Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, first welcomed Volunteers in 1962 and since then more than 500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in the country. As the second cohort to arrive to Sri Lanka in over 20 years, new Volunteers will require a high level of flexibility, ability to deal with ambiguity, and a steadfast commitment to learn and grow. 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 at all times 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 training in one of two languages, Sinhala, or Tamil. Trainees must commit to learning and practicing language skills, as language is essential for cultural integration during Volunteer service.
The people and government of Sri Lanka highly 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 support the development of English language capacity of teachers and students.
Volunteers will be paired with one or more Sri Lankan teachers at secondary schools, equivalent to U.S. grades 6-10, in rural towns and communities. The English Language Education project will particularly focus on working alongside counterpart teachers and school administrators in 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 partnership 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 support 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
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.
• Competitive candidates will have a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English
• Experience tutoring in literacy, English, or another 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.
• 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.
• 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 12 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 and community members throughout training. They will be assigned to study either the Sinhala or Tamil language; both are considered difficult languages to learn.
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 familiar with due to societal norms for communal activities. Kitchen facilities and bathrooms will be shared with Host Families. All families are visited multiple times prior to the arrival of Volunteers, to ensure they meet Peace Corps Sri Lanka’s safety and security requirements.
Volunteers will be placed in small, rural 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 always be available. Internet also may not be reliable and is likely to be at a slow speed.
Volunteers will work in government (public) schools. The national curriculum must be followed in order to prepare students for important national exams. Volunteers must 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 may be 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 December. Breaks in April, August, and December 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 buses and trains. Volunteers may be required to walk distances of a mile or more.
Peace Corps Sri Lanka is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for staff, Volunteers, and our partners. 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 will likely 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 LGBTQI+ 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.
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 12-week PST, couples will live separately 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.
Sri Lanka will only place heterosexual couples.
The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities.
For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
Does this sound like the position for you?
Get started on your journey.