ADB Projects Sri Lanka Country Report (Also Draft Report ADB 2008)

[6] ADB 2008. Gender and Development Cooperation Fund: Fourth Progress Report, January– December 2007.

[7] UNDP Human Development Reports: Human Development Report 2010

20th Anniversary Edition- The Real Wealth of Nations:

Pathways to Human Development (Also see Human Development Report of UNDP 1980 through 2019)

[8] Jayaweera Suwarna (2008):Women Teacher’s in Sri Lanka, Chapter 5 in ‘Women Teachers in South Asia (Editor: T. Kirk), Sage, New Delhi

[9] Jayasuriya J. E. (1969); Education in Ceylon Before and After Independence, Associated Educational Publishers, Colombo 5

[10] Central Bank of Sri Lanka (1998:Economic Progress of Independent Sri Lanka

[11] Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka 1995: Statistical Abstract

[12] World Bank: GEP (CR2118BD) Staff Appraisal Report and GEP Status Report s

[13] Iffat Farah & Sehr Shera (2007): Female Education in Pakistan: Ra Review, Chapter 1 in Gender and Education in Pakistan: editors Rashid Qureshi & Jane Rarleya, Oxford University Press

[14] Velcoff A Victoria (1998)Women’s Education in India; http://www.census.gov/ipc/prod/wid-9801.pdf

[15] Government of India Press Information Bureau 2010, Ministry of Human Resource Development January 22, 2010 http://www.schoolreportcards.in/Media/m102.html

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'Feminization' of Teaching Profession in Sri Lanka
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The Monograph examines the current trend of increasing number of female teachers in Sri Lanka at all levels of the education sector. This also is happening in many other countries where education is well spread. The real implications of feminization has to be further researched.
feminization, teaching, profession, lanka
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Dr Upali Sedere (Author), 2011, 'Feminization' of Teaching Profession in Sri Lanka, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/174290


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