Grade Five Scholarship Examination
Posted on March 30th, 2019

– Kumari Courtesy Ceylon Today

The question in the minds of the teaching fraternity and parents of children around the age of ten, island-wide, is: Is it on or is it out? Is the Grade Five Scholarship Examination scrapped or is it going to be held this year too. (At the time of writing 27 March)

The confusion is justified. The President announces one action; education officials seem to pronounce another; the President was shown on TV news to emphatically and definitely say that he has decided to scrap the examination for these young kids. This was on Tuesday (26).  

He said he recommended the cancellation and now is declaring the examination non-existent. The same news broadcast announced that an Education Department big-wig said no decision had been taken.  So that’s where we are. But, Kumari assumes and presumes HE the President will have his say and way.


The Scholarship Examination (also known as the Grade 5 Exam) is a highly competitive Sri Lankan examination conducted by the Department of Examinations of the Ministry of Education. It is optional for students to undertake it during the final year of Primary School (Grade 5, usually ages nine to10)). Based on the results of the exam, students could transfer to prominent National Schools. The exams are held in two mediums: Sinhala and Tamil. The examination was introduced by the late Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara, who took the initiative in establishing Free Education when he was the Minister of Education. Under this initiative the Government established Madhya Maha Vidyalayas (MMV – Central Colleges) that were scattered around the island. The Scholarship Examination was a means for gifted students from villages to move to better schools with Government scholarships.”

That was the Wikipedia article retrieved by googling. Leaves much to be desired, as no dates are given so vital for factual histories.  Also, a list of Colombo boys schools is given with the cut off marks – Royal 187 (of 200 we presume); the mark being the cut off dividing those who are eligible for entry to a better school. I was avid to see what the mark was for Kandy schools, rural schools – those in backward areas. No info.

Free education came in the latish 1950s and the Central Schools were excellent, one in each province or district, I believe. These schools produced many who shone in Sri Lanka, mostly in the public sector.  From the scholarship exam being a feeder to the MMVs in the district or province, it soon became a means to get into Grade A1 Schools in cities, like Royal and Visakha being the utopias.

Negatives and positives

The exam now is a torture to kids, having encouraged unhealthy competition and over-ambitious parents, mothers more particularly, slave driving their young kids of Grades 4 and 5 to study, study and study. And in many cases, woe betides if the little one fails to be above the cut-off point. Also glory, too much attention and prizes with banks sponsoring those who top the lists. This too is not so healthy for an impressionable kid. Very many Grade 5 children have no childhood; they jump or crawl mentally damaged from early childhood to teenage. Tuition is resorted to, for kids who have only outgrown infancy!

Of course the positives are present: Teachers and kids work hard at the Grade 4 and 5 levels and the very original aim of the scheme – education in a better endowed school with competent teaching faculty.  Here again it’s we humans who have distorted the good intentions.

The best and almost the only solution that should follow the scrapping of the exam, is better equipping rural and small town schools. The National School scheme is fine where smaller schools are feeders to the best school in the district – the model National School. Cut-off need not be a highly competitive exam. It could be judging a child’s ability, intelligence and so forth through sustained checking over a period of two years – Grades 4 and 5 of Primary School.

Steps have been taken recently to have better teachers and amenities and school buildings have been constructed or refurbished. But with less than 10 per cent of the annual Budget allocated  to the Ministry of Education, wide as its responsibilities are, how much  progress can be made to have at least a  Mahanama College  if not a Royal in every Province?

2 Responses to “Grade Five Scholarship Examination”

  1. Christie Says:

    “The Scholarship Examination was a means for gifted students from villages to move to better schools with Government scholarships.”

    A bloody lie.

    It was for the poor students who could not afford a Secondary Education. The Scholarship was means tested that is depended on parents income. Only the poor children could get the scholarship and the payments that was Rs. 20 per child per month. It was a good sum of money those days and was enough to pay for travel and books and left plenty of money for the poor parents to support the family. Most of the Central schools had Hostels and students were provided with Hostel accommodation.

    When they started the Central Schools the medium of instruction was English and the facilities were of international standard.

    But unfortunately all that ended up with Banda’s revolution of 1956.

  2. samurai Says:

    I agree. Grade 5 Scholarship examination was meant to help poor students.

    Today it has instead become a mad competition which makes parents to push children to the winning post like race horses.

    My question is have all those students who have entered universities passed the Grade 5 Scholarship exam? Have all those in society holding top jobs, who are professionals in Sri Lanka and abroad got through this exam? Does this mean that all those who fail this exam are not gifted, not talented?

    How do we judge a gifted student?

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