Face of “low end” private education in Sri Lanka – tuition poster graphic design


Low end private education in Sri Lanka boils down to “Tuition” classes. Which to generalise, are mass cram classes for the two colonial era exams that dominate practically every Sri Lankan childhood. I think its safe to say that “tuition classes” are a quintessential part of growing up in Sri Lanka for at least a generation.

They are the consequence of an exam driven education system and a crumbling public education infrastructure. Definitely an universe away from the hard currency fees of international schools and their prospect of a first world university experience. The politics of education in Sri Lanka is as with most things, a sad and complicated business. The Education Forum (probably the most depressing blog in the entire Sri Lanka blogosphere) has the grim details.

The public face of low end private education in Sri Lanka are these fluorescent coloured posters splattered on walls or hung from lamp posts. The format is quite consistent and it most likely template driven – possibly by a single printer. The conventions are similar to a movie poster but with greater uniformity in terms of colour. I have noticed that these conventions of colour and information hierarchy are closely followed all over the island. Posters in Galle, Colombo, Dambulla and on the roads between those places don’t have too much radical variation.

The hierarchy of the most common layout consists of

  • the name of the person giving the class has the most prominent position in the layout
  • the subject name in English
  • then the name of the exam
  • things like time and location require closer scrutiny.

The fact that the names of the “tutors” are given such prominence indicates that the tuition “industry” has its stars. Their names are associated with a better chance at the exams than the competition. Clearly you have to be “in the know” to realise the significance of these names. Perhaps the dynamics of the tuition world is a great topic for a first world research grant.

The image below shows variation within what might be called a “standard” layout

Tuition Class posters

The poster below is a bit of an oddity in that its not aimed at neither of the two exams most tuition classes cater to.

Poster advertising a spoken English class

More images to follow when i get around to it…

If you have any images of similar posters please add a link to in your comment.

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12 thoughts on “Face of “low end” private education in Sri Lanka – tuition poster graphic design

  1. It’s good business.

    Some of me batchmates have moved on to doing AL maths classes, and they sure earn a pretty penny. Definitely more than what I earn at least. 🙂

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  2. These tutors have double their fees. If we have free education do we need these classes? Since Rupavahini cover most areas in Sri Lanka (except certain areas in Colombo due to high rise buildings cover the TV reception— yet no solution is given) have few hours of educational telecasings using these tutors.

    Donald Gaminitillake

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  3. Hmmm. The tuition industry, the pros and cons and the real need for it. A very wide discussion.

    Must say one thing though. From a student point of view, tution classes are more than just a place to learn subject matter or to polish up what you already know. It’s definitely looked upon as a primary opportunity to socialize, especially with the non-coed shooling system of SL.

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  4. spectralcentroid: Yes I bet that these tuition classes have their own social world which seems absent from being expressed in mainstream culture. Or may be I don’t watch enough tele dramas.. 😉

    Like to hear of what you know about that world.

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  5. Cerno, i saw those posters too hehe. Reminded me of my time in Sri Lanka. I remember those days seeing crowds of young people finishing their tuition classes with their books in their hands. One thing that my Sri Lankan friends told me about tuition classes is that the teachers are better than those they have in the formal school. I guess due to the fierce competition, the teachers have to perform well to keep the students. But it is a place for young people living in the same community to get to know each other. it broadens their social circles? The problem is that children/young people from lower economic background find it harder to access those classes….needing to go to tuition becomes another stresser in their life…

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  6. u4youth Thank you for that 🙂 Curious as to why your your friends thought the teachers were better? Is that because the teachers tried to use different techniques which helped your friends understand the material?

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  7. Yeah we were chatting one day….one of my girldfriends told me that her math tuition teacher is the very famous one in Matara…so his class is always always full. The teacher is better in that he helps students to get A’s in their A-level exam. University entrance exam ..big deal in sri lanka…I think in her case, she’s not even going to school befor the examl?! she just goes to tuition classes every day. Could you find out more about this? i’m curious to know if it’s enough to just go to tuition and pass A-level. btw, love your blog..just came across it and like looking at those pictures. I also like how the design inside tuk tuks – toys, small chinese paper holder saying “love you forever”… Oh OH, and also the greens that can be found at the driver seat in local buses (if you know what i mean). It’s like entering a mini garden!

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  8. u4youth: Thank you. Happy you like my humble blog 🙂

    Yes I’ve heard of entire schools shutting down and the pupils told to go home – and this was for the O levels exam – because the teachers were too busy giving tuition classes.

    And unlike government schools, the tuition teachers who managed to help their students get better grades will see a financial benefits.

    So much for “free” education.

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  9. If you walk around Colombo or other major cities like Kandy, Galle, Gampaha, Kurunegala etc, you see mainly 3 types of posters (or banner advertisements)

    1) Posters / banners related to real estate. I believe this is the most common.

    2) Posters / Banners related to politics. This is common especially during election periods

    3) Posters banners related to education.

    These posters influence the general public a lot, especially when it comes to their daily decision making process.

    But I believe as internet is booming in Sri Lanka, slowly but surely these posters will be replaced by web advertising. It will take sometime, but one day (not very far away) it will happen.

    Even today I see there are many new sites coming up. Recently I saw a great website called FAT – http://www.FAT.lk – which is dedicated for teachers and students where you can find teachers and students. Also there are several real-estate website like http://www.lankarealestate.com, http://www.bhoomi.lk, http://www.ceylincoproperties.com in the market which offer valuable services. As these sites become popular, I am sure the poster business will have a huge impact. This will also help towards the environment in the long run.

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    1. Thank you for a very informative comment there with the links! Never thought about how Sri Lanka street posters would impact the publicity of website. When these posters and banners start carrying URLs on them it will be a sure sign that internet use is maturing as a mainstream market place in Sri Lanka.

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