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 now that peace has come to this troubled island, an exciting, vibrant, diverse country has become 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.
However, the cold reality of Sri Lanka is that ethnic division is still a problem. Some parts of the country are still classed as dangerous. The war that raged for 30 years might be officially over, but the country’s problems didn’t disappear overnight. Foreigners are advised to avoid certain areas, especially in the north of the island. This has dissuaded people from coming to the island, but 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.
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.#
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.
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
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.