Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, first welcomed Volunteers in 1962 and over the years more than 500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served the country. As the first cohort to arrive to Sri Lanka in over 20 years, Volunteers will require a “trailblazer” attitude. Volunteers in the first few years of the new program will have a unique opportunity and responsibility to help establish the foundations of the program. Volunteers should anticipate considerable interest and attention on their work performance and cultural integration by their Sri Lankan colleagues, the Ministry of Education, and the broader public. The highest degree of professionalism will be expected.
Patience, flexibility, good humor and resilience will be essential, as all aspects of the program design, training, and operations will be in its beginning years. Trainees will receive instruction in one of two languages, Sinhala or Tamil. Trainees must commit to learning and practicing language skills, as language is an essential element of successful Volunteer service.
The people and government of Sri Lanka value English language education as an advantageous job skill and a “link” language between the two national languages, Sinhala and Tamil. The Ministry of Education promotes and supports trilingual education for its students. Peace Corps Sri Lanka’s English Language Education project will build English language capacity of teachers and students.
Volunteers will be paired with one or more Sri Lankan teachers at secondary schools in rural towns and communities. The English Language Education project will particularly focus on developing the speaking skills of students and teachers, and on building capacity for the teaching of speaking skills. Strengthening teaching methodologies, use of enrichment materials, and lesson planning are also aims of this project.
Beyond classroom teaching, Volunteers will achieve these goals through 1:1 interactions with a co-teacher, school-based teacher communities of practice, or through more formal teacher development workshops in collaboration with provincial/zonal education offices. Volunteers may also meet the demand for English language practice through after-school activities and special interest clubs, or camps held during school breaks.
Due to teacher retirement limitations by the Sri Lankan government, applicants must conclude their service prior to the age of 60.
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.
Qualified candidates will have a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline, a strong desire to teach English, and 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience.
• Master of Arts in Teaching in English, Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English as a Second Language (ESL), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), foreign language, or Applied Linguistics.
• Master of Education with graduate or undergraduate concentration in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language with 6 months classroom teaching experience at the secondary level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, or foreign language.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with classroom teaching experience at the secondary or University level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language.
• Experience with professional development for teachers or curriculum development.
• Experience teaching at the high school level or above. Teaching English for Specific Purposes and/or non-formal teaching to adults.
• Demonstrated experience in planning and organizing activities for children and young adults.
• Demonstrated independence, self-initiative, flexibility, open-mindedness, resilience and a commitment to serve.
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
Trainees will receive 10 weeks of intensive language learning with classes held five or six days a week, four hours per day in small groups. Additionally, they will be expected to study and practice language with host families/community members throughout training. They will be assigned to study either the Sinhala or Tamil language; both are considered difficult due to challenging grammar structures and written text.
The differences between colloquial Sinhala/Tamil and their formal versions make it challenging for beginners to easily master the languages. Even though Pre-Service Trainings equip Volunteers with sufficient language skills for day-to-day communications, language learning will need to continue when Volunteers go to site to apply their learned language skills to their community work.
Volunteers will live with host families during the length of their training and service*. While Volunteers will have their own room, they may have less privacy than what they are used to due to societal norms for communal activities. Kitchen facilities and bathrooms will be shared with host families. Communities in Sri Lanka are often conservative and close-knit. All housing locations are visited to ensure they meet Peace Corps Sri Lanka’s safety and security requirements.
Volunteers will be placed in small communities where they will travel to and from their assigned workplace by foot, local bus, or bicycle*. They will have access to public transportation to Colombo, a medical clinic, and local markets. Electricity, running water, and phone access may not be reliable. Internet also may not be reliable and is likely to be at a slow speed.
Volunteers will work in government-operated schools. There is a national curriculum which must be followed in order to prepare students for national exams. Volunteers will be asked to work closely with their teaching colleagues, using co-planning and co-teaching approaches in the classroom. Rote learning is the standard teaching method and there is a hesitation among some teachers in adapting to new methodologies. Schools have strict standards on dress, appearance, and behavior of teachers and Volunteers must be willing to abide by the national and local rules and norms.
Volunteers are expected to act as members of the teaching staff, arriving to work on time, attending staff meetings, and contributing a full teaching schedule five days a week. The Sri Lankan school year has three terms; it begins in January and ends in November. Breaks in April and August are typical though may vary by school type. Applicants should plan on adhering to the local school calendar and its holiday schedule.
Travel in Sri Lanka can be strenuous, involving long rides on crowded buses and trains*. Volunteers may be required to walk or cycle long distances. In these instances Peace Corps would provide a bicycle and helmet to assist with daily routines.
Peace Corps Sri Lanka is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for staff and Volunteers. Volunteers should anticipate attention and curiosity about their visible and invisible identities. In Sri Lanka, people frequently associate Americans with white skin and blonde hair. Volunteers who do not fit these stereotypes may face additional challenges while integrating into their communities. Trained staff will learn from and provide support to Volunteers of various races, ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, sexual orientations, and other identities.
It is important to note that Sri Lanka has a restrictive law that targets certain sexual acts, which may require LGBTQ+ Volunteers to remain discreet regarding their orientation in their communities. Volunteers need to be mindful of cultural norms and taboos and country-specific laws, and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
(*Conditions may change based on COVID-19 restrictions in Sri Lanka.)
Serving in Sri Lanka
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Sri Lanka: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
During the 11 week Pre-Service Training, couples will live separately in order to maximize opportunities for language practice. During service, couples will live together at their permanent assignments in the home of a host family. Couples may be assigned to the same school or may be assigned to different schools in the same community.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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