Teaching English in Sri Lanka

By | February 5, 2014

Sri Lanka is an island located in South Asia on the southern coast of India. This very diverse country has had problems recently and a 30 year civil war ended in 2009. The country is now one of the fastest developing economies in the world and English is widely spoken in the country.

Tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese never seem to go away and the country is still considered to be somewhat unsafe for foreigners. As the country rebuilds, tourists are starting to return to the island and tourism is a very important source of income for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is also considered to be a biodiversity hotspot. And has a staggering 24 wildlife reserves! There are all sorts of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds and more living on this small island.

Read more about Sri Lanka from Wikipedia.

Why Teach English in Sri Lanka

Beach of Tangalla

Beach of Tangalla – Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Sri Lanka is a diverse and vibrant country with many different cultures living together on one island. There are castles, temples and old ancient cities that date back more than 2000 years! If you prefer wildlife, then Sri Lanka has a huge range of animals including elephants, leopards, sloths and more!

Now that the country is steadily becoming more stable, more and more people are visiting Sri Lanka every year. On top of this, the country has recently partnered with India to expand English instruction across the country and English teachers are in very high demand.

Although you won’t get rich working in Sri Lanka, you will have a lot to see and do in your free time and Sri Lanka isn’t like any other place in the world. If you have experience, you will probably also find yourself training local teachers so that they too can make an impact teaching English.

Where to Teach English in Sri Lanka

If you are looking for paid work then you will find that most opportunities will be in Colombo. If, however, you’re thinking about volunteering, you will find opportunities all over the country.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Sri Lanka

Public Schools

Wild Leopard

Wild Leopard

Due to the government’s drive to improve the standard of English across Sri Lanka, you will find many opportunities for teaching in the public school system. However, the government is very poor and schools won’t have enough funding to pay for native English speaking teachers. Therefore, you will find that most, if not all, opportunities in the public school system are voluntary.

International Schools

At the moment there are not many private international schools in Sri Lanka and those that are open usually provide education for the richer classes and foreign children living in the country. They often employ native English speaking teachers and you will get a high salary, but there aren’t many positions available because there aren’t many schools.

Private Language Schools

Adam´s peak, Sri Lanka

Adam´s peak, Sri Lanka

Again, there aren’t many private language schools in the country as most people don’t have enough money to pay for lessons. The British Council does have a school in Sri Lanka, and there are a few others around, just not that many.

Private Tuition

Another option for paid work is to do private lessons. However, most Sri Lankans aren’t going to pay for lessons when they can get them for free! So it will be difficult to make any real income from providing private lessons.


There are loads of voluntary positions available all over the country.

English is becoming more and more important in Sri Lanka, but as yet, Sri Lankans are still very poor and there are many organisations that provide free English lessons.

Really, if you’re looking to work as a TEFL teacher in Sri Lanka then you will probably be volunteering until the economy is more developed.

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Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

Sri Lanka


If you want to volunteer then you don’t need any formal qualifications. The only thing you’ll really need is a determination to help others and the ability to provide your time for free! Although native English speakers are preferred, people that speak English as a second language will also be welcomed to teach.

If you do have qualifications and experience, then you might be asked to teach local teachers to improve their teaching skills.

On the other hand, teachers that are looking for paid positions will need to have a teaching certificate such as a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA. Schools that offer paid positions, especially international schools will also require that you have a bachelor’s degree and previous experience.

Expected Salary and Living Costs

[sociallocker id=”1571″]The salary is extremely low in Sri Lanka and unless you get a job at one of the better private schools or international schools, you probably won’t earn enough money to cover your living expenses.

Salaries can be as low as only a few hundred dollars per month. However, the British Council and international schools will pay as much as a few thousand dollars per month. However, they will require that you are very well qualified and experienced to even consider you for a position.

The cost of living is substantially cheaper than it is in Western Countries. Local food and transportation is extremely cheap. However, imported western food can be extremely expensive. So if you’re willing to forget a few home comforts, then you won’t be spending a lot of money on your monthly expenses. You biggest expense will be your rent and a decent one bedroom apartment can cost $250 a month or more.

For more information about the cost of living in Sri Lanka, take a look at Numbeo.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

Bentota beach

Bentota beach

There are different types of visas available depending on the length of your stay. You can get a short stay visa that lasts for 30 days and can then be extended for up to 6 months. If you’re planning on staying longer, you will need to apply for a residence visa in the employment category.

This can actually be a long and difficult process, and unless you have secured a job at an international school, you will probably have to complete and pay for this by yourself.

For more information about getting a working visa for Sri Lanka, take a look at the official Sri Lanka immigration website.

How to Find a Job Teaching in Sri Lanka

Negombo Beach

Negombo Beach

Schools will employ teachers all year round and you might find that the British Council and international schools will advertise online when looking for new teachers. As stated above, positions don’t come up very often, so it might be better to contact the schools directly.

Voluntary positions can be found in a number of ways. There are organisations that will arrange your whole trip for a fee and they can be found online. Others can be found when you are already in the country.

For other types of paid teaching jobs, it would be best if you were already in the country as most will not advertise online.

Teach English in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has had a troubled past in recent years, but it is working hard to fix these problems. There is a real need for English teachers in the country, but unfortunately, there are very few paid positions available. In fact, most people that go to Sri Lanka to teach will do so as a volunteer.

This country is full of culture and has a beautiful and diverse landscape. Now that Sri Lanka is becoming safer, tourism is growing rapidly.

Finally, if you do decide to go and teach (either paid or voluntary) in Sri Lanka, you will be appreciated by the locals for your efforts. Education is important in Sri Lanka and people will be thankful that you are helping them rebuild their country by sharing your knowledge and experience.


Although I have never worked in this country, every effort has been made to ensure that this information is correct. This blog post has been written after extensive research online, interviews with teachers who have worked or are working in the country, and local schools have been contacted. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. If you have worked or are working in Sri Lanka, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching English in Sri Lanka

  1. Brin Ayris

    Am interested teaching english in the country.Have TEFL qualifications. What do I have to do to volunteer?This is just for Sri Lanka
    Brin Ayris

    1. William Lake

      Hi Brin,

      I just did a quick Google search for “Volunteer English Teaching in Sri Lanka” and loads of results came up.

      This should probably be the first thing to try!



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